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May 01, 2008

Pinch, Punch, first day of the month

For those of you who haven’t yet noticed May 1st is election day .

I’ve plotted the polling results below, and differentiated between those from yougov and from other polling organisations, since the yougov ones appears to favour Boris Johnson massively. Squares are Livingston, circles are Johnson, with the darker coloured polls from yougov. As you can see yougov have put out more polls than all the other organisations put together.

In summary yougov are predicting a Johnson walkover, whilst everyone else is predicting a much more hard fought battle. What isn’t shown by these polls is that a lot of people are favouring Johnson over Livingston in the second round of balloting. I’ve ignored Brian Paddock because, whilst an excellent candidate, he has no hope of winning, and will be lucky to get to 12% of the vote. I’ve ignored Sian Berry because, whilst a terrible candidate, she has no hope of winning and will be lucky to get 2% of the vote.

The history of these elections are very interesting – Ken Livingston has won both of the two preceeding London mayoral elections very easily – no significant challenge and considerable support. Early into his current term he managed to bring the Olympics to London – a general ‘feel-good’ boost, and his reassuring performance during the 7/7 attacks won him universal praise. Since this high point however, his star has faded. Recent allegations of sleeze, related to the Lee Jasper affair, and an increasing public dislike of ‘bendy-buses’ have made this race one that is challengable, however, Livingston is certainly a lot more popular than the Labour party as a whole at the moment, and at the close of 2007, if I were a betting man I would definitely have put my money on him.

Boris Johnson, on the other hand, is a man whose star has risen over the last few years, despite several scandals. In a climate cynical of the Labour Government, and where his public school mannerisms and eton demeanour are no longer considered ’’out of touch’, he becomes a formidable candidate. His ‘brand recognition’ is second to none, and frequent appearances in conjunction with poltical comedy (HIGNIFY) have not done him any harm in my opininon. Everyone expects poltiicians on shows of that nature to be taken to task by the likes of Hislop and Merton, and consequently Johnson’s buffoonery and playful vocabulary are shown off in their best light.

When Johnson chose to run, my initial expectations were that he wouldn’t have much of a chance of winning, but that a strong second place would bolster both his, and David Cameron’s, credentials. As the Lee Jasper scandal has grown stronger in the papers, however, his candidacy became increasingly threatening to Livingston’s relection prospects. This corresponds to the movement in the polling data, where Ken Livingston’s votes fall off. It seems reasonable to conclude that this is more due to Lee jasper, because a significant group of Livingston voters, don’t migrate to Johnson, but off to Paddick. If these are genuine anti-Livingston votes then on the second inevitable second round of polling they will mainly swing back to Johnson.

There then seemed to significant movement away from Johnson around the period of the debates, which tallies since his performance in them was heavily criticised by left wing supporters, and not much admired by his backers either. this corresponds to the sudden drop of blue dots on the graph. Again its a swing away from a candidate, so Livinston doesn’t pickup the votes on these measures, but might well do when second round voting comes into account. Its hard to say how much this has hurt him, overall, but I would certainly say that it has caused a strong swing.


April 03, 2008

London Mayoral Election

In respense to several requests I’ve deided to hand an entry over to the London Mayoral election. See here for details of polling figures I refer to.

ICM are normally about 1-3% left of yougov, so I would have expected Johnson to be about 7-8% ahead, not 2% compared to the existing yougov polling. So there’s likely a methodology difference. ICM polling focussed on ensuring their survey had a weight average of ethnic minorities at the same level as their percentage of the London population. This is according to their announcement, and with reference to Livingston’s apparent criticism of the yougov polling.

Judging from the yougov blog they seemed to focus more on socio-economic groupings when trying to make their surveys representative, but this stuff tends to be quite hazy – polling isn’t as scientific as it ought to be. Furthermore historically ethnic minorities have poor turnout rates, so choosing the percentage of population is highly likely to overestimate their impact. So verdict is still out on which poll is more representative. Bear in mind the ipsos/mori polling from about a month and a half ago had Livingston ahead, but that was labour party funded and looking pretty out of date now.

Boris fell by 2% between the last two yougov polls, but this is within the margin of error of the poll, so can’t really be considered a trend without supporting evidence (comparing with ICM would be particularly flawed, since they are using a different methodology for deciding who to survey). Quantitative evidence seems to suggest that Boris is ahead, but by an indeterminate amount. A few points to consider:

1. Boris has a large financial advantage, according to both sides – he claims to be aiming at raising £1 million. This will come into play more as the campaign continues. Since I doubt either side is spending much at the moment (since the campaign is really only just started) it probably isn’t in the numbers already.
2. Large blatantly don’t know how to attack Johnson. First they tried calling him a racist then a right wing clown. The racism charge was never going to stick, and Johnson seems to have made a significant effort to behave in a more serious manner in the run up to this campaign. As incumbent Livingston has the massive advantage that he can do things, where as Johnson merely has to say them, therefore by allowing this to become a personality race Livingston gives away his big advantage and plays into Johnsons. When he first came to office he pushed the congestion charge as a radical policy, that both polarised debate and pushed popular voting his way. In order to make a comback in this race he needs another ‘big idea’. No new bendy buses and increasing congestion charges just won’t do.
3. I imagine given their traditional strength in London that the Labour party would have much more ‘on the ground’ support. This is hard to quantify, however and highly personality dependant. Frequently heavy in your face campaigning turns people off, whilst a personal chat from a respected neighbour might be the best campaigning method.
4. Location of votes – Livingston will dominate central London, whilst Johnson takes the suburbs – this seems to be so strong that even amongst informal conversation with people I know, people living in West London seem to support Johnson, and more central/city centre support Livingston.
5. According to the labour website tag cloud they seem to be really interested in Boris Johnson, he has more tags (41) than Alan Johnson (29), Alistair Darling (7), David Miliband (13), Harriet Harman (24), Hazel Blears (32) and Hilary Benn (37). I bring this up as interesting, rather more than informative and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

My guess is that Boris’ lead is reasonably strong, but overturnable, so in summary – he’ll win if he doesn’t stick his foot in his mouth or if Livingston doesn’t pull anything out of the hat.


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