Mayoral elections are so much more about the popularity of individual candidates than their parties

Mayoral elections are so much more about the popularity of individual candidates than their parties


The big news today was that Zac Goldsmith was selected as the Conservative candidate to contest the London Mayoral election next May.

This was a postal ballot of members of the Conservative Party in London plus others who had been prepared to stump up £1 for a vote. The turnout of 9.277 was a disappointment and compares unfavourably with the votes that Sadiq Khan chalked up in the LAB selection three weeks ago. In fact Zac’s CON mayoral vote of 6,524 votes (70.6%) was 1,700 fewer than 4th place David Lammy (8,255 votes) in LAB’s London contest.

The big thing to remember about mayoral elections is that the candidate is so much more important than the party they represent. Remember in the very first London Mayoral election in 2000 the official LAB candidate, Frank Dobson, came in third. Ken Livingstone had resigned from the party after failing to get the nomination and stood as an independent. He was invited back into the party in 2004 but lost, of course, to Boris in 2008.

In that election things were so good for the Conservatives nationally that it was hardly surprising that Boris Johnson manage to win. Four years later things were very different. The mayoral election took place a few weeks after George Osborne’s of famous “omnishambles” budget and LAB enjoyed very large leads in the national polls. Notwithstanding Boris went on to win a second term.

There’s no better illustration of the fact that candidates matter much more than their parties than what happened in Bedford, where I live, on General Election day. Alongside the standard parliamentary ballots there was the four yearly election for mayor.

Even though the Liberal Democrats were getting smashed absolutely everywhere else in the country and that in the parliamentary elections within the borough they struggled to get more than 6% the incumbent Lib Dem mayor had an overwhelming victory by 35000 votes to 26000 over the Conservative.

In this coming London fight so much depends on how Khan and Goldsmith resonate with Londoners. Their party labels are less relevant.

Mike Smithson

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