Monday, January 14, 2008


Ken V Boris Promises a Close Contest for London Mayor

While everyone, (including me) is enthusing at the exciting nature of the US presidential election, we seem to have forgotten our own close run thing scheduled for May when Ken takes on Boris. We learn from The Economist that, at 45% in the polls Ken is only one point in front of Boris. The Lib Dem candidate, gay former policeman, Brian Paddick, seems to be nowhere in such polls at the moment.

We also learn that:

1. The mayor's budget is up from £3.8bn in 2001-2 to a current £10.6bn.

2. Ken now has powers not only over transport(60% of budget) and police(31%) but also culture, economic development, planning and the environment plus learning and skills.

3. Whilst his powers are much less than that of his New York equivalent, he is less constrained by his legislature- the London Assembly has only the blunt instrument of a veto on his annual budget.

So who will win this currently close contest? My money has to go with Ken. His association with Labour is a disadvantage of course right now, but his cheeky - chappie persona still resonates with Londoners; his congestion charge still earns respect(maybe undeserved- London was as congested as ever last time I visited); and his considerable experience reassures, even if his behaviour frequently doesn't.

Boris, meanwhile promises fun and laughs but has no experience of running anything apart from The Spectator and various extra-marital affairs. But the fact that he attracts so much support means he is a real contender and the contest promises to draw out more than the measly 37% who turned out in 2004.

Obviously I'm a bit biased (!) but I can't help thinking that Paddick will do a lot better in the actual election than the current polls are showing. He's up against two candidates who are both celebrities in their own right, and in the early stages of the contest, that's going to hurt - a lot. But when it gets closer to the time, and he starts getting some proper exposure (the ITV debate last week was just the start), I'll bet the picture changes a great deal.
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