Livingstone unstoppable in London?

Chris Burford cburford at
Mon Nov 15 23:24:26 PST 1999

>>Keep on arguing?
>Why not? We New Yorkers love to argue.

So I have noticed!

The first attempt by Tony Blair to import mayoral contexts to enliven democracy, looks as if it is going to be uncomfortably lively for him.

Chris Burford



Alan Travis and Ewen MacAskill Tuesday November 16, 1999 The Guardian

Ken Livingstone's bid to become the first directly elected mayor of London now appears unstoppable as long as his name appears on the ballot paper next May - and it will make little difference to the outcome whether he stands as the Labour candidate or as an independent candidate, according to the latest Guardian/ICM opinion poll.

The survey shows that the first month of campaigning by his main rival for the Labour nomination, Frank Dobson, has actually seen support for the former health secretary slip to such an extent that he is now trailing in third place in the affections of London Labour voters behind Glenda Jackson. He has failed even to gain the backing of the 7% of Labour voters prepared to support Trevor Phillips before he withdrew to become Mr Dobson's running mate.

The poll's findings come as Labour's selection panel meets to decide which candidates can fight for the Labour nomination for mayor.

The ICM poll shows that if Mr Livingstone is Labour's official candidate next May he will crush the Conservative prospect, Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, winning the contest on the first round with 63% of the vote to 25%, with the Liberal Democrats' Susan Kramer in third place with 12%.

It also shows that if the former leader of the Greater London Council stands as an independent and it becomes a four-cornered contest between Dobson, Archer, Kramer and Livingstone then Tony Blair's choice, the former health secretary, faces the danger of being pushed into a humiliating third place and being left out of the run-off.

The poll shows that even as an independent Mr Livingstone would be within a whisker of winning the contest outright with 49% of first preference votes. The run-off will be conducted by the supplementary vote system which would see the second preferences of third- and fourth-placed candidates transferred to the top two candidates. In this scenario Mr Livingstone would beat the second-placed Lord Archer hands down by 72% to 28% in such a second round. However, commentators expect he would sustain serious political damage in the process of quitting Labour.

The survey shows that Mr Dobson could win the battle if Mr Livingstone's name is not on the ballot paper next May. In a straight contest between Dobson, Archer and Kramer, the former health secretary would win. The first round results would give Dobson 44%, Archer 38% and Kramer 17%. When the Liberal Democrats' second preferences are redistributed Dobson comes through by 55% to 45% after the second round.

The difficulties facing Frank Dobson highlighted by the poll underlines why the selection panel will be keen to secure a "loyalty oath" promising Mr Livingstone will not stand if beaten by Mr Dobson in the more finely-balanced electoral college. It will also ask all candidates to abide by the eventual Labour manifesto, which will further turn the screw on Mr Livingstone, as he will find it difficult to agree with the proposals for a public/private partnership for London Underground.

Mr Livingstone yesterday declared he was ready to take a loyalty oath - but made it clear that would not prevent him disagreeing with the Labour leadership if he saw fit. "What do you have MPs for? If all we are supposed to do is simply rubber-stamp whatever the Government brings forward, then you could get rid of us all and save an awful lot of money."

With Dobson so far behind in the polls, Millbank is also looking at extending the party ballot into January in order to give him a chance to gain ground.

The poll shows that compared with a similar ICM survey for the Evening Standard published on October 15 Mr Livingstone's support amongst Labour voters has risen by three points to 53%. Despite the withdrawal of Trevor Phillips to become his running mate as deputy mayor, Frank Dobson's support has slipped from 15% to 14%. Glenda Jackson now enjoys the backing of 18% of London Labour voters - up three points from a month ago.

But the biggest shift in opinion in the past month has been amongst those willing to back Mr Livingstone as an independent if he stands in a four-cornered contest with Dobson, Archer and Kramer. In this situation Livingstone's vote has surged six points, up from 43% to 49%, and he has taken support equally from both Mr Dobson and Lord Archer.

• ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,003 people aged over 18 by telephone between November 11 and 14 1999. Interviews were conducted throughout London and the results have been weighted to be representative of all people living in the area.

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