Sean Fear reviews the Mayoral and Assembly elections
The London Mayoral election was closer than expected. Boris Johnson finished up beating Ken Livingstone by 44% to 40% on first preferences, and by 51.5 to 48.5% on second preferences. This was closer than the polls had predicted. It was nonetheless, an impressive performance for Johnson to hold on, when Labour were making sweeping gains across the country.
Johnson is almost unique among Conservatives, in being able to appeal strongly to both core Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats. He performed strongly in safe Conservative boroughs, achieving a first preference result of 69% in Kensington & Chelsea, 62% in Bromley and Bexley combined, 62% in Havering, 57% in Westminster, and 55% in Barnet, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Wandsworth. But, he also performed extremely well in areas of Liberal Democrat local government strength, winning 61% in Richmond, 56% in Sutton, and 55% in Kingston. Notably, Richmond and Kingston were both carried by Livingstone in 2000, and 2004. At the same time, he achieved 30% in Islington, and (excluding postal votes, which would likely increase his share) 31% in the constituency of Hornsey& Wood Green, and 33% in Southwark and Bermondsey. Without any doubt, it was a most impressive performance.
Yet, London’s vote was polarised. Livingstone had enormous support in much of London, particularly in areas with large ethnic minority populations, and large numbers of public sector workers and tenants of social housing. In Newham, he took 72% of the first preference vote, winning 75%+ in eight wards; 60% in Hackney, 59% in Tower Hamlets, and 54% in each of Brent, Barking & Dagenham, and Haringey. In Brent Central, he took 60% of the first preference vote; in Tottenham, 67%. There were two significant exceptions to his general support among ethnic minority voters; namely Indian voters in North West London (Johnson comfortably outpolled Livingstone in Harrow), and, unsurprisingly, Jewish voters (Johnson won some enormous vote shares in heavily Jewish wards in North London).
The extent of the polarisation is shown by the fact that every single ward in London was carried either by Johnson or Livingstone (and indeed, by the Conservative and Labour parties at list level). Fortunately for Johnson, he had just that extra bit of support over Livingstone.
At Assembly level, the Conservatives and Labour were dominant. They took 21 out of 25 seats, and at list level, saw their combined support rise from 62% in 2008 to 73% this time. Labour’s vote share rose by 14%, to 41%, compared to 2008, in line with the natural picture, giving the party 12 seats, but the Conservatives did very well to limit the decline in their vote share to 3%, and to retain 9 seats. I would put that down both to Johnson’s own popularity carrying through to Conservative assembly candidates, and to the fact that there is an unshakeable Conservative core vote of about 30% in the capital (even in the mid-1990’s Conservative support never fell below 31% in London local elections).
The Green Party performed creditably at both Mayoral and Assembly level, with Jenny Jones achieving third place, and the party retaining two seats on the Assembly. This bodes well for the London Borough Elections in 2014. The previous set of elections, in 2010 saw the Green vote being swamped by the general election turnout, but the next round of elections should see them making gains in boroughs like Lewisham, Islington, and Camden.
By contrast, the Liberal Democrat performance was terrible. They were beaten into fourth place in both the Mayoral, and Assembly contests. In the former, their vote share fell by 5.6%, compared to 2008; in the latter, by 4.6%. In both cases, their vote share is down by 10%, compared to 2004. The party was reduced to 2 seats on the Assembly (compared to 5 in 2004). It failed to carry a single London ward, and was reduced to third place in Richmond, Sutton, and Kingston, and fourth place in Haringey and Islington. There must be some doubt whether the Party can retain a single council in 2014.
As usual, UKIP failed to achieve their potential. They narrowly failed to win an Assembly seat, probably not helped by the fact that their Mayoral and constituency candidates ran as “Fresh Choice for London.”
Sean Fear is a regular contributor to PB and a London Conservative