Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Countdown to Mayoral Election 2016

Labour Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan remains firmly in the lead, against Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith, two days before election day, says poll.

Photo by Peter Adams

It was supposed to be easy. When Zac Goldsmith became the Conservative candidate for London Mayor in October 2015, he was probably hoping some of his predecessor's supposed golden touch would rub off on him.

Mr Goldsmith's Mayoral campaign is now stuck with the moniker "dog-whistle politics", following statements about Mr Khan, such as the fact that he was allegedly "playing the race card".

The campaign received fresh criticism following the printing of a Zac Goldsmith-penned article in the Mail on Sunday. The headline read:

"On Thursday, are we really going to hand the world's greatest city to a Labour Party that thinks terrorists are its friends?".

The article carried an image of the wreckage of the Tavistock Square bus, which was one of the targets of the 7/7 Attacks in July 2005. As a sign of how poorly perceived the article was, ex-Conservative Party Chair Sayeeda Warsi took to Twitter to say:

Source: @SayeedaWarsi (Twitter)

Two days before election day, Mr Goldsmith remains 9 points behind Sadiq Khan in first preferences, a new Opinium poll suggests. In the second round, where the two would go head-to-head, Mr Khan's lead extends to 14 points over Mr Goldsmith.

The race is, on the face of it, a two-horse race. The remaining candidates are somewhat obscure, some might say. Here's a look at the field of other party candidates.

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat candidate

The Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon remains confident that her campaign will make progress, despite the fact that she remain stuck at an average poll share of about 5% of respondents. Early in the year, her press team emailed Left Handed Dude to say that her campaign was:

"getting a very positive response...People are keen to hear about my plans, particularly my ideas about how to deliver the extra homes London needs, a fairer fares regime on TfL's Tube and rail services and how we tackle the cost of childcare in the capital".

Sian Berry, Green Party Candidate

Green candidate Sian Berry is marking her second attempt to become Mayor, after her 2008 bid. Her campaign has made effective use of billboards, one of which is on display near Ealing Common Tube Station, albeit tucked away from the high street somewhat. Her poll rating is roughly 4% at present.

In an election campaign film, Berry rattles off her party's list of proposals, as she walks through the streets of the city. Berry highlights how the Generation Rent group has rated her campaign highly, for proposing a renters' union to stick up for private renters, in order to tackle the issue of soaring rents in the capital.

Peter Whittle, UKIP Candidate

Openly gay UKIP candidate Mr Whittle shares Mr Goldsmith's support for a Brexit on 23rd June, and he has tried to diversify his party's message in the capital. He made waves in back in February, when he claimed "white, middle-class liberals" are the "most hostile, close-minded group", but his poll ratings remain stuck at much the same level as the Greens and Lib Dems, at about 5%. He has focused on social housing, making the following pledge:

" I would give priority to Londoners on social housing if you have lived in a London bourough for 5 years".

George Galloway, Respect Party Candidate

Perhaps one of the more controversial candidates, ex-MP George Galloway has been campaigning to become London's first Respect Party Mayor. However, his campaign has failed to make much of an impact since he announced his intention to run, in May 2015. His poll ratings have failed to budge over 2% consistently. 

In a move which indicates his candidacy is more of a stepping stone towards other projects, Mr Galloway has claimed he will try to run as the Respect candidate in Tooting, if a by-electon is called, in the event of Mr Khan winning the Mayoralty.

The Respect brand is struggling at present. Its membership base is estimated at just over 600 members as of 2014, and it was alleged that one-time Respect leader Salma Yaqoob made a failed attempt to join the Labour Party last year. To compound the sense of discontent, the Spectator claimed Respect had assets totalling under just £2k. When considering Respect, it's perhaps best to view it as a personal vehicle for George Galloway, as opposed to a fully fledged party.

Mr Galloway tweeted the following message as part of his online campaign in February:

"Elect a leader that will fight for all not just those dripping in GOLD".

The tweet drew ridicule from a small group of tweeters, including user Marc Blanc, who wondered: "Is 'dripping in gold' a euphemism for something now? I didn't attend the meeting".

Writer Jeremy Duns teased the tweet later that day, saying: "Rappers have rights, too, George".

Ignoring the polls, what ever the final results are, the 2016 Mayoral election will have a serious impact on the current political environment. A Labour victory will be used by Corbyn allies to show support for the party's new direction is vindicated. Moderates might argue however that Mr Khan might win in spite of Mr Corbyn, not thanks to him. Failure to win will be a blow to Mr Goldsmith and the Conservatives, bringing an end to major election victories over Labour since 2008.

If Mr Goldsmith wins, the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party will feel emboldened, and will compound the sense of victory for the party as a whole, if the government makes gains in local elections throughout the country. Losing to Mr Goldsmith will be seen as a huge blow to confidence in Jeremy Corbyn's position, some might say. If Labour can't get back the Mayoralty, it might be a sign of the party being poorly placed to regain Number 10 in 2020.

Two days to go till voting day itself. If you plan to vote in the London Mayoral election, remember to place your preferences on the lilac ballot paper, and rank your favoured candidates in order of preference. Remember to check the orange ballot paper, to help elect members to the London Assembly.

At present, Labour holds 12 seats on the Assembly, with the Conservatives on 9 seats, plus the Lib Dems and Greens both holding 2 seats respectively.

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