Choices, choices

The London mayoral election model – essentially a two-round voting system (like that used for the French president) compressed into one vote – is a wondrous thing. YouGov\’s latest poll, commissioned by the Evening Standard and published on Monday, looks like pretty bad news for Ken Livingstone on the surface. Underneath the surface, if you look at the full poll report, it looks a lot worse.

To take the bad news first, the poll places Boris Johnson clearly in the lead with 49 points, with Livingstone on 37 and Brian Paddick on 12. To win, a candidate needs more than 50 per cent of the votes, once minority candidates have been ruled out and their electorate\’s second preferences taken into account. Johnson\’s lead puts him in sniffing distance of that overall majority.

However, unlike previous polls commissioned in January and February, this poll also asked voters for their second preferences. This is where the news starts getting worse for Livingstone. Barring a dramatic change in fortunes, Paddick will be eliminated and his votes (like those of Greens, BNP and the rest) will be redistributed. 41 per cent of those who declared their intention to vote for Paddick first would give their second vote to Johnson, compared to 34 per cent to Livingstone. In other words, \’Anyone But Ken\’ is a stronger rallying cry for Lib Dems than \’Anyone But Boris\’.

There are other interesting (or worrying) details in the poll. One is the way that voting intention breaks down by party loyalty. Unsurprisingly, 87 per cent of Conservatives plan to vote Johnson. Much more surprisingly, so do 21 per cent of Labour supporters. Johnson even gets a tactical 33 per cent of Lib Dems (compared to 28 per cent for Livingstone and 38 per cent for their own candidate). In other words, not only is Livingstone proving unappetising to tactically-minded Lib Dems, he only has 68 per cent of his own core vote.

It\’s interesting to contrast this with the situation in 2000, when rebel Livingstone probably garnered support from across the political spectrum. Now, he is struggling just to get his own vote out: 25 per cent of Labour voters (excluded from the numbers above) said that they would not vote, or don\’t know how they will vote.

Bringing those \’don\’t knows\’ and defectors back in to the fold (and out to vote) will be critical to a Livingstone win, and the campaign proper has only just begun. The electorate may be gently chiding him through this poll rather than expressing settled intentions, and the core Labour vote may yet balk at Boris. But this doesn\’t look good.

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