In just over a year London will go back to the polls to select its Mayor for the fourth time. Since its creation the office has only been held by two men, Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. Now both will once again face each other in what is probably one of the most crucial tests of public opinion on the government before the next general election. And this is exactly how Ken is playing it.
Everybody recognises that the election of London’s Mayor is an opportunity for the people of London to make a comment on how they feel about the coalition. The capital is beginning to feel the effects of hard cuts to council budgets and this has prompted many to come out and demonstrate as these budgets are passed in local council chambers. The capital’s university students have also shown anger over the government’s policies for young people and have used the occupation of their universities as leverage to make demands for better treatment. Livingstone will be marching with those angry at cuts on 26 March for the ‘March for the Alternative’ but are these the voters he needs to win?
…it has been speculated that he lost the vote of ‘hard working white families’…
Many have accused Livingstone of being a ‘Zone 1 Mayor’ during his last term. He seemed to lose his affinity with those who voted him in and it has been speculated that he lost the vote of ‘hard working white families’ in outer London boroughs thus costing him the 2008 election.
Livingstone has denied these claims on BBC One’s Politics Show saying that he has always lived in Zone 3 or 4 and worked hard to improve transport in outer London boroughs while he was Mayor. Also, in an address to London Young Labour, he defended against David Cameron’s attack on multiculturalism calling the whole of London the world’s most multicultural city.
Though, if Livingstone has been guilty of being a ‘Zone 1 Mayor’, Johnson has done no better. A Tory conference designed to ‘relaunch’ Boris was recently held in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, the Tory government’s flagship borough because of its happiness to cut hard and deep in order to meet its slashed budget; yet he was met with a harsh welcome from protesting residents and students alike. Even in the short history of the office, for his boyish manner at London Assembly meetings and Etonian image, Johnson isn’t the most popular London Mayor.
It would be difficult for Livingstone to run on a platform anti-cuts alone however, and he must address the concerns from Londoners that he isn’t really in touch with them three years ago and is unlikely to have changed much.
Thus far we haven’t seen much of this yet, but Ken says he will be visiting all of London’s thirty two boroughs before the election – if he is to win, he must do so as a London Mayoral candidate, not an anti-cuts activist.