Monday, 13 September 2010

London Calling…

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular series of updates discussing the current political scene in London in the run-up to the 2012 Mayoral election.

The Borough Elections, held on General Election day, were a triumph for Labour. They swept out the BNP in Barking & Dagenham and trounced the Liberal Democrats in Camden and Islington but their main successes were against the Conservatives in areas as diverse as Brent, Ealing, Lewisham, Waltham Forest and Harrow where Conservative majority or joint control was replaced with huge Labour majorities. In Croydon, Labour came close to ousting the Tories and in Merton Labour ended Conservative majority control and formed their own minority administration.

The Liberal Democrats held Sutton and Kingston but lost Richmond to the Conservatives but broke on to Hammersmith & Fulham for the first time.

Overall, Labour did much better in London than pre-election polls had suggested and some argue that it was London that prevented an overall Conservative majority.

The success of Labour resonated into the Mayoral pre-campaign and electrified the Labour selection process which has developed into a straight fight between former Mayor Ken Livingstone, who lost to Boris Johnson in 2008 and Oona King, former Labour MP for Bethnal Green & Bow until her defeat by George Galloway in 2005.

On the Conservative side, the received wisdom has been that Boris Johnson will go for a second term but recent speculation has suggested he is far from happy with proposed budget cuts to his beloved CrossRail project and has even led Boris to threaten a return to the Commons where he would be a thorn in the side for David Cameron while leaving the Tories the problem of finding a replacement.

The Liberal Democrats face a real problem – in a Ken vs Boris rematch, any candidate is likely to suffer the fate of Brian Paddick and be ignored. Despite the fact of the Coalition, it still seems likely the Lib Dems will want to put up a candidate and names such as Floella Benjamin and Lembit Opik have been mentioned and Floella Benjamin might be a useful contrast to the Ken vs Boris show but it will be an uphill battle for ANY candidate facing “the big two”,

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