Having watched at close hand the first London mayoral election in 2000 it is striking how much the public has tired of Ken Livingstone over subsequent contests. In that first election, even before any of the parties had selected their candidate Ken’s presence at a political meeting led to much excitement over whether he would run and what kind of Mayor he would make.
An awful lot of both Conservative and Labour voters opted for Ken in that election, such was his appeal as a high profile independent candidate standing against a place-man from his own (by that stage former) party and the Tories’ Steve Norris who was popular but whose party had made a mess of London’s governance since abolishing the GLC in the 1980s.
How ironic therefore that Ken should have lamented earlier in this mayoral campaign that the Mayoral political structure leads too much to a focus on personality – which was precisely what took him to victory in 2000 and 2004.
Our most recent poll for the Evening Standard/LBC/ITV London Tonight, published on 26th April, found an 8% point lead for Boris after reallocating second preferences. What part therefore does ‘likeability’ play in the race?
The following question shows the ‘candidate premium’ for the London election. Bearing in mind the closeness of the contest, it is particularly interesting that the overall proportion of people who don’t like the Conservative Party (whether or not they like the candidate) is higher than those who don’t like the Labour Party. Yet Boris’s personal popularity is sufficient to overcome that dislike: twice as many people like Boris but not the Tories as say they like Ken but not the Labour Party. It’s the ‘net don’t like Boris/Ken’ numbers which are also very telling – 43% and 59% respectively.
I like the Con Party but not Boris 7%
|I like the Lab Party but not Ken 17%
|I like the Con Party and Boris 29%||I like the Lab Party and Ken 27%
|Net like Con Party – 36%||Net like Lab Party – 42%|
|I like Boris but not the Con Party 28%||I like Ken but not the Lab Party 14%|
|I don’t like Boris or the Con Party 36%||I don’t like Ken or the Lab Party 42%|
|Net like Boris – 57%||Net like Ken – 43%|
|Net don’t like Boris – 43%||Net don’t like Ken – 59%
|Net don’t like Con Party – 64%||Net don’t like Lab Party – 56%
(ComRes for E Standard/LBC/ITV London Tonight, 26th April)
This measure was also published last week for the national parties:
I like the Conservative Party and David Cameron 27%
I like the Conservative Party but not David Cameron 10%
Net like Con Party – 37%
I like David Cameron but not the Conservative Party 11%
I don’t like David Cameron or the Conservative Party 52%
Net don’t like Con Party – 63%
I like the Labour Party and Ed Miliband 16%
I like the Labour Party but not Ed Miliband 29%
Net like Lab Party – 45%
I like Ed Miliband but not the Labour Party 5%
I don’t like Ed Miliband or the Labour Party 49%
Net don’t like Lab Party – 54%
I like the Liberal Democrat Party and Nick Clegg 18%
I like the Liberal Democrat Party but not Nick Clegg 19%
Net like Lib Dems – 37%
I like Nick Clegg but not the Liberal Democrat Party 12%
I don’t like Nick Clegg or the Liberal Democrat Party 51%
Net don’t like Lib Dems – 63%
(ComRes for The Independent, 28th April)
This shows that Labour’s problems are not confined to London. Ed Miliband’s ‘personality premium’ (the difference between those who “like him but don’t like his party” and those who “don’t like him but like his party”) is in negative territory, as is the case for Ken (and indeed for Nick Clegg). Given the state of the candidates in the London election, it is surprising that Labour are where they are nationally. Clearly the decisions people make nationally about how to cast their vote are very different from those in London where, as Ken points out, personality dominates.
The other surprising thing we find from comparing the London with the national poll is just how closely aligned voters’ likes and dislikes are nationally and regionally. London is supposed to be a ‘Labour city’ and yet the like/dislike numbers are almost identical and certainly well within the margin of error.
All of which brings us to what may happen on Thursday. Our expectation is for a Conservative win in London but a drubbing for that Party in local elections elsewhere, with possibly as many as 800 gains for Labour, 600 losses for the Tories and 200 for the Lib Dems. Nothing about the local election results should be all that surprising given where we are in the electoral cycle, but that would make a Boris win in London all the more remarkable.