The Thick of It


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

People don't get it

It is hardly suprising that according to YouGov, large swathes on London voters don't understand how the voting system for mayor and assembly works. Neither is it surprising that a great number of voters, including many I have met recently, don't realise that they will have up to four votes on three different ballot papers.

The Electoral Commisson has spent a great deal of effort and money running ads in all of the London newspapers and at bus stops reminding people that there is an election. I'm sure everyone knows there is an election on. I'm also sure most people don't really get how the preferential Alternative Vote system works.

Voters get two choices as I'm sure my readership knows. Of course, those voting for Ken or Johnson for Mayor only really get one. The second preferences only count for those voting for candidates finishing outside the top two after the first choices are counted. Only in the last decade has Britain moved away from plurality (First Past the Post) voting to more proportional voting systems for regional and European elections.

It probably doesn't matter that much that some people might not make a second preference as most will vote Labour or Tory. What does matter is much of the effort in explaining the voting system has been left to partisan door-to-door canvassers and party literature. How about using some of the broadcast slots reserved for party election broadcasts for a spot by the Electoral Commission to actually explain this in a neutral way?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Boris bus bunkem

Even the Evening Standard was forced to print Johnson's admission that his plan to replace bendy buses was a total mess. I can't believe how Tory editor Anne McElvoy managed to allow him to be dubbed "Blundering Boris", though it barely detracted from another edition of biased and unbalanced reporting of the race for Mayor.

I'm pleased the total lack of substance to Johnson's "flagship" transport "policy" has finally been exposed. I have been writing for weeks that this new fabled replacement to the bendy bus doesn't even exist on a drawing board, let alone on any streets.

Dave Hill gives a fantastic account of the spiralling costs of the pie in the sky costing of this policy. This includes last week's Newsnight debate where Paxman persistently asked Johnson to cost his policy, which he could not do. Last month Hill quoted one of my posts and asked that despite the fact I am ""Labour-focussed," but does that mean a lot of neutrals aren't thinking the same thing?" Good question. I think they are thinking that.

Now that all polls show both candidates neck and neck, the real challenge starts for Johnson to prove himself. As polling day nears it will be almost impossible for Lynton Crosby to keep him out of the news and this must be a good thing for Livingstone.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


The Gilligan - Johnson campaign has sought to taint Ken Livingstone and his team as lacking in probity and integrity. The constant drip of allegations has been unhelpful of course. Ken has been in power for eight years so it is much easier for the mud to leave a smear even if it doesn't stick than if he was enjoying his honeymoon period in office.

The Gilligan - Johnson team has constantly attacked Ken's aides like Lee Jasper and civil servants, Peter Hendy of TfL. Surely this should open Johnson up for questions about his own team. Hypocritcally, he has refused to say who they are. That isn't fair game, though politics has never been fair. Johnson will not say because he is protecting them and becuase his master, Lynton Crosby has been working hard to keep attention away from Johnson and on Livingstone. The less exposure Johnson has the less damage he can do.

Ken seeks a third term just has he is becoming more radical and has really grown into what was an unknown job in 2000. London needs his vision and ambition and it looks like he is finally coming into his own.

Johnson is "flakey" according to Michael White. I agree. He has made much of his "plan" to replace bendy buses with a new Routemaster. On LBC this morning he admitted that "The bus we are going to bring in is not yet on the drawing board,'' so why make a play of something you can't deliver?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Will the green agenda win?

How green London can be is one policy area the Mayor has real power to make a difference in. Ken Livingstone has already moved London towards becoming a "sustainable city 2020" and introducing the low emission zone and Congestion Charge. I have documented my support for this previously and it needs stating again because it is so vital.

In today's Guardian Society John Vidal appraises the leading candidates, quoting numerous 'greens' who variously support Livingstone. Anyone who cares about London and who cares about the envirnment should read it.

London currently leads world cities in tackling climate change. Boris Johnson would see this end. Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth says that "(London) has emerged as a leader in the struggle to avoid catastrophic global warming. This is in large part down to the leadership of Ken Livingstone." Stephen Haile of the Green Alliance dubs Ken a "trailblazer (who) sets the standard for leadership and action matched by no one else in British politics."

This is fine praise. Coupled with progressive transport policies that will make a real difference to London, Ken really trumps it for those who can bothered to find out.

The Evening Standard's grossly biased coverage of the election makes it easy for Labour/Ken supporters to get pessimistic. I don't believe this is necessary and it certainly won't help get Ken re-elected. Thankfully The Ipsos Mori poll published today shows Ken in the lead, if only by 2% - though this is remarkably similar to last week's ICM poll. A significant number of Londoners are progressively minded and will back Ken. The Labour movement needs to keep reminding them why. A better environment and better transport are two great reasons.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Second preferences have it

Any form of opinion polling should be looked at with a careful eye. Whether by telephone or web, successful polls always need willing respondents and that will inevitably exclude some people. Nevertheless, Ken's campaign was still on risky territory by initially challenging the Evening Standard's YouGov polls, which showed at least a 10% lead for Johnson. This is based on the theory that many Labour voters are hard to reach.

YouGov didn't weight their results for the ethnicity of London or filter out those unlikely to vote, rendering their results unreliable. They did garner positive

Today's Guardian ICM poll puts Johnson one point ahead. Livingstone is far ahead among women, non-whites and those in inner London. The key to victory resides in getting Labour voters to actually vote. Closing the "Labour gap" between those who identify with the Party and actually vote.

Labour also badly needs the Lib Dem second preferences. My belief that most Lib Dems are inherently more right than left is borne out by the poll findings showing that Paddick supporters are more likely to give Johnson their second preferences than Ken. Having watch Paddick "perform" at the Evening Standard's Influentials debate on Monday I can understand why Lib Dems might like our Brian. He was wooden, as if being interviewed for a job. Most of his responses were taken straight from a management manual. When asked what book would guide him through mayoralty he said "I want to listen to London, not be guided by a book." Great. Thanks Brian. Unfortunately his supporters hold the key, but Ken's strategy of wooing them by bigging up his environmental credentials is exactly the right one for the sandal brigade.