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.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Why Boris Johnson isn't trusted on transport

The latest Mayoral poll while generally good news for Boris Johnson shows that when it comes to transport, most Londoners simply don't trust him.

The reason for this should be obvious. Just take a look at his manifesto from 2008:

"after eight years of a Labour Mayor, we too often spend our mornings and evenings in cramped, overcrowded carriages or sitting for hours in traffic, and we pay the highest fares in Europe."

And after almost four years of a Tory Mayor we still spend our mornings and evenings in cramped and overcrowded carriages, and now pay even higher fares than before.

"We have had to watch as vital reports and fresh ideas have been suppressed, while this Labour Mayor has pursued far-flung projects, completely out of touch with Londoners’ concerns."

Unlike Boris's totally in-touch airport in Kent and totally down-to-earth cable car over the Thames.

"I will also re-instate tidal flow in the Blackwall tunnel at the earliest opportunity."


"I will commission a trial of orbital express bus routes for outer London."

Trial commissioned. No new buses.

"I will vigorously oppose the Government’s plans to increase the Dartford crossing toll, and campaign for residents in neighbouring London boroughs to be given a discount"

No discount given.

"I want the Tube to open for one hour later on Friday and Saturday nights, so Londoners can get home safely late at night."


"I will also fight for the long-term investment that London needs, for projects such as a tram for Oxford Street"


"I will look to reduce the disruption caused by strikes on the Tube by negotiating a no- strike deal, in good faith, with the Tube unions."

A ludicrous promise which he hasn't even tried to implement.

"I will stop the planned ticket office closures"


"We will broker a deal with a private company to bring thousands of bikes to the capital at no cost to the taxpayer."

Total cost to taxpayer so far: £140 million and counting.

Is it any wonder that Boris isn't trusted on transport?