Ken leads Boris by 6%

With all the main candidates in place last week saw the first proper poll on next year’s London mayoral election (there have been some previous polls, but these were from sources without a strong track record and pitted Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone against unnamed alternatives). The poll was conducted between the 7th-8th November (actually before Brian Paddick was selected, though the question named him as the Liberal Democrat candidate).

The YouGov poll for the London Policy Institute found Ken Livingstone ahead on 45%, Boris Johnson on 39% and Brian Paddick on 8%. These are very high shares of the vote for the two main parties compared to last time, no doubt because virtually no one has any idea of who the other candidates are for next May’s election. I expect they will drop in time – in 2004, around 18% of people voted for an “other” party using their first preference vote, in addition 15% voted for Simon Hughes. I strongly suspect Livingstone and Johnson will not be getting a combined share of the vote of 84%! Taking into account second preferences the final voting intention would be Livingstone 53%, Johnson 47%.

Neither of the past mayoral contests have produced a lot of polling, but what there was rarely showed anything but huge Livingstone leads. These are obviously far closer. In advance of next year’s elections I’ve added a London page to the election guide here.

26 Responses to “Ken leads Boris by 6%”

  1. I assume you mean Livingstone 53%, Johnson 47%

  2. Actually, this is not as close as the one taken by ICM at the time of Steve Norris’s selection as the Conservative candidate in 2003.

    That one, also taken at a time when few people had heard of the other candidates, had Livingstone on 27% and Steve Norris on 23%.

  3. I presume that like in the Scottish election, if its exciting and close we will start to see lots of opinion polls in the build-up to polling day.

  4. Thanks Jeff – have no recollection of that one (though of course, it would have been a slightly different situation anyway, any comparable poll in Feb 2003 should have still been a Gavron vs. Livingstone vs. Norris vs. Hughes vs. whoever poll, splitting the Labour vote between Livingstone and Gavron.)

  5. Gavron – the Quango Queen. Now there’s a blast from the bast.

    I strongly support Boris’s proposal to design a new Routemaster bus, with clean engines and disabled access, and low floors.

    However, this will take time to design and produce. I am worried that if there’s nothing tangible in four years, some people won’t believe this promise, so think contingency plans should be made to buy some of the old one’s back, whilst there is time.

    A 6% gap is probably well within the Conservatives’ grasp, but Ken has been a popular figure who makes a difference, so this will surely be close.

  6. The combined share of 84% is too high.

    This is what will happen.

    ken 45%-Libdem7-Green4-BNP3=Ken30%


    This method has been approved by the PM and Chancellor.

  7. With the government in melt-down, I would be surprised (or am I just hopeful) if Ken gets back in. Unless, of course, we see the usual New Labour tactic: electoral irregularities.

  8. The London mayoral election will not follow national politics simply because Ken’s appeal has always been beyond the Labour party. What the poll does show however is that Boris is starting from a good position to challenge Ken and the campaign will decide the result.

    I would be amazed if Boris survives the white heat of an election campaign. It is one thing to be entertaining on Have I Got News for You and to write appealing but simplistic articles for the DT but Boris will need to set out a different vision and a different set of policies to Ken.

    He does not have long to do so.

  9. Given the high profile of the two main candidates, it’s ironic that the campaign might well be fought on policy differences rather than on personality issues. So far, we’ve heard about Routemasters versus Bendy Buses, and attractive housing versus affordable housing (sorry to distil the issues ), and I’m assuming Boris is against increases to the congestion charge, whereas Ken isn’t.

    I’m waiting for social policy differences to emerge. I really do exzpect Londoners to vote on what matters to London, rather than out of a desire to give Brown a good kicking.

  10. [Edited – try to keep with the comments policy Steve, this is a site for non-partisan discussion – AW]

  11. I know a very large number of London-based scousers who will vote against Boris because they find his (perceived by them) buffoonery offensive , but I can’t see polarisation according to personality featuring too much.

    Londoners are more interested in transport, housing and affording the Olympics than name-calling.

  12. Gosh, Livingstone’s lead is only 6% despite the fact that Boris hasn’t even started yet!
    I beleive there has been a lot of concern within the Tory party that Boris’s campaign hasn’t really taken off yet, so to be only 6% behind with all that and his image as being not a ‘serious’ politician, is actually rather a good result for him.
    Once the campaign takes off, I would expect that gap to narrow.

  13. [Edited out comments referring to earlier post, now deleted – AW]

    Back to the polls – I’m not sure this is so great for Boris. As Arnie says, there is the unpredictability of Boris to worry about, while Ken is a known quantity. For the second term incumbent to hold 53% on second preferences against a national backdrop of big problems for his own party is surely pretty impressive?

    In fact I see this contest as something of a risk to Cameron – Livingstone is an accomplish political operater, and I’m sure he will look to contrast Boris’ Eton/Henley on Thames background with that of ‘real’ Londoners, (yearning after old fashioned buses could be part of this?)Many of the same points resonate with large parts of the electorate when it comes to Cameron, which is why they are not particularly enthusiastic about him, even now.

    If it goes wrong in London for Boris, maybe it’s a turning point nationally for Cameron?

  14. Arnie
    >It is one thing to be entertaining on Have I Got News for You and to write appealing but simplistic articles for the DT but Boris will need to set out a different vision and a different set of policies to Ken.

    Ho-hum. Can we give the full account.

    Ken Livingstone: 7 appearances on HIGNFY according to Wikipedia. All while he was an active politician.

    Boris Johnson: 3 appearances as a panellist (two before he was even an MP), 4 as a Guest presenter.

    Nuff said I hope.

  15. Ken is such a “one-off” that his fortunes are not tied tightly to that of the Labour Party. Boris is the Tory party maverick and in a similar position [eg “what do you do with a problem like Boris?”]. He could be an embarrAssment for them, but I doubt any thing more serious.
    This is abit like the US Presidential/Congress elections where one can go one way and one the other because people have different calculations.

    Besides which – remember that outside London ie most of the UK, this contest is of little if any interest.

  16. Matt

    You missed my point completely. It is not the fact that Boris has been on a TV show that puts him at a disadvantage. In fact it is pretty much his best selling point at the moment. The point is that Ken has an established record not just as a politician but as a leader of a substantial administrative authority. Boris does not. He has not held any office and is therefore an unknown quantity save for his TV and newspaper contributions. He therefore has limited time to set out a detailed raft of policies which will convince people that they should take a chance on him. Indeed the suspicion that Londoners have is that he was selected, not because of some profound and long standing interest in the governance of London, but because he is a high profile figure who people are warm towards.

    As a tactic, that may work for the Tories but I think it unlikely. As Sally states, Ken is not a party stooge and you need to challenge him on policy and substance if you are going to defeat him.

    I should add that I don’t subscribe to the view that a win for Ken will help Brown. I see the London race as totally separate. The only impact it may have is to provide Brown with some good news on local elections night if his position in the polls in May is where it is now.

  17. Ken is far more popular than Labour generally. A win for Ken would be a morale-booster and an embarrassment for Cameron, on what is otherwise likely to be a disastrous night for Labour. A win for Boris though could mean one universal story across the country.

    And while the Mayor of London doesn’t affect the vast majority of the country, and while it is 2 unique politicians battling it out almost outside of party, the media is very London-centric. This could help set the mood of the media going forward which could impact on how the rest of the country votes.

  18. I think the Tories will do well next year, but there’s not a lot of low hanging fruit next year. Lot’s of Metropolitan seats, and only up in thirds.
    Labour is likely to do better than the dreadful 26% of 2004.
    That could mean some Labour gains.
    But the Tories should exceed the 40-41 of this year.

  19. I think Boris’ support for the Routemaster might be a winner. Well, with me anyway. I love those buses so much and wept bitterly when Ken got rid of them. They filled me with pride of being a Londer everytime I saw them unlike those horrible bent busses.

  20. I used to work near Clerkenwell Road, and the last night of them on the 38 was a sad occasion.

  21. It really was the most stupid piece of civic vandalism.
    I know we put up with things in this country, and that’s a kind of strength – but sometimes we tolerate things that are just plain crap.
    We should buy some of the old ones back, so at least we can run a few on some central routes, whilst the design process is underway.

  22. re:London Mayor

    I don’t know where you live but seriously, outside London NOBODY cares! Maybe….its just Yorkshire! I doubt if the Mancs care much either.
    Its a news report that will last a day that most will not listen to. London’s affection for Ken Livingston is viewed with mild amusement elsewhere and nobody expects the marriage to end.
    If Boris won, we would all be surprised and just think they have just swopped one Mad Hatter for another.

  23. It probably doesn’t seem as relevant to people outside London.
    But Sally, stay in touch so when we’ve designed our new Routemaster buses, we can sell some to run in Leeds, Sheffield, or York aswell.

  24. Joe
    Leeds is abit tee-ed off with London at the moment. It is the biggest city in Europe not to have a tram/tube.
    The plans were scrapped by the Gov after the local council had spent alot of money, effort, building round things etc. They said there wasn’t enough money.
    The cost of the whole system was less than the cost of the feasability study into the new London underground plans.

  25. I don’t buy this “London’s affection for Ken Livingstone” theme. Re-read the 2004 results, when he was more popular and so was the congestion charge Norris pledged to scrap the next day, and ‘affection’ doesn’t cover it. Turnout was 37% and he won 685,541 first-round votes versus 542,423 for Norris, who lost out on 115,665 UKIP votes at a time when anyone gave a rat’s about the EU. This is entirely winnable for Johnson if he raises his game.