Why is Boris ahead despite being a ‘Mayor for the rich’?


by Sunny Hundal    
10:30 am - April 17th 2012

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A massive 78% of London voters (update: of 50% who thought he favoured a particular group, so around 38% in total), including a majority of Conservatives, said in a poll released yesterday that Boris was most willing to help ‘Rich Londoners’.

And yet he was still ahead of Ken by 6 points. Why?

Well there are several reasons I’m sure, but the poll showed the limitations of the ‘class war’ strategy. This isn’t to say people don’t care Boris is seen as mostly helping the rich, it’s that they consider other factors more important.

A few things stuck for me from the YouGov poll. Asked who was more honest and trustworthy; while 66% of Conservative voters picked Boris, only 39% of Labour voters picked Ken. In a contest about personality – this matters.

But there are two key red flags for Ken.

First, asked if they were voting on London issues or as a referendum on the Coalition, most picked ‘London issues’ (74%). This is bad news for Ken, who has repeatedly asked Londoners to use the election to give the Coalition a black eye.

Second, while 90% of Conservative voters think Boris has done a good job as Mayor, 40% of Labour voters also think the same. Ken hasn’t managed to negatively define Boris in the eyes of London Labour voters themselves.

In short – Londoners don’t like that Boris mostly favours the rich, but a significant enough % of Labour voters are willing to overlook that. This may be partly because they don’t mind Boris or partly because they distrust Ken.

But the point is that Ken isn’t able to get them on side merely on the strength of his policies.

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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


Unlike activists who vote blindly along party lines, most of the electorate will weigh the balance of proposals and actions of the candidates and pick the one who on-balance seems least bad.

No candidate is perfect, so the voter will look at Boris and see what they like, and what they didn’t like. They’ll do the same for Ken, Brian etc.

The blunt fact is that as an overall package, Boris’s downsides are seen as less bad than Ken’s downsides.

Boris scored an own-goal with his bizarre offer to slice a couple of quid off the council tax – but away from politics, people seem to have forgotten that happened.

Ken has been hit twice, with his tax affairs – which rightly or wrongly, just “look” wrong, and the simple fact that no one I know really believes Kens claims that he can cut tube fares and also preserve investment spending.

It seems to come down to trust – people trust Boris to do what he says, even if what he says is unpalatable, but people hear Ken and simply don’t seem to believe he can deliver, even if what he offers is desirable.

@ Sunny

Ken hasn’t managed to negatively define Boris in the eyes of London Labour voters themselves.

Could that be because he’s done a good job?

It would seem to be the obvious conclusion.

3. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@2 Obvious to you evidently.

Personally I believe that Boris is leading the field because the vast majority of Londoners are thick,ill informed or just couldnt care less. A perfect ideological combination for a failing state.

4. Mydogsgotnonose

Come off it. Livingstone is a racist and a hypocritical tax dodger.

Perhaps Bozza is a reformed character from the bloke who got sacked from the then Shadow Cabinet not for having an affair, but for lying to his party leader about it.

Johnson manages to get a very sympathetic press despite his past lapses – rather a lot of them – and his indulging the unspeakably nasty and flagrantly anti-Semitic Taki Theodoracopulos at the Spectator.

And with the Standard selectively reporting on his behalf (deliberately missing this bit of bad news on Boris Island http://zelo.tv/HKCZad for instance) that will help his campaign.

And yet it’s the same electorate who voted Ken in as an independent.
Maybe people have just got fed up with him.

What was that George Bush saying? …. ”Fool me once….”

Perhaps the ”Rainbow politics” has run out of steam for enough people – (Lee Jasper, Socialist Action, Viva Palestina etc).

7. Shinsei1967

The trouble is the poll question about whether Boris favours the rich or the poor is somewhat meaningless.

Take an issue like transport. Very simplified the rich approach to the tube is higher fares and thus more investment. The poor approach is cheaper fares and therefore less investment.

The vast majority of people don’t consider themselves rich or poor and don’t vote along such socio-economic lines.

They’ll look at discrete issues and decide what they think is the better approach. It may well be that they favour the rich approach to the tube, despite not being rich themselves.

The 78% figure is wrong. The Evening Standard have corrected their story. Presumably you’ll do the same (and perhaps steer clear of data analysis in the future)?

http://www.borisbacker.com/2012/04/16/evening-standard-misread-new-mayoral-poll/

9. Giles Bradshaw

It’s very simple we generally see politicians as self serving and dishonest and Ken complies with this image in spades. Moreover many of us can see through the tactics of professional politicians sowing the seeds of division in out society and pretending to be ‘one of us’.

The Standard have corrected their figure this morning. It was 37% not 78%. Oops.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/mayor/boris-johnson-fights-for-the-wealthy-say-a-third-of-londoners-7647509.html

I imagine it doesn’t help that the Blairites have somehow convinced themselves that if they lose London then that will set the stage for discarding Ed Milliband and that with that they will then be able to go onto win greater Eccleston, or something, and have thus been helping out the tories by jumping on the bash Ken bandwagon.

Aside from the fact the 78% figure is wrong, (actually 37%) there’s a simple truth to recognise here:

People seem to like Boris, and dislike Ken.

It’s possible to over-analyze these things.

Maybe the people of London are just stupid and deserve a clown like Johnson.

14. Dan Factor

But quite a few rich Londoners have done and will vote for Ken!

15. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@4 Thank you for proving my point

16. Mr A James

I think that the Labour Party is making the exact same mistake that it made with Gordon Brown.

Gordon Brown was extremely unpopular and everyone inside and outside of the Labour Party knew that Gordon Brown would not win a general election. The Labour Party chose to ignore those warnings and put their heads into the noose and lost that general election.

Ken Livingstone was popular once but people do not find him so appealing now for numerous reason. The Labour Party were aware of these facts but chose to let Ken run again to try and beat Boris knowing the risks.

Labour really do need to find fresh blood and people that are really likeable for many reasons.

I fear that the Labour Party have lost the ability to learn from past mistakes.

I hope that Ken pull wins but it will be Labours fault if he does not.

Personally I’ve found this mayoral election entirely off-putting and (other than Tube fares) largely irrelevant. No-one has come out of this looking good. A few points, though:

1) Boris hasn’t been a disaster. He hasn’t been much good, but he hasn’t been a disaster (except arguably on soaring tube fares). This is because he hasn’t really done anything at all – because he’s treating the job as a stepping stone to higher office he’s been very risk-averse. So trying to make out that he’s a disaster won’t really cut it.

2) I really don’t think the pro-Ken online crowd – including this particular parish – have done him any favours. You’ve allowed yourselves to get far too easily distracted by the point-scoring froth thrown up by Twitter and the Standard. Sod the Standard – if they want to be biased, you’re not going to stop them. All this ballyhoo about whether this or that video used actors or activists is of no interest to anyone else.

3) Far better for both Ken’s campaign and his supporters to focus on policy. The Tube fares policy is well-known – what about housing? How much time and effort has gone into promoting that? I’m not entirely convinced by his social housing policy – but at least he has one. Housing is a massive issue and he should make it the main talking point of his campaign from now on.

4) Ken’s got swift-boated on tax. He should have published the returns on day one and been done with it. Mishandled.

5) I think you’ve written recently that this is an election about character and personality, and that Ken should focus on this (apologies if I’ve got that wrong). This would be a very bad idea – Ken 2012 is not the same as Ken 2000. He’s not a fresh-faced maverick anymore; he comes across as tired, arrogant, and inflexible. He’s turned his campaign into the Ken Show – but the Ken Show isn’t great to watch. I know politicos love to treat the public as idiots who don’t ‘care’ about policy, but he’s much better off focusing on it – no, we don’t have time to pore over every last page of his housing proposals, but we like to at least know that they are there.

I know it’s Gilligan, but here’s another example of why Labourites are deserting him.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewgilligan/100151443/ken-livingstone-refuses-to-stump-for-labour-candidate/

5) I think you’ve written recently that this is an election about character and personality, and that Ken should focus on this (apologies if I’ve got that wrong).

I have, and I see your point but its like pissing in the wind.

Voters only pay a certain amount of attention to policies, and a Ken’s team have relentlessly been saying the focus should be on policy.

But if voters don’t care enough about that, then you can only go so far with it. Which is the situation Ken is stuck in.

I know it’s Gilligan, but….

Just stop right there.

I know it’s Gilligan, but….

Just stop right there.

I know it’s Brendan O’Neill, but….

”Six reasons why Left-wing Londoners shouldn’t cast their vote for Ken Livingstone.”

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100151335/six-reasons-why-left-wing-londoners-shouldnt-cast-their-vote-for-ken-livingstone/

I know it’s Brendan O’Neill, but….

At this point I usually take out my shotgun

Ken needs to shore up the female vote somehow.

51% of women plan to vote for Boris (rising to 59% after reallocation of second prefs), compared with 39% of men (rising to 47% after reallocation).

Meanwhile, 45% of men intend to vote for Ken (rising to 53% after reallocation of second prefs).

Sunny @ OP

First, asked if they were voting on London issues or as a referendum on the Coalition, most picked ‘London issues’ (74%). This is bad news for Ken, who has repeatedly asked Londoners to use the election to give the Coalition a black eye.

Wait a minute, those two statements are not mutually exclusive. I am willing to bet that Londoners believe that unemployment, attacks on the disabled, closure of hospitals, schools and withdrawal of council services are ‘London issues’.

The fact is Labour has singularly failed to nail ‘austerity government’ to the forehead of every Tory in the Country.

There is no fucking point in Labour attempting to make this election about ‘cuts’ when a good proportion still blame Labour for those cuts.

At every turn, the Tories get out the message that spending money on the poor and the disabled has caused the cuts. The Tories have managed to scapegoat the vulnerable and deliberately striven characterise those on the lowest rungs of society as a deadweight around the necks of those on low and middle incomes struggling to survive. The Tories have openly declared a war on the public services and the public servants that provide those services.

This has not been done against a tidal wave of protests; this has been done with what looks like the express, written permission of the Labour Party. The Labour Party have been silent while people like Pickles, Hague IDS and the other boot boys have kicked the shit out of the disabled and removed them from their wheelchairs. We have seen people die a few scant months after being passed for work, in every constituency in the Country there will be profoundly disabled people who have been found able to work, yet the Labour Party remain silent, save for a photo opportunity with a pasty. Why? Because the strategists tell them that being seen with cripples looks bad. No one in the Labour Party appears even slightly perturbed by that imagery. No one wishes to stand up for the persecuted against the waves of hate orchestrated from the Right Wing press. No-one can see the startlingly obvious parallels between the propaganda of today and Nazi Germany a few generations ago. That generation of Londoners took to the streets to defend a minority from the SAME FUCKING PAPERS.

Labour has to start getting to the nub of the issue. The deficit was not caused by buying wheelchairs and providing people with muscular dystrophy home helps and benefits, it was caused because some of the greediest and amoral people on the Planet sold us all down the river for a shitload of money.

That is the narrative that Labour need to shape; they need to start getting the finger pointed at the people who are actually to blame and away from the innocent bystanders. Perhaps David Cameron didn’t eat a Pasty at Leeds Station? The only thing that matters is your livelihood being destroyed to save the backs of the powerful and the very wealthy?

Maybe if you can convince people that the rich elite are to blame for the economic woes we are facing, the the personality politics would die off?

25. Paul Newman

I think people do not doubt the Labour Party`s ability to make the rich poor, what they doubt is that it can by so doing or by any means, make them richer
The most striking stat was the overwhelming support Ken got form London`s Muslim Community

The idea for a London mayor was pushed by Tony Blair when he was PM so it’s a bit surprising he hasn’t appeared in the campaign to wave the flag for Labour.

27. Mr A James

Jim & 24

Completely agree with you mate and truthfully well put.

28. Charlieman

@23. RP: “Ken needs to shore up the female vote somehow.

51% of women plan to vote for Boris (rising to 59% after reallocation of second prefs), compared with 39% of men (rising to 47% after reallocation).”

This is superficially a petty point. You “shore up” things when they are about to be engulfed by waves. I don’t think that you meant that Johnson was about to wash away Livingstone’s female voters.

Perhaps you mean instead that Livingstone does not appeal to women voters. Is it possible to change minds between now and polling day? I don’t know; given that Livingstone has been running this campaign for thirty years, he might have a clue.

@4, 13. Ah, yes, the “If you don’t vote my way you must be completely fucking thick” card. Doesn’t really work well as an electoral strategy. Been tried before. See the Graun’s hatchet job on Boris this time four years ago as a case study.

I wonder what the turn-out will be?

There is no fucking point in Labour attempting to make this election about ‘cuts’ when a good proportion still blame Labour for those cuts.

True.

Maybe if you can convince people that the rich elite are to blame for the economic woes we are facing, the the personality politics would die off?

Way more easier said than done. You think Labour are going around saying ‘yeah, blame us its all our fault’? Nope.

32. Chaise Guevara

@ Jim

“Maybe if you can convince people that the rich elite are to blame for the economic woes we are facing, the the personality politics would die off?”

Don’t most people already believe that?

In any case: no. What you get then is personality politics revolving around which candidate can do the most convincing angry face when he talks about bankers. Personality politics never goes away.

Sunny.

If this becomes an election based on character, Ken will lose. Simple as that. All this crying Ken nonsense has done him no favours at all. Nor was it ever going to.

When Ken made a big jump in the polls early this year, it was driven by his fares cut promise. That’s policy. Admittedly it’s also because his campaign finally hit top speed and thus gained higher profile, but it was based around that fares cut promise.

You’re not going to get the Standard on board. Fine. Go to the local papers. Tell them ‘this is how many cheap houses we’ll open up in your area’ (presumably Ken’s team knows these figures). Say what would happen in the first 100 days of a Ken administration – yes, it’s hackneyed and meaningless, but it at least changes the subject back to what he’ll actually do.

I don’t see what better option he has.

@33

You said,

“If this becomes an election based on character, Ken will lose. Simple as that. All this crying Ken nonsense has done him no favours at all. Nor was it ever going to”.

What a silly rationalisation. Are you a psychologist?

@25

You said
“The most striking stat was the overwhelming support Ken got form London`s Muslim Community”.

Straight from Gillgan’s mouth. Next, you’ll be telling us that Ken has links with “Islamists”.

@22 ”At this point I usually take out my shotgun.”

I wish someone would explain what is so important about Ken Livingstone getting re-elected as mayor. He has a lot of baggage by now and is too close (for me) to that usless ”old school” type of leftism with all it’s links to right-on causes like Cuba and Palestine.

I would have thought that the modern left would leave some of that behind them and want to forge a new left politics. But it seems that it can’t be done.
Will not be done in fact. Maybe because that part of the left realises that if you want to be popular you have to come across a bit like George Galloway.
It’s what the base reacts to the best. So Brendan O’Neill’s analysis of Nick Griffin being on Question Time gets totally ignored, because the popular mileage was in what the UAF etc and Bonnie Greer were saying about it.
http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/7611/

Which means the whole thing turns out to be rather boring.

Someone on Harry’s Place said that the only other person they’d seen crying at their own PR video was Anders Breivik.

@34 – well this election has descended into a bunfight based on this overarching theme of ‘personality’, and since then Ken’s taken a battering. So do the maths.

Sunny @ 31

Way more easier said than done.

Yeah, it doesn’t change the fact that the Left will have to find a way to do that for:

a) Labour’s election hopes.
b) In order to maintain Britain’s Liberal society.

You think Labour are going around saying ‘yeah, blame us its all our fault’? Nope.

Sunny, I watch the majority of ‘Any Questions’ and more than a few Newsnights and other programmes were you could be forgiven for believing the Labour’s election slogan was, ‘Yes, the Tories were right about us all along’

I have watched too many programmes where the Tory, scumbag columnist or, perhaps most shamefully, even ‘progressive’ Lib Dems (Sarah Tether?) have dog whistled their scapegoating of the vulnerable; ‘Labour’s mess’, ‘Labour’s ‘overspending’ are barely concealed codes for spending on ‘benefits’. More often than not the Labour/Lefty on the panel sits in silence, open mouthed.

The Left are going to have to go on the offensive when this accusation is made or Labour is going to be stained for a couple of generations. They are going to have to at least attempt to frame the narrative that greedy, amoral bankers were to blame for nearly bringing the Country to its knees, not the unemployed, disabled and ‘overspending’.

They are going to have to stop the programme and attack the Tory/Lib Dem and say something along the lines of ‘Of course you have to deflect the blame for this mess from your paymasters. These bankers despise our Country and would happily see millions lose jobs as long they could suck up profits’.

Labour need to get the idea that the Tories are the Party of the extremely wealthy firmly onto the public mind.

You are right, Sunny, forcing the agenda is ‘easier said than done’, important things are always difficult to achieve and it is never easy to go against the flow, if Rosa Parks had simply given up and sat where she was expected to, would America have a black president?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why is Boris ahead despite being a 'Mayor for the rich'? http://t.co/3k5XWrni

  2. Lynda Constable

    Why is Boris ahead despite being a 'Mayor for the rich'? http://t.co/3k5XWrni

  3. Scott Redding

    "Ken hasn’t managed to negatively define Boris in the eyes of #London #Labour voters." – http://t.co/FDVtfx2F – via @libcon

  4. Jason Brickley

    Why is Boris ahead despite being a ‘Mayor for the rich’? http://t.co/KyqMOB8q

  5. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why is Boris ahead despite being a ‘Mayor for the rich’? http://t.co/YxjrIPTp

  6. sunny hundal

    Why is Boris ahead despite being seen as a 'Mayor for the rich'? http://t.co/mSUNFuib < me today

  7. paulstpancras

    Why is Boris ahead despite being seen as a 'Mayor for the rich'? http://t.co/mSUNFuib < me today

  8. SorryI'llGetMyCoat

    Why is Boris ahead despite being seen as a 'Mayor for the rich'? http://t.co/mSUNFuib < me today

  9. Dr. Douglas Noble

    Why is Boris ahead despite being seen as a 'Mayor for the rich'? http://t.co/mSUNFuib < me today

  10. Alex Braithwaite

    Why is Boris ahead despite being a ‘Mayor for the rich’? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/dZYwsxqj via @libcon

  11. Nick Hall

    Why is Boris ahead despite being seen as a 'Mayor for the rich'? http://t.co/mSUNFuib < me today

  12. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    Why is Boris ahead despite being a ‘Mayor for the rich’? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/JvIr0b3G via @libcon

  13. Jimmy Monsta Funk

    Labour voters not voting for Ken, should think again (he's the lesser of 2 evils, although I don't think Ken is evil): http://t.co/8er0pV5z

  14. Bethan McKernan

    yes, baffling: Why is Boris ahead despite being a ‘Mayor for the rich’? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/NbUIzsyF via @libcon @sunnyhundal

  15. LondonJason

    @symeonbrown @ray_1712 ES corrected their own poll. It's 38%.U can find corrections in the left-leaning blogs too Eg: http://t.co/RA5GS7FQ





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