Ken tries to toxify Boris's brand

New poster depicts Boris as a martian as the Mayor extends his poll lead to four points.

In a final attempt to toxify Boris Johnson's brand, Ken Livingstone's new poster depicts him as a martian ("The Tories are on a different planet") alongside the similarly blue-skinned David Cameron and George Osborne. It's a riff that Ed Miliband has regularly used, with some success, against the Prime Minister ("Planet Cameron"). But while the Conservatives are falling in the polls, Boris keeps rising. The latest YouGov poll shows that the Mayor of London's lead has increased from two points to four points over the last week. Given the scale of the Tories' woes, that is some achievement. But then one of the stories of this campaign has been Boris's ability to differentiate himself from his party. While he outpolls the Tories by 12 points (the "Boris bounce"), Ken trails Labour by three points ("the Ken drag"). As the LSE's Tony Travers notes, "Boris is still way ahead on likeability. This suggests it is an election between Boris and Ken – not the Conservatives and Labour.”

With three days to go, the gap between the two candidates is still narrow enough for Ken to stand a chance of victory and tying Boris to the Tories is probably his best hope. But the odds are against him, not least because of YouGov's exemplary London polling record. In 2004 and 2008 it called the results right to within one per cent (Ken had earlier lodged a formal complaint against the polling company, alleging that its methodology was "fundamentally flawed").

One striking finding from the poll is the degree of Liberal Democrat support for Boris. In the second round, the Lib Dem vote splits 70 per cent to 30 per cent in favour of the Mayor, up 10 per cent from last week. It looks like Boris's re-election will be a true coalition effort.

Ken Livingstone's new campaign poster, unveiled this morning.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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A global marketplace: the internet represents exporting’s biggest opportunity

The advent of the internet age has made the whole world a single marketplace. Selling goods online through digital means offers British businesses huge opportunities for international growth. The UK was one of the earliest adopters of online retail platforms, and UK online sales revenues are growing at around 20 per cent each year, not just driving wider economic growth, but promoting the British brand to an enthusiastic audience.

Global e-commerce turnover grew at a similar rate in 2014-15 to over $2.2trln. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, is embracing e-marketplaces with 28 per cent growth in 2015 to over $1trln of sales. This demonstrates the massive opportunities for UK exporters to sell their goods more easily to the world’s largest consumer markets. My department, the Department for International Trade, is committed to being a leader in promoting these opportunities. We are supporting UK businesses in identifying these markets, and are providing access to services and support to exploit this dramatic growth in digital commerce.

With the UK leading innovation, it is one of the responsibilities of government to demonstrate just what can be done. My department is investing more in digital services to reach and support many more businesses, and last November we launched our new digital trade hub: www.great.gov.uk. Working with partners such as Lloyds Banking Group, the new site will make it easier for UK businesses to access overseas business opportunities and to take those first steps to exporting.

The ‘Selling Online Overseas Tool’ within the hub was launched in collaboration with 37 e-marketplaces including Amazon and Rakuten, who collectively represent over 2bn online consumers across the globe. The first government service of its kind, the tool allows UK exporters to apply to some of the world’s leading overseas e-marketplaces in order to sell their products to customers they otherwise would not have reached. Companies can also access thousands of pounds’ worth of discounts, including waived commission and special marketing packages, created exclusively for Department for International Trade clients and the e-exporting programme team plans to deliver additional online promotions with some of the world’s leading e-marketplaces across priority markets.

We are also working with over 50 private sector partners to promote our Exporting is GREAT campaign, and to support the development and launch of our digital trade platform. The government’s Exporting is GREAT campaign is targeting potential partners across the world as our export trade hub launches in key international markets to open direct export opportunities for UK businesses. Overseas buyers will now be able to access our new ‘Find a Supplier’ service on the website which will match them with exporters across the UK who have created profiles and will be able to meet their needs.

With Lloyds in particular we are pleased that our partnership last year helped over 6,000 UK businesses to start trading overseas, and are proud of our association with the International Trade Portal. Digital marketplaces have revolutionised retail in the UK, and are now connecting consumers across the world. UK businesses need to seize this opportunity to offer their products to potentially billions of buyers and we, along with partners like Lloyds, will do all we can to help them do just that.

Taken from the New Statesman roundtable supplement Going Digital, Going Global: How digital skills can help any business trade internationally

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