So, how much has Ken Livingstone been damaged by the relentless revelations that culminated this week in Lee Jasper\’s resignation?
The last poll published, by YouGov last month, showed Boris Johnson leading Ken Livingstone, by 44 points to 39 (a reversal of their positions a month previously), though the strongest gains were made by Brian Paddick, whose share of first preference votes increased from eight to 12 per cent.
In the wacky world of the mayoral election system, however, these first preferences are only part of the story. On this basis, the second preferences of those people voting for Paddick (and minority candidates) as their first choice, would be re-distributed among the front-runners. So the critical question is whether Paddick\’s votes are \’anyone but Ken\’ or \’anyone but Boris\’. That will make all the difference.
The fieldwork for the YouGov poll was conducted between 19 and 21 February, so the situation may well have worsened since then, as cringe-making personal emails became Lee Jasper\’s undoing. But, if the polls are only this bad, following weeks of destabilising and embarassing revelations, the Mayor might be forgiven for feeling a glimmer of optimism. Lee Jasper has resigned, the sheet has been wiped clean, a new beginning beckons…
And yet. It\’s always struck me as curious the fact that Andrew Gilligan\’s Lee-gate campaign began in December last year, fully six months before the mayoral election. Didn\’t such an early start run the risk that allegations would become old news in voters\’ minds by May? Shouldn\’t he have been keeping his powder dryer?
In today\’s Standard, in an article that gently chides Johnson for sloppy attention to detail on transport policy, Gilligan writes a sentence that might strike fear into hearts at City Hall: \”Luckily for Boris, all these questions have so far been largely drowned out by the ongoing Jasperama. I can promise more such entertainments in the future.\”
Gilligan is an odd and obsessive character, and this may be grandstanding. But, in the week when William Hill made Boris Johnson the favourite, I wouldn\’t want to bet on it.