Is There More to the London Mayoral Elections Than the Ken and Boris Show?

Is There More to the London Mayoral Elections Than the Ken and Boris Show?

It's been raining ever since I got back from San Francisco. I'm not exaggerating, it has rained every single day. I've spent most of my time feeling soggy and miserable, and complaining about England. You see, San Francisco was amazing. We spent a fortnight drinking giant mimosas at brunch with various Californian friends, and equally giant cocktails with dinner. We threw in a bit of hiking and even managed to find a friend of a friend who owned a yacht and took us sailing around the bay. To cap it all off, Virgin upgraded us on the way home, which meant we skipped all the queues and got things like a glass of fizz when we boarded. It was blissful. I spent the flight home telling the chap (whilst lounging in my enormous chair and sipping a baileys - seriously - premium economy rocked my world), that we needed to change our plans for the autumn and marry yanks instead of each other so we can live out there forever. The only thing I'd miss, I explained at length while he tried to watch Horrible Bosses, would be the relative sanity of British politics.

Obviously I'd forgotten about the mayoral election. So, since landing in cold, rainy London two weeks ago, I've come to slightly reassess my comments. Sure, no one's talking about building colonies on the moon, but I suppose Boris island is the poor man's equivalent. And you could suggest that some of the candidates' antics can probably rival Herman Cain's when it comes to family values. The mayorals are always quite a funny election (funny peculiar, not funny ha ha, although it has its moments). And this year seems more bizarre than most.

For starters, the two frontrunners are pretty much hated by the parties they represent. Cameron is widely acknowledged to dislike Boris, and Miliband is almost open about his distrust of Ken. Labour's campaign chief, Tom Watson has even told Londoners that they should 'hold their noses and vote for Ken'. Hardly a ringing endorsement. And the dislike is mutual. When Cameron was in trouble over riding Rebekah Brookes' police horse, Boris happily weighed in to confirm that he'd never done such a thing. And Ken has hardly been a vocal supporter of Miliband - one of his first actions after Ed assumed leadership was to campaign for a non-Labour candidate in Tower Hamlets.

That isn't really the bizarre part though. It's quite obvious why Labour and the Tories are backing candidates they don't like - both are popular with the public. This I struggle to understand. Sure, Boris is funny with his 'cripes, golly gosh' mannerisms and hilarious hair. And Ken is promising to cut tube fares, something that, as a commuter, I would definitely get behind. But if you peak below the surface, both men have a much less charming appearance. Boris, who is famously popular with women (on a recent mumsnet interview he received several proposals of marriage), has a reputation for a string of alleged affairs. And Ken, who has an equally colourful private life, has won himself something of a reputation for making unsavoury comments about gay people and Jews - and I'm not even going to mention his taxes.

But perhaps this headscratching is all a bit late. Ken has had a bad campaign. It looks like Boris is winning without even having to try. Team Boris's calculation, which is correct, is that as long as Ken doesn't build any momentum, then they'll win it by not cocking up. There are a significant number of left leaning voters who want to vote Labour, but have a real problem with Ken Livingstone. This is either going to lead to a seriously low turnout in this election, or could mean that there are a lot of undecideds up for grabs.

Which brings me neatly on to Brian Paddick. (Come on, you knew that was bound to happen). Voters who would never vote for a Tory, but can't bring themselves to vote for Ken do have another option. And Brian isn't just an anti-Ken/Boris vote - he's a genuinely good candidate who spent 30 years working in London as a police officer. Following last summer's riots, and with one of the key roles of the mayor being to preside over the Met, that's a pretty good qualification. I also really like his transferable bus ticket idea - the route to my heart is basically my Oyster card.

So, this is where I really should write a rousing conclusion about there being a genuine choice between the three candidates. I won't do that here, but I would like to take the opportunity to throw in a wildcard: AV. Voters in London get two choices in this election. If the first preference doesn't have enough votes to win, the second choices get counted. And in a contest as polarised as this one, I can't imagine many people voting Ken 1 Boris 2, or vice versa - can you?


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