Can Ken recover?

Latest mayoral poll puts Boris six points ahead.

The headlines only get worse for Ken Livingstone but the polls, at least, suggest he's still in the race. A new ComRes poll for the Evening Standard puts Livingstone six points behind Boris Johnson in the second round, compared with last month's YouGov poll which had Boris eight points ahead [although since the two firms employ different methodologies the polls should not be directly compared]. 

But with Labour nine points ahead nationally, it's quite something that the Conservatives' mayoral candidate is six points ahead in London, where Labour led the Tories even at the last election. Livingstone outpolled Labour in 2000, 2004 and 2008 but Labour now outpolls him. The poll shows that while 14 per cent of Londoners like Ken but not Labour, 17 per cent like Labour but not Ken. Boris, by contrast, is still favoured over his party. 28 per cent of voters like the mayor but not the Tories. 

The poll also suggests that Boris's "doughnut strategy", credited with delivering him victory in 2008, could win him another term in City Hall. Ken leads by 58 per cent to 38 per cent in inner London but Boris leads by 57 per cent to 39 per cent in outer London. 

If Ken is to recover, he needs to persuade Labour voters that they should support the Labour candidate. As Labour List's Mark Ferguson argues, the focus in the final weeks should be on party, not personality. 

Labour's London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.