2012: LONDON’S YEAR (AND PROBABLY BORIS’S)
Andrew Hawkins looks at the year’s big event – no, not the Olympics. Will Ken or Boris be first to the tape?
Whatever happens elsewhere in the world this year, the summer surely belongs to London. On 27 July, the greatest show on earth begins. To remind us: London 2012 involves more than 14,700 athletes, 21,000 media people and broadcasters, a workforce of 200,000, a £2bn budget, 10.8 million ticket-holders across 37 competition venues, and a whopping TV audience of some 4 billion worldwide. And all of this before we factor in the Queen’s diamond jubilee, which brings with it a fourday holiday, the largest Thames flotilla in 350 years and a weekend of partying focusing on the capital.
The Queen’s jubilee and the Olympics will take care of themselves, but the mayoral contest on 3 May – when Londoners go to the polls to deliver the first major test of political opinion in England, other than in local elections, since the coalition was formed – will be watched keenly as a mid-term test of electability, with major implications for all three parties. To be sure, the candidates are fighting their campaigns very much as individuals and not party hacks. It will be a major blow to Boris were he to lose, but a bad defeat would also reflect particularly badly on their respective party leaders if the Lib Dems or Labour candidates get walloped.
Boris’s campaign won’t like me saying it – it’s said they’re terrified of allowing complacency to creep in – but the omens are not good for Ken Livingstone.
Last time around – with the same three candidates – of the 11 polls published in the month preceding the 2008 election, only two showed Ken with a lead over Boris a er reallocating secondpreference votes. Most first-preference polls had Ken’s vote share down in the thirties, well below the level needed to stand a chance of winning.
Thus far in the race, Boris has turned a deficit against Ken (of second-preference reallocated, turnout-weighted polls) of 51 per cent to 49 per cent in March 2011, into a lead in November 2011 on the same calculated basis of 54 per cent to 46 per cent.
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In the post-mortem of the 2008 race, a number of factors were cited in Boris’s victory. Some of these were very specific, including allegations of cronyism and a strong campaign against Ken by the EveningStandard. Presumably that will largely be absent from this campaign.
But Ken faces other obstacles, some of which were also evident in 2008. His party leader then was Gordon Brown, but in 2012 it will be Ed Miliband, assuming he’s still in the post. Then there is the incumbency factor: in 2008, voters had had enough of Ken a er two terms and wanted change. It’s much harder for Ken to use the same message, because the obvious retort is that a vote for Ken is a vote to return to the past.
But the most intractable obstacles for Ken are the demographics. Much was made in 2008 of the ‘doughnut’ of inner London that predominantly votes for Ken, and outer London, where Boris tends to be ahead. The outcome then rests on turnout, and in 2008 the Conservatives were highly eﬀective in ge ing outer London to the ballot stations in suﬃcient numbers to tip the scales in Boris’ favour. This strategy was outstandingly eﬀective, as the following table shows: turnout was higher in areas more likely to vote for Boris and lower in areas more likely to vote for Ken.
Turnout (%) Winner
Bexley & Bromley
City & East
Croydon & Sutton 49.07 Boris Lambeth & Southwark 42.18 Ken Merton & Wandsworth 46.93 Boris North East (Waltham Forest, Hackney, Islington) 43.90 Ken
The latest polling underlines the diﬃculty Ken will again face. A er taking account of likely turnout and re-allocating second preferences, Boris leads Ken among men, who are significantly more likely than women to vote. The only age group among whom Ken has a commanding lead is 18 to 24-year-olds, but only one in four of those will vote. But the real killer for Ken’s electoral prospects is the resurrected doughnut: Ken leads Boris in inner London by 60 per cent to 40 per cent, but in more populous outer London Boris is ahead by 61 per cent to 39 per cent.
The one glimmer of hope for Ken is transport, which is the only issue on which he leads Boris in terms of trust. This is underlined by the fact that a
It’s much harder for Ken to use the same message against Boris, because the obvious retort is that a vote for Ken is a vote to return to the past large proportion of Londoners do not believe the tube has improved under Boris, and seven in ten say they are not prepared to pay more in fares to fund improvements. Indeed, this is a proper vote-winner for Ken, since 13 per cent of Boris voters say they’re more likely to vote for the former mayor if Boris increases fares by seven per cent as planned in 2012.
But, as is glaringly obvious from the graph below, Ken’s challenge is a monochrome one. Boris is trusted more on all of the other key issues. Moreover, London has a unique vulnerability, being at the mercy of Bob Crow, and Ken’s historical reluctance to go fully into ba le with the RMT is not going to win over those outer London voters likely to vote for Boris. Ironically, though, as Dave Hill of TheGuardian points out, there have been more tube strikes since Boris took over in 2008 than in all of Ken’s eight years in the job. Ken is, however, unlikely to take much credit from voters for bringing peace to London’s public transport network.
What of the other big events this year? Despite Ken’s having been mayor at the time of London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics, more Londoners say Boris deserves credit for the Games, and more would prefer to see Boris as mayor during the Games themselves.
Perhaps this is in light of the former mayor’s admission that “I didn’t bid for the Olympics because I wanted three weeks of sport”, but to “ensnare the government to put money into an area it has neglected for 30 years”.
May’s mayoral election will surely be Ken’s last electoral hurrah; he’ll be over 70 by the time of the next one in 2016. On current form, in the absence of a major upset, it’s diﬃcult to see how he can win.
The question is what the wider political implications will be. In particular, a heavy defeat for Labour may pile more pressure on Ed Miliband if he ends up taking a big part of the blame, notwithstanding Ken’s individualistic brand. A heavy defeat for Boris is easier to shrug oﬀ on the basis of mid-term blues. ■ u Andrew Hawkins is chairman of ComRes
BLOGGER WRITES...CHARLOTTEHENRYTALKSUP–OR‘BLOGS UP’ – THE GOVERNMENT’S NEW DIGITAL SERVICES
The other week the government formally opened its new Government Digital Service (GDS, digital.cabinetoffice. gov.uk), a unit with the aim of digitising public services. Digital guru (and a personal heroine) Martha Lane Fox and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude contributed to the proceedings.
Prior to this, the GDS had already run some key projects, such as the popular government e-petitions site, and the DirectGov service. Furthermore, it seemed keen to push on towards a single government domain, to create a one-stop-shop for the British government online.
It might all sound rather geeky and distant, but digital services can bring real benefits. For example, they can, when done properly, be very cost-effective. Apparently, the GDS had saved 80 per cent of its budget by switching to using Apple hardware and Google Docs. Projects run by the GDS also promise to open up the public services we pay for, and hopefully make government, in the widest sense, more transparent by publishing the data it possesses. Digitisation gives people easier access to information, and the ability to feedback to service providers.
For all these reasons, the GDS is a great idea. In the 21st century we need to modernise and digitise our public services fully to make them more effective and responsive to public need. However, government must also take care to ensure that public services are accessible to the right people – many of those most in need of them may not have ready access to the internet.
Those launching the GDS boasted about the high calibre of people they were attracting from huge, private tech firms like Google. It will be interesting to see if the GDS can then be utilised to its full potential, or if it becomes another government technological white elephant. For the moment, I remain optimistic. ■ u Charlotte Henry blogs at digitalpolitico.net
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Ben DuckworTh IN CONVERSATION...
This year marks the 10th birthday of Policy exchange – a home for the conservative modernisation project. with an income of over £2m a year and considerable influence on the government, I wanted to find out what the think tank’s director, neil o’Brien, thought of David cameron’s performance as prime minister, the upcoming policy battles in 2012 and his own ambitions. he is, after all, only in his early 30s. Photos by Tony Souter
BD: Former No 10 policy wonk James O’Shaughnessy’s article in TheTimesrecently mirrored Michael Gove’s language on education. He talked about “a huge battle in an already long war”. With O’Shaughnessy coming back to Policy Exchange, is that how it has to be? A big battle against the existing schools’ attitude? NO’B: There are an enormous number of people in the system who don’t want things to change.
The Melissa Benns of this world don’t have any positive solution. They just want to carry on. They really do believe in the bog-standard comp. In Michael Gove have you got a politician who you can use as a driving force, or do you resign yourself to having ‘great ideas’ that may never happen at all because people want to keep the status quo? So much of what we’re doing now turns on trying to convince officials as well as politicians. To that end, it’s very useful that a lot of our recent senior hires have a lot of civil service experience. They’ve got networks – you can ring up people and say, ‘What is going on with x?’ There’s a real vice with UK think tanks. There’s been this belief that the role of a think tank is to sit on the sidelines and complain about politicians not being brave enough rather than understand the constraints that are on them. That is where we are a bit different. How often do you go to No 10? Intermittently to see particular people. What does intermittently mean? I go and see specific people about specific stuff but it’s not… I’m not sure it’s a very good proxy for whether your ideas are having impact. Think tankers who go around boasting about how often they meet people is a bit ‘fingers on the blackboard’. But our stuff definitely gets listened to and generally we’re perceived as reasonably serious and able to intervene in debates in a meaningful
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IntervIew the Under
Denham decided earlier this year to step down from Parliament, and that it was best, also, to step down from shadow cabinet. Speculation immediately centred on the difficulty of working with Ed Balls, and disagreements with Ed Miliband about his conference speech. Denham denies that either is true, and emphasises that he is in complete accord with his leader. I put it to him that, having been in the cabinet 18 months ago, being PPS to Ed Miliband is a bit of a comedown. “I want to do a political job,” he asserts. “It means I can be there as somebody without a particular axe to grind, unlike you (ie, his interviewer), with preferment hopes for the future.” Ouch. I suppose I deserved that.
rob wilson MP talks to John denham, Labour’s champion of the south and PPS to Ed Miliband, about the his party leader, New Labour and cricket etiquette. Photos by Oli Scarff
You can tell a lot about people from their face. In this respect, at least, nature has been kind to John Denham MP. He is blessed with an honest countenance, one that was born to smile, and a natural twinkle in his eye that suggests laughter has rarely been far from him throughout his 58 years. He has a natural warmth that most politicians find hard to project. And he’s needed it in a Labour Party where, over the years, he’s often been viewed as out of step when attempting to help reshape his party – often with a southern perspective.
“I’m PPS, I like to think I’m also a good friend, a good supporter and one of the people Ed [Miliband] can turn to from time to time.” He certainly has the access, but he is very conscious of not treading on other people’s toes. “My most useful work is around Westminster, talking to colleagues, not sat in the leader’s office,” he says.
Most commentators would concur, as his leader is not having an easy time of it and Denham’s role will be crucial over the coming months. In many respects, it’s a case of ‘back to the future’ for Denham, with Labour having lost a swathe of southern seats in 2010 and a leader now pigeon-holed as being left-wing. “I don’t accept that characterisation,” says Denham. “What Ed has done over the past year is not given sufficient credit, given that we had our worst election result since 1928. To come back as strongly as we have with by-elections, councillors, members – and his sketching out his view of the world with a strong set of values – has been a real achievement.”
Denham thinks Labour is doomed in the south
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‘I like to think I’m a good friend, a good supporter and one of the people Ed Miliband can turn to. My most useful work is talking to colleagues, not sat in the leader’s office’
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Total Campaigns New sheriffs in town 22 Paul Richards advises potential candidates on how to campaign to become elected police commissioners Enter stage right 24 Gawain Towler on the looming electoral threat from UKIP that has Westminster MPs running scared Drinks with...26 Owen Jones
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