It may effectively be a two-horse race but the result of May’s London Mayoral Election will directly concern a population of around 8million and it would be no surprise if the poll produced a bigger turnout than the last General Election.
Current encumbent Boris Johnson and his predecessor Ken Livingstone last shared a platform four years ago, when the newly-elected Conservative mayor made his acceptance speech, in which he paid tribute to his Labour rival after stripping Livingstone of the badge of office he had held for eight years.
With all due respect to the Greens’ Jenny Jones and the Lib Dems’ Brian Paddick, who gained less than 10 per cent of the first preference votes in 2008 and is likely to get considerably less this time around, there really are only two contenders for the post and both will be defending their respective mayoral records ahead of the May 3rd election at an event organised by the charity Age UK London and the Greater London Forum for Older People this week.
Johnson had been a hot favourite to gain a second four-year term but recent polls suggest the outcome may be a lot closer than some people think. The healthy lead Johnson had enjoyed since June last year has vanished according to a YouGov poll published in mid-January which put Livingstone ahead by two percentage points. No doubt Londoners like the sound of the former mayor’s pledge to cut public transport fares by seven per cent having just been hit by an average New Year fare rise of almost six per cent on the buses and the Underground.
A ComRes poll a week later also gave Livingstone a two per cent lead over Johnson but another YouGov poll, commissioned by the London Evening Standard, then suggested Johnson was back in the lead. Let’s make no bones about, the mayoral election in the capital is much more a contest about personalities than politics. In London, the ruling Conservatives currently lag around 12 points behind Labour – so why doesn’t Livingstone‘s support reflect that for his party? He certainly isn’t as charismatic as old Etonian Johnson, but ‘Red Ken’ is not as left-wing as he’s been painted nowadays and the lack of accountability that marked his previous eight years in the mayor’s office is no longer prevalent in politics.
The election this year will take place against the backdrop of a tough economic climate and austerity cuts imposed by the coalition government, which is a far cry from Livingstone‘s eight years in power under Labour when he was boosted by an increase in public expenditure. But who’s to say which candidate will manage the purse strings better.
Unsurprisingly the back-stabbing has already begun but, with the polls see-sawing, the Labour man must be the one for money at present at the general 6/4. Johnson is a best 8/13 with Coral. Brian Paddick can be backed at 200/1 with Paddy Power and Coral to grab most votes, the same odds as Jenny Jones at Ladbrokes. In the spirit of fairness, five other candidates are listed by the latter but I’ve probably more hope of being elected Mr Universe than they have of taking up residence in City Hall.