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.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.