Livingstone versus Johnson Round Up.
This is turning out to be pretty vicious contest. Ken Livingstoneâ€™s supporters are portraying Boris Johnson as alternatively, a racist, gay-bashing, bigot, or a bumbling upper-class twit. Boris Johnsonâ€™s supporters (particularly in the media) portray Ken Livingstone as running a corrupt, partisan, regime at City Hall, while pandering to the most hardline elements of the Capitalâ€™s Muslim population. It is all highly entertaining, and reminiscent of some of the most bitter political battles one sees in the United States.
So far, we have only had one worthwhile opinion poll this year, at the start of January. This showed the candidates neck and neck, with Livingstone on 45%, and Johnson on 44%. A later poll, giving Livingstone a 4% lead, had a sample size of only 240, and a margin of error of 6.5%, and can hardly be regarded as a reliable guide to voting intention.
To date, it seems to me that Livingstoneâ€™s opponents have had the better of the propaganda war. One official at City Hall has had to resign, and Lee Jasperâ€™s position looks increasingly untenable. While thereâ€™s probably mileage in portraying Johnson as being a frivolous candidate, there is none at all , in my view, in portraying him as a bigot. Most floating voters just donâ€™t see him as such, and such attacks alienate them. They only convince those who are planning to vote for Livingstone in any case.
However, criticism of the efficiency and honesty of Livingstoneâ€™s administration may not sway many voters. Nobody who voted for Livingstone in 2000, or 2004 did so in the belief that they were voting for an efficient administrator, and his style of government is well known from the time he ran the GLC. He is a past master of putting together coalitions of interest groups who have a strong vested interest in seeing him re-elected. The fact that he channels public money in their direction is likely to strengthen their support, not weaken it.
In my opinion, it is â€œLivingstone Conservativesâ€ who will determine this election. In 2004, remarkably, one sixth of people who voted Conservative at constituency level, for the London Assembly, voted for Livingstone as Mayor. These voters represent almost 5% of the total . In the local elections of 2006, the Conservatives won 35% of the vote across London, compared to 28% for Labour. As both parties contested almost every seat in the Capital, these figures can be regarded as being close to the sort of figures the parties can expect to receive in the Assembly elections. If Johnson can persuade the Conservatives to back him as Mayor, then in all likelihood, he will pull off a narrow win. If he canâ€™t, then Livingstone will secure a third term. Contrary to many peopleâ€™s expectations, I donâ€™t consider that votersâ€™ second preferences will be decisive in this election.
Last nightâ€™s by-election results were mixed, with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats recording some good and bad results. The Conservative made a net loss of two seats, and independents, a net gain of two.
Wiltshire County -Trowbridge East Conservative 1363, Lib Dem 1176, Green 229
Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat, in what had been a safe seat.
Wiltshire County -Holt and Paxcroft, Independent 1075, Lib Dem. 994, Conservative 458, Labour 53, Independent 45. Independent gain from Liberal Democrat. I understand that the successful independent is a already a district councillor, and has a large following in the area.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough, Butt Lane Labour 295 Lib Dem 264 UKIP 170 Conservative 161. Labour hold. Labour will be relieved to have held a ward that they lost narrowly to the Liberal Democrats in 2007.
Great Yarmouth Borough, Bradwell South and Hopton
Conservative 457, Lib Dem 397, Labour 254, UKIP 116,Green 29. Conservative hold, but with a strong performance from the Liberal Democrats who did not contest this seat last time.
Portsmouth City, Copnor. Lib Dem 1835, Con 904, Labour 349. English Democrat 117, UKIP 56, Independent, 25. Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative. The swing to the Liberal Democrats was huge, and appears to centre on a proposal to close a local fire station. The Liberal Democrats now hold 20 out of 42 seats on the council.
West Devon District, Tavistock North. Lib Dem 812, Conservative 425, Green 133. Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative in the marginal Torridge & West Devon constituency.
Hertfordshire County, Hapenden South West. Conservative 2161, LibDem 819, Labour 153, Green 110. An easy Conservative hold.
Wycombe District, Marlow North and West. Conservative 928, Lib Dem 382, Labour 209. Conservative hold.
East Lindsey District, Roughton.
Independent, 383, Conservative 215. Independent gain from Conservative.
Wyre Borough Victoria. Conservative 769, Labour 339, BNP 222, UKIP 151. Conservative hold.
Lancashire County, Thornton Cleveleys Central. Conservative 1536, Labour 934, UKIP 489, LibDem 220. Conservative hold.
Sean Fear – PBC’s Poster of 2007