Mayoral contest and GLA elections enter the home straight
Londoners may have noticed tube posters and adverts encouraging them to ‘Have their say on 3rd May’. With only a day left before the Capital votes for its next Mayor and representatives at the GLA, how’s the contest shaping up?
Unsurprisingly the campaign has been labelled as the ‘Ken v Boris road show’ – and for good reason. The two heavyweights have stolen the limelight and the personal dual between the two, rather than policy issues, has dominated the headlines.
PPS will be combing through the results from across London and elsewhere in the country on 4th May, but we’ve looked beyond the barbs about who pays their tax and where they take their holidays, to assess the political and policy implications ahead of the big day.
In 2008 Boris was swept into City Hall with 53% of first and second preference votes. Ken’s campaign was mired by accusations of scandal and after 8 years in office (and an unpopular Labour Government nationally) voters decided it was time for a change.
The Conservative success in rallying the outer London Boroughs – creating the ‘Boris Doughnut’– was particularly important in overturning the Livingstone majority. The Tories retained control of the Greater London Assembly as well as winning the Mayoralty, with the Boris factor extending to local Tory candidates.
Four years later and the tables have turned, or so it seems at first glance. The Coalition Government has reached its nadir in the polls and Boris is now the one who has to defend his record in office. Ken led the polls back in January but Boris has bounced back and led ever since. Labour members have recently admitted that their own supporters are not backing Ken, as questions about the Livingstone brand persist.
The Liberal Democrats – with Brian Paddick as their candidate again – would do well to reach the 9% they recorded in 2008 and the plethora of other candidates trying to get their voices heard are not making much headway. The only significant change could be a surge in support for UKIP, with the party looking best placed to pick up the protest vote at present.
|Boris is outperforming his own party in the polls, whilst the opposite is the case for Ken…|
|Net don’t like Boris – 43%||Net don’t like Con Party – 64%|
|Net don’t like Ken – 59%||Net don’t like Lab Party – 56%|
ComRes for E Standard/LBC/ITV London Tonight, 26th April
At the GLA level Labour will be looking to build on the major successes they recorded in the 2010 local elections in London, when the party took control of 10 London Boroughs. Labour won in places like Camden, Harrow and Ealing and will be hoping to replicate this at GLA level.
|Greater London Assembly||Seats|
|Independent (initially BNP)||1|
Some major figures in the Conservative administration, such as Brian Coleman in Barnet and Camden (up against former MP, Andrew Dismore), have a tough fight on their hands. Richard Barnes in Ealing and Hillingdon will also have to work hard to retain his seat. The 2008 majorities in each GLA constituency suggest that the Conservatives have got room to breathe in most places, but a significant swing to Labour in line with the 2010 results would be enough to turn some blue areas red. If Labour perform well and Boris wins the Mayoral contest the relationship between Mayor and Assembly could become much more difficult.
The big question remains, who will be Mayor on Friday? It looks like it will be Boris if the polls are anything to go by. The latest ComRes poll has Boris with an extended eight point lead over Ken, with voters stating he is the more likely candidate to get London’s economy moving. Ken’s messages about fare cuts haven’t hit home and his campaign is struggling to mobilise core voters in the inner London Boroughs. There are likely to be plenty of twists and turns in the coming days, but it is Boris’ to lose at the moment. So what does this mean for planning and development across the Capital?
Ken and Boris may not have taken radically different approaches to planning and development during their terms as Mayor, but their approach to housing has been one of the few policy areas to be discussed during the campaign.
The Livingstone manifesto commits to creating a London-wide non-profit lettings agency to help rents and provide secure tenancies. Ken has also said no new property developments would be approved if he becomes Mayor unless they included at least 25 per cent social housing, but refused to say what he would do with the existing controversial Borough applications for fear of prejudicing the planning process. His measures would include using his planning powers to “block the destruction of social rented or other affordable housing without replacement that meets local housing needs”
Boris has accused Ken of wanting to introduce rent controls that might risk shrinking supply in the sector, but has also focused on housing demand himself. His manifesto claims that he will create 55,000 affordable homes by 2015 and introduce new design standards ‘including a significant portion of family sized homes’. Boris has also backed the extension of Business Improvement Districts and mapped out a programme of investment for the regeneration of town centres and high streets. The other headline initiatives, such as a Science Park located on the Olympic site, form part of his vision to stimulate the London economy and drive business growth and employment.
The debate appears to highlight a rather classic Labour / Tory divide. Ken has focused on housing – and particularly affordable – as one of his key manifesto pledges. Boris, in turn, has given due weight to this issue as part of the wider London economy in his manifesto. Both talk about the need to drive growth and homes, but Ken’s methods suggest more dictation to the Boroughs and planning policy to deliver his goals.
Boris v Ken : Round 2
The result on Friday will have a major impact on London and on national politics. Boris looks on course to secure another four years in City Hall and the GLA elections offer up some interesting battles and open up the potential that Labour could narrow (or overturn) the Tory majority.
We will be waiting up on Thursday night to see who wins the big prize and how the political parties do across the Capital. We’ll let you know as soon as the dust settles.
Written by Stephen Byfield