Success in winning London elections lie within the polls

The latest YouGov polling contains sobering, but important lessons to inform Green strategy.

Two weeks to go in the London Mayoral election and we are starting to get a sense of the degree to which the candidate’s policy platforms have resonated or not with the electorate. There have been two opinion polls in the last couple of days that contain really important strategic advice on how we should conduct the remainder of the election.

The first main point to note in Monday’s YouGov opinion poll was that the popularity of each party nationally is not corresponding to the public’s voting intention at the London level.  Currently, the Labour party is being touted as up to 11% ahead nationally, but Ken Livingstone (for the first time in his career) is dragging that vote down in the capital. Similarly, Boris Johnson is outperforming the Conservative Party in popularity, due to a terrible four weeks since the Budget was announced.

I’d argue that this means we need to sidestep the intuitively appealing tendency to bash Boris and try where possible to tie his policies or manifesto pledges to wider national Tory political aspirations. At this stage, personal attacks on his competence and seriousness will have no traction with the public. Their mind is clearly made up on this. Conversely, in talking about Ken, we need to be drawing attention to examples where his personal judgement has resulted in a failure to tackle many of the issues facing London sufficiently during his term of office.  His record in power was mixed and we need to concentrate our fire on where he dropped the ball or acted for sectional interests rather than the public as a whole.

A further set of considerations arise from the in-depth polling undertaken by YouGov (pdf) more explicitly around the Mayoral election and these should give the Green Party pause for thought as we plan our remaining campaign activities:

  • The Greens are at a worryingly low 2% in the data for first preference votes for the Mayoral candidate. This goes up to 3% when we look at the Assembly votes, but it still indicates we haven’t broken through.
  • Compared to Labour’s 74%, only 1% of non-white voters are choosing to give the Green party their first preference vote. The Conservatives only manage 20% themselves, but this is a growing demographic in the capital and one that we need to start seriously engaging with. The data clearly shows that this figure is dragging down our overall support amongst all voters.
  • The main issues for voters are clearly crime, transport, cost of living, job creation and housing (in that order). No other issues are gaining traction with the public, including any explicit environmental policies. This means we should exclusively focus upon these issues for the next two weeks to the exclusion of all others. Failing to do so will make the view that we are a not serious party, reflective of the core concerns of the voters. It is sometimes easier to stay within our comfort zone around issues we know inside out, but that focus would be actively counterproductive here.
  • The rise of Siobhan Benita as the “Borgen” candidate is having an impact on the Green vote. Her campaign has been helped by some influential endorsements within the media, which we haven’t been able to cultivate. She has had some success at presenting herself as a challenge to the cosy political consensus, which should naturally be a Green position. Have we been distracted by the achievement of slightly more media exposure to forget our role as the plucky insurgents? I’d argue that in these final days, Jenny Jones should aim to reclaim that mantle, including a renewed focus on her competence to run the multi-million budget at City Hall.
  • Ken’s headline 7% cut to travel fares is clearly splitting voters down the middle, but it is more that people don’t trust he will be able to achieve this. When asked to choose investment or fare cuts, a strong majority prefer the latter, but this isn’t reflected in support for his stance. We need to clearly give a figure for the cut to transport fares and the rationale of how we can pay for this.

Whilst some of this may be tough reading, as a party unable to afford some detailed research, we should be grateful to have access to these findings to assist in our strategic planning.  The signposts of where to take our campaign next are right in front of us, we just need to be nimble enough to integrate them into the campaign trail over the next fifteen days.

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3 thoughts on “Success in winning London elections lie within the polls

  1. A sober assessment, but I think accurate. In all probability inner and outer London will again split down the middle. I would add race/immigration to your list: ‘crime, transport, cost of living, job creation and housing’. The Olympic factor is important. I suspect civic pride will probably play out in favour of an incumbent. A breakthrough is desperately needed, but London 2012 is set to be a tough, ideosyncratic challenge.

  2. If I may, as a disabled non-white single parent and carer for a disabled child, I’m all for environmental issues but I am much MUCH more concerned right now with the fact we’re about to lose legal aid, welfare reform, NHS reform, forced employment even if I’m nowhere near “fit for work” and a load of other concerns which it seems none of the other parties care to discuss. I know what it says in the Green Manifesto with regard to disability and the Social model (although this has some disabled people with more physical disabilities concerned) I think a LOT more could be done by the Green party to stick up for the disabled: especially as it seems no one else will.

    Yes, fracking is major. Yes, not backing solar energy is a problem (but will that make a load of difference to anyone in a council house?). But the real concerns of people such as myself are being glossed over and ignored. It may not be “popular” issues (as our failed attempts to get 38 Degrees on board) and we may not be “trendy” but breaking through to our desperation would definitely turn the tide.

    • I’d agree with much of the analysis both of you have made. I think our campaign has been a real step forward in pulling in issues around social justice, poverty and job creation alongside our “usual” issues. Although I think I’m suggesting ways they can be strengthened, I’ve been really impressed with what has been achieved with the limited resources at our disposal.

      The difficulty is that at the London elections, the range of issues we can legitimately tackle head on are more limited – the welfare and NHS reform issues and how they affect people within disabled communities mentioned by Dreema are national issues being argued over currently in the UK Parliament. Whilst the Mayor can be a vocal advocate on these campaigns (as we saw recently with the interventions made by Boris on 50p tax rate), we are understandably cautious that voters don’t think us unrealistic to argue for policies we can’t change within the mandate the Mayor or Assembly has.

      The wider point however, I totally agree with. We need to be part of the communities we represent and that means engaging in some issues that aren’t obviously Green Party territory in partnership with the public, especially when mainstream political parties have closed the door in their face.

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