Here’s how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election


10:45 am - June 2nd 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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The answer to one key question has so far evaded Mayor Boris Johnson’s London opposition: how do we define him? Several attempts have been made, including ‘horrible racist’ and ‘buffoon’ but none really stuck. Boris went out of his way to avoid the labels by courting London’s minorities and having the media on his side.

I said last week that transport fare rises could be his Achilles Heel. No longer. The perfect narrative to to attack Boris with has now revealed itself, and I’m staggered more hasn’t been made of it already.

Ken Livingstone’s current strategy seems to revolve around two issues: associating Boris with the Tory cuts and highlighting the sharp rise in public transport fares. But they only preach to the converted – they’ll motivate people who are already dislike Boris.

Ken needs to give somewhat affluent-but-wavering voters a reason to vote against Boris or lose that enthusiasm which brought them out in 2008. I.e. the kind of people who don’t worry about transport fares much or won’t be hit hard by the cuts.

I believe the answer is remarkably simple: show how Boris has wasted tons of money since coming into office.

Consider this. Last week Boris unveiled the new Routemaster buses.

Know what the full cost was? They cost £7.8 million for just five of them. In contrast a normal double-decker costs just £190,000. He says the cost will be significantly reduced if hundreds start going into production but that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Mull on those figures for a bit…. each of those buses cost £1.56 million. That the whole project was a colossal waste of money doesn’t even begin to cover it. And remember that Boris made his vendetta against ‘bendy-buses’ a centre-piece of his 2008 campaign and vowed to replace the old Routemasters with something new.

Both Labour and Libdem representatives in London went on the attack when the figures came out.

But it seems to me that Ken’s main strategy is still to focus on the cuts and transport fares. On both those issues, Boris can muddy the waters, but not on this. These are numbers he would prefer were just not highlighted.

If I was running Ken’s campaign I would have leaflets highlighting:
– figures above relating to the new Routemaster wastage.
– that Boris spent over half-a-million pounds just on his ‘transition team’
– highlight how many spinners Boris has on 100k+ salaries

I’d also pull some quotes from the 2008 campaign where Boris went on diatribes against bendy-buses.

In short – I’d make the new routemaster bus Boris’ biggest achievement and turn the election into a referendum on that.

Ken’s team need to find every innovative and creative way to paint Boris as a wasteful London Mayor and highlight the cost of the new Routemaster. The 2012 election will be in the bag. Boris can’t win on that record. If Ken’s team start pushing hard on this, Boris has already lost.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


The problem with that strategy is that Ken brought in the bendy buses and Londoners really do hate them. Running on a platform of highlighting the money wasted on the new routemasters would just highlight the money Ken spent on the horrible bendy buses.

I am not a Conservative but I will vote for Mr Johnston because I find him smart and because I find him liberal on social issues.
I certainly won’t vote for somebody who hangs out with Hugo Chavez. Labour would have had much better candidates.

I think this would be a colossal mistake for two simple reasons. Firstly, voters are smart enough to know that designing and commissioning an entirely new fleet of buses will be expensive in the early days. Secondly, voters are quite happy for politicians to spend money on things they want, and London *wanted* Routemasters.

See also free prescriptions, the NHS, free education, etc etc.

I think that hitting Boris will the ‘value for money’ argument right now isn’t a bad idea at all, Sunny. People can tolerate flippancy if they find it amusing, but couple it with waste and the joke will start to wear thin.

The main problem I see in this election is that Ken needs to be able to court the outer London boroughs more comprehensively with issues that make sense to them. Transport fares are a good start, but he needs to tackle the perception that he doesn’t care about them in the same way as he does the inner boroughs.

Completely agree with Owen. For Ken, or any Labour candidate to attack Boris on the basis of profligacy is pretty hypocritical. I really doubt that would convert floating voters. Anyone can understand that the buses are expensive to design and build, and that production costs will reduce- certainly the affluent floating voters yóu target will understand that. If you want to attract them I’d come up with a more intelligent argument.

every single person in the outer boroughs, and everyone who knows them, or who knows anything about them, are bigoted reactionary scum. They shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Seriously.

Sunny,

Unless Londoners have very bad memories, I can’t see a single value-for-money argument like this working, especially when what you are complaining about is a sentimental and iconic design that people like (so perhaps something they are prepared to pay for – value is not an easily ascribed figure). You see, the administration of one Ken Livingston was associated with some very strange decisions concerning money, and people realise this.

Your argument here would also play into a representation of Mr Livingston as a man who was determined to ignore the voters and produce what he thought was best (value?) – which is always a weak point for socialist candidates, and should be avoided if possible.

If you want to find a killer line to beat Mr Johnson, could I suggest coming up with postitive policies? Relentlessly negative campaigning works so well for Labour candidates doesn’t it? I’d take this one back to the drawing board were I you…

I’m not so sure that Londoners really do dislike the bendy buses.

And the BozzaMaster is not an RM, not by a long chalk. Its shortcomings are already well known, and remember, the original RM had a production run of over 2,800 and used standard parts – like the same AEC power unit that had powered the RT, and was used in “ordinary” Regent V deckers. I’ve summed up the shortcomings in this post:

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2011/05/cripes-readers-bit-pricey-taking-this.html

And while on the subject of Bozza, transport and waste, there’s the cable car that nobody yet wants to sponsor, which means 50 mil being sprayed up the wall on another vanity project:

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2011/04/yikes-readers-nobody-wants-to-buy-my.html

but no Cross River Tram or Tramlink extension.

@ Joe – your comment shows frankly how insular and bigoted you are. London isn’t just an Islington/Hackney bubble. Most of us pay council tax, many of us work in the centre and use buses etc even if we don’t live there.

Speaking as a Londoner and someone who has the option of a push-bike, a motor-bike or public transport to get to work – I loathe the bendy bus! I also fondly recall the old routemasters.

The bendy bus might have appeared like a good idea on paper – but the way they sit-across box-junctions, the space they require for turning corners and the length that makes over-taking very unsafe makes them completely and utterly unsuitable for London’s roads.

By taking one fact (the cost) and conflating it with the national concern about the budget – I think you have put yourself on completely the wrong side of the London electorate. In fact, if you make the election a referendum on the Routemaster and they are successfully rolled out, you will lose big time.

Boris can point to a highly successful and newly iconic bike scheme and the return of a much loved and functional London icon in the routemaster. Ken has to explain the immensely unpopular, impractical and non-iconic bendy bus. Transport policy is 2:0 to Boris.

In fact, if you make the election a referendum on the Routemaster and they are successfully rolled out, you will lose big time.

What, in one year’s time? You’re dreaming mate. Not going to happen. the whole thing is one big money waster.

And how many people loathe the bendy buses or think its on the top of their concerns? Have a look at the latest ‘State of London’ polling – it barely features. Its an incompetence and money wasting issue – simple as that.

If Ken’s running – why is he running? – charging Bo-Jo with fiscal irresponsibility could be, er – irresponsible.

13. Chaise Guevara

I call Poe’s Law on 6.

14. john Reid

6. or contribute some of their council tax to the GLA

15. Daz Pearce

While he’s running against Red Ken, Boris has a very good chance of winning. People have not forgotten the congestion charges and Ken’s attempts to turn London into a mini-Cuba. Boris to hold on comfortably IMO
http://outspokenrabbit.blogspot.com/

Boris is a complete waste of money – of course the cost of each of these buses will no doubt be passed on to londoners via higher transport fares. As for outer london- what exactly has Boris done for outer londoners? except shut major bridges and shut down the tube network at the weekend to the point that its impossible to get across London without factoring hours extra to your journey?? real vote winner there. not. The sooner we see the back of him the better.

Fair point about the list of priorities – but my point is that transport is not an issue that will win Ken the election. Putting aside the issue of cost for a moment – the reforms Boris has put in place have two advantages – they are popular and iconic.

To your other argument on cost savings. If you had a new candidate without form, this could probably run. However, Ken was notorious for wasting money. The amounts may not have been large – but let’s face it – no one wins in a pissing match where you say I wasted a little less money than you. Add to that the perception that Ken’s dodgy mates were farming out cash to their dodgy pals, who didn’t even live in London and didn’t have competence to deliver – and he really pissed off Londoners.

Then there is crime – and Ken lost power against a backdrop of a string of murders of young black men. Whether crime figures have improved or not is irrelevant – Ken’s performance wasn’t perceived to be that good and he wouldn’t be the change Londoners are looking for.

Then you have industrial action. Here Boris could be vulnerable – but it will be hard for Ken to create an advantage.

Where I do agree with your post is that throwing out comments of racism and bigotry will fail.

18. Parasite

Boris Johnson can spend his precept – which has been frozen for three years, which will play more heavily with suburban taxpaying London than this – on a gold plated Routemaster that runs on a new route direct from City Hall to the Johnson household as far as a lot of people are concerned.

Livingstone has been dividing Londoners into various pigeonholes for years, and in the latest incarnation this involves courting religious extremists, and hacks like the Mayor of Tower Hamlets. The man doesn’t deserve public office ever again. This is more important than the cost of a bus.

19. Shatterface

Campaigning on an anti-Routemaster ticket in London sounds like campaigning on an anti-canal ticket in Amsterdam. They are iconic, above and beyond their practical use.

Err, designing a new bus equals investment in public transport.

You’re now saying that the Labour Party should campaign in London *against* the idea of investment in public transport?

21. InternetBusiness

Trying to make the Mayoral election “single-issue” is pretty unproductive.

Why can’t it be about lots of things? You know, pluralism and that?

22. Watchman

Tim.

You’re now saying that the Labour Party should campaign in London *against* the idea of investment in public transport?

I’m sure Sunny will tell you that commissioning is more effective if you take the off-the-peg option, and that it is inefficient to purchase custom-made products. After all, he is clearly committed to the most efficient and cheapest ways of acquiring the correct products, as witnessed by a long history of posts on this blog…

…oh sorry, that’s Douglas Carswell isn’t it. This is just political posturing without any principle, which people tend to see right through…

I doubt such a strategy would work. The anti-bendy campaign was only a success because the right used it – and the removal of Routemasters – to crystallise many of the doubts that outer London had about Ken (anti-British, pro-the “group rights agenda”, and so forth). The buses themselves were a marginal issue.

By contrast, Johnson doesn’t yet have a reputation as a profligate, and is unlikely to acquire one in the space of less than a year; so the Borismaster doesn’t crystallise very much about his Mayoralty in voters’ minds as yet. Moreover, there won’t be many (if any) of these buses on the streets by May 2012, and they won’t be immediately noticeable unlike bendies in central London. So making them the centre of a campaign strategy would be, at best, peculiar.

I also don’t think you’re correct to say that anti-cuts campaigning appeals only to anti-Boris voters. Let’s not forget that Labour actually ‘won’ London at the general election, in both vote share and seats. That means there are likely to be people who voted for Boris in 2008 who subsequently voted Labour at least partially from concern at the cuts. Either that or the higher turnout at the GE brought out anti-cuts voters who, if they could be mobilised for the Mayoral election, could be enough to beat Boris. Either way, there is electoral potential for an anti-cuts platform.

Labour lost the next mayoral when they nominated Ken as their candidate. That’s pretty much all there is to say. You’ll do quite well on the Assembly mind, if that’s any consolation.

To summarise all of the above: Sunny’s strategy has no chance of succeeding.

If I may, as a newcomer I’d like to make a general point about the blog – I was genuinely confused by the use of the word ‘liberal’ in the name. I thought it might be a blog for liberals espousing liberal policies and opinions. Instead it appears broadly socially democratic, and when Richard Murphy or UKuncut get involved, more socialist. Neither of these concepts shares much common ground with liberalism.

26. Watchman

Joseph,

If I may, as a newcomer I’d like to make a general point about the blog – I was genuinely confused by the use of the word ‘liberal’ in the name. I thought it might be a blog for liberals espousing liberal policies and opinions. Instead it appears broadly socially democratic, and when Richard Murphy or UKuncut get involved, more socialist. Neither of these concepts shares much common ground with liberalism.

Liberal in the American sense of the word I think – although I am not sure Sunny does not see himself as Liberal.

On key issues such as freedom of choice, this blog is generally liberal, if that helps. It is (generally – there is very little if anything in the way of an actual editorial line) economically illiberal, but that can’t be helped…

27. Luis Enrique

They cost £7.8 million for just five of them. In contrast a normal double-decker costs just £190,000. He says the cost will be significantly reduced if hundreds start going into production but that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Going to the trouble of commissioning the design and build of a unique new bus would be truly insane if you only intend to buy five of them. I rather suspect they intend to buy a few more. How do we know that “isn’t going to happen any time soon”?

Under Ken, TFL conducted a trail of Hydrogen buses that cost £1m each for 10 so I’m really not sure this is a particularly clever line of attack.

28. Shatterface

If you want to campaign against the Routemaster you’d best not illistrate your campaign with pictures like that in the OP, which, frankly, make it look beautiful.

I think the notion that Boris will lose the election because of his new buses is, frankly, laughable.

@20, clearly More means Worstall.

How loudly do you expect to shout “look over there” and get away with it?

Designing an unnecessary and impractical new bus, which is nothing at all like the Routemaster, when the operators don’t want them and you can buy “off the peg” vehicles that have a lower cost and higher residual value, is what Bozza is doing with the “New Bus For London”.

You know, lower cost and higher residual value, that’s that economics stuff, innit?

And how about addressing Bozza’s decision to spray fifty mil up the wall on a cable car – another vanity project?

You’ve had dealings with the CP – check out what they do when they need to update their stock (clue: they don’t go off on the kind of trip that Bozza is on).

If I move back to London before the next Mayoral election, I hope for a third party candidate I can stomach voting for who isn’t Boris or Ken. I don’t want either of them in charge.

Hopefully the Lib Dems and Greens will put some decent candidates up. Wonder if the Independent Working Class Alliance will ever field a candidate? If they do, they’d get my vote.

32. Matt Little

While I agree with your insight into where Boris is weak that in itself isn’t enough. It isn’t terrible to be able to portray your opponent as “not up to the job” but if Ken wants to win he will have to set out why he is the superior candidate. When non-tribal voters are presented with an acceptable incumbent and a challenger who fails to “own the future” or present themselves as more credible, the incumbent more often than not keeps his job. Neil Kinnock is the best example of this.

So yes these are the lines with which to attack Boris but they will only work if they are followed up by a credible alternative vision of how Ken will run London. Working out what that vision should be is the hard part. Finding that vision of the future is what separates good politicians from great politicians!

33. Workman Fred

I believe Boris is going to kick Kens bum all around the place no matter what ken says, does, promises.
And not just because Kens face and the way he talks is so dam depressing.
Ken is old school & all about everything many I know hated about Browns Labour, dump Ken to stand half a chance.
Oh and if you don’t want the peoples votes who just go by how fun and bubbly their mayor is keeping Ken is saying that for you!!

“Oh and if you don’t want the peoples votes who just go by how fun and bubbly their mayor is keeping Ken is saying that for you!!”

Could you possibly translate that into English for us??

http://cuttingedgeuk.proboards.com/index.cgi

Sunny the problem “Boris has on 100k+ salaries”, it was Ken who started this off and you may recall many were given positions not on merit but as they helped him gets the votes in, and many by the end of his term were sacked for mismanagement etc. The problem is Ken’s done it again, he has surrounded by similar people who tell him they have “connections” in ethnic minority community. So Ken’s team believe since around 36% of London voters are “ethnic” that’s and these people he has in his team will help him delivery plus the voters against the tory cuts, (but as you said preach to the converted). I don’t believe the ethnic vote will be won over with such so called “connects”.

36. Workman Fred

@34

“Could you possibly translate that into English for us??”

Ok!
Put simply for you!
Many people in this image obsessed age we live don’t just go on policies, dare I say, don’t even know the policies of those they would vote for, but like to join in voting because they look at it as a celebrity/popularity type contest & vote accordingly.

You may be one of those that thinks if you don’t know policies don’t vote but you try telling them not to vote because of that and see what they say.

Ken is depressing Boris is fun, simples.

Hope that’s cleared things up for you ;O)

36
Your posts make better reading when you don’t go into your faux working man mode, which, as a working-class man, I find irritating.

Wow….Sunny, the dreams are *inside* your head, the reality *outside*.

Have you forgotten all of Ken’s mayoralty? The only way Boris can lose to Ken is if he decides to goose step down the mall dressed as an SS officer whilst stabbing kittens.

Maybe Ken should try running with some reasons why people *should* vote for him. Problem is, we all know what Ken was like, and only his hardcore supporters really appreciate what he did for London.

As for Boris’ record on wastage….it doesn’t even compare to Ken’s. Nor does his on cronyism – Ken is famous for it, and the sleaze surrounding him.

Ken wasted huge amounts of cash on the much hated bendy busses. In comparison, spending 7.8m on prototypes of a new routemaster actually represents pretty good value – normally designing, constructing and building a mostly new vehicle costs significantly more. Motor companies can spend hundreds of millions designing new cars.

39. Workman Fred

@37

Please stop reading my posts if they irritate you so much because to be honest I’m finding it irritating being pulled for being who i am.
Thanks :O)

@31 It’s looking like Lembit right now. Never has a “None of the above” box seemed more appealing.

With the premium paid for these buses, the GLA could have hired around 200 full time employees to fight anti social behaviour on the bus network – kicking off those who are aggressive to other passengers, and telling those at the back to use some fucking headphones or listen to better music. Now this is a strategy worth pursuing.

It’s an approach that will resonate with the bus using public at large. And it will resonate with lefties like me – who are militant in their defence of public spce, and who are keen to speak up for the rights of the many (fairly selfless and well behaved bus users ) against the few. It will also appeal those on theft right with a penchant for public order. Admittedly it might upset a few non bus using islington liberals, who would probably find the whole too “judgmental” or something, but fuck it, as far as this election is concerned they have nowhere else to go. Who else are they going to vote for ? Lembit Opik?

42. Forlornehope

Sunny, you have clearly never had any experience of manufacturing anything. Early prototype and pre-production items always cost a bomb as they are effectively hand built. With modern manufacturing methods those costs come down very rapidly even with quite small production volumes. Why do we have to put up with so much rubbish from supposedly intelligent commentators? The lack of any real world experience among the political classes on both sides is becoming one of the most serious problems facing this country.

43. LondonStatto

You’ve missed, and missed badly, Sunny.

What the introduction of the new Routemaster shows is that Boris keeps his promises. That message (and it doesn’t even need to be actively plugged time and time again) is going to be very hard to beat, especially in the post-Cleggasm era.

You’ve misunderstood. It isn’t £7 million for just a few buses. It is £7 million for their development and creation, and then the first few. In production they will cost a similar amount to the old double deckers.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Here's how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election http://bit.ly/lsACTM

  2. Michael Bater

    Here’s how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/uaZFY1y via @libcon

  3. Aaron Stebbings

    Here's how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election http://bit.ly/lsACTM

  4. sunny hundal

    Here’s how Boris Johnson will lose the London Mayoral election http://bit.ly/lsACTM << by me.

  5. David Landon Cole

    Here’s how Boris Johnson will lose the London Mayoral election http://bit.ly/lsACTM << by me.

  6. Max Nathan

    Here's how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election http://bit.ly/lsACTM RT @libcon … interesting take, not fully convinced tho!

  7. Mabel Horrocks

    Here's how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election http://bit.ly/lsACTM

  8. Graham Bates

    Here's how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election http://bit.ly/lsACTM

  9. Eleonora

    "Here’s how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election" http://t.co/I0En9dB via @libcon. Some good ideas there!

  10. TruthTati

    RT@sunny_hundal Here’s how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election http://t.co/KAntxXg

  11. Lianne

    Here’s how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election http://bit.ly/lHT61e

  12. Len Arthur

    Here's how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election http://bit.ly/lsACTM

  13. sunny hundal

    Here's how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election http://t.co/ePrGnA0 (by me, from the morning)

  14. Clive Burgess

    Here’s how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/utq1s4K via @libcon

  15. Shelly Asquith

    RT @sunny_hundal Here’s how Boris Johnson will lose the London Mayoral election http://bit.ly/lsACTM

  16. So the liberals are attacking Boris for spending on green projects now? « Joshua Lachkovic's Blog

    […] last week over at Liberal Conspiracy, until PoliticalBetting picked up on it as well. “Here’s how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election” is rather wishful thinking to say the very least. Liberal Conspiracy revelled in their […]

  17. Daniel Pitt

    Here is how Bumbling Boris will lose the London 2012 Mayoral election http://t.co/23zF0SB #ConDemNation

  18. Boris aide is highest paid in local government: £450,000 a year! | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] said before that Ken Livingstone should focus on how much money Boris keeps wasting. Boris is also wasting £50,000 […]

  19. How Boris is overspending and borrowing money at City Hall | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] In June this year Boris unveiled the new Routemaster buses, after running a crusade against the bendy buses. How much did they cost? £7.8 million for just five of them. […]

  20. sunny hundal

    On the plus side, Ken Livingstone's team are attacking Boris for wasting money on pet projects. Just as I'd hoped – http://t.co/4fnuEBqQ

  21. Seema Chandwani

    On the plus side, Ken Livingstone's team are attacking Boris for wasting money on pet projects. Just as I'd hoped – http://t.co/4fnuEBqQ

  22. phil dodd

    Here’s how Boris will lose the London Mayoral election | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Rp6ASeJa

  23. sunny hundal

    Am very pleased Ken Livingstone's team are focusing on the issue I said last year could win them the election http://t.co/4fnuEBqQ

  24. JamesC

    Am very pleased Ken Livingstone's team are focusing on the issue I said last year could win them the election http://t.co/4fnuEBqQ

  25. Stephe Meloy

    Am very pleased Ken Livingstone's team are focusing on the issue I said last year could win them the election http://t.co/4fnuEBqQ





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