Thursday, 8 December 2011

The myth of the "Ken deficit" and "Ken bonus"

Lord Ashcroft of Belize has a new poll out suggesting that Labour are set for a stonking win in the Feltham and Heston byelection but that Boris and Ken are merely neck and neck in the constituency.

This, we are told, is yet further sign of the "Ken deficit" whereby Ken is running 'behind' his party's vote nationally.

This is opposed to the "Ken bonus" that he held in previous elections where he ran 'ahead' of his party's vote nationally.

Still with me?

Well there's two problems with this. First of all, Mayoral politics in London has almost nothing to do with party affiliation, as Frank Dobson found out when he came in third place at the height of Labour's popularity.

Mayoral politics is about individuals not  parties. Ken didn't win in 2000 and 2004 because he was more popular than Labour. He won because he was more popular than Steve Norris and Frank Dobson. 

Second of all, far from suggesting a significant drop in his support, Ashcroft's poll shows that Ken Livingstone's vote in Feltham and Heston has actually gone up since 2008.

In Feltham and Heston last time around Boris got 41% of the votes as opposed to Ken's 37% (Source: London Elects)

Today's figures put them neck and neck at 45% to 44% (weighted) or 37% to 37% (unweighted) so a modest swing towards Ken Livingstone.

However, the swing is only modest. If matched across London, Boris would still be on course to win next year, albeit by a smaller margin than last time.

So what does this tell us?

Well not very much. A poll taken at a similar stage in 2007 gave the incumbent a clear lead. A lead which he was to completely lose just a few months later.

And the few Mayoral polls we've seen this time around have suggested that Ken and Boris are either neck and neck or that Boris has a clear lead.

My own hunch is that we won't really get a clear picture of the state of the race until Londoners start to think properly about the campaign next year.

And when they do, the last thing they'll be considering is any mythical "bonus" or "deficit" held by Boris and Ken.

1 comment:

Eoghan O'Neill said...

There may also be a change once Livingstone returns to the public eye once again. There is still relatively little coverage of him anywhere while Boris is ubiquitous; once the Ken profile starts to raise itself there may be a change in the polls.