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Boris pulls ahead in the polls

But the London mayoral race is not won yet.

Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.
Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson await the results of the 2008 mayoral election. Photograph: Getty Images

Is the London mayoral race a done deal? A Populus/Times (£) poll this morning suggests it might be, giving Boris Johnson a 12 point lead over Ken Livingstone.

In the first round of voting, the poll gives Johnson 46 per cent of the vote to Livingstone’s 34. In the second round, with all other candidates eliminated, the incumbent retains the 12 point gap, with 56 per cent to his Labour rival’s 44.

The poll was not good for the Liberal Democrats, with their candidate Brian Paddick polling behind the Green candidate, Jenny Jones (with five and six per cent of the vote respectively), and sharing fourth place with independent candidate Siobhan Benita. Ukip’s Lawrence Webb polled at three per cent, while the BNP’s Carlos Coriglia trailed at just one.

Why this sudden poll success for Johnson? The Times cites a surge of support for Johnson in outer London, where his lead extends to 20 points. While Livingstone polls marginally better than the Tory mayor in the inner city, with 51 per cent of the vote, he should really be doing better in these Labour heartlands.

However, Boris's team should not pop open the champagne corks yet, as this poll does not tell the whole story. Firstly, it is worth noting the possibility that this poll is an outlier – it has given Johnson his highest lead for months. The 12 point lead is double the margin which got Johnson into City Hall in 2008.

Elsewhere, the Evening Standard has published a poll by YouGov, which gives Johnson a narrower lead of three points in the first round, with 44 points to Livingstone’s 41. In the second round, the lead increases to four, with Johnson on 52 and Livingstone on 48. This is consistent with a Standard/YouGov poll last week, which put Johnson just two points ahead.

While a win for Johnson looks most likely, the relatively narrow lead still shown in some polls illustrates that the race is not quite a dead cert. It is hard to see, though, how Ken -- still failing to excite enthusiasm amongst his core supporters -- will pull off a victory.

David Cameron will certainly be hoping for a Tory win in London on Friday to distract attention from his other woes. A rather different poll by ITV News/ComRes last night showed that 49 per cent of the public think that the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt should resign, while just 16 per cent think he should remain in post. Those are dire figures given that the Prime Minister has gone out on a limb in Hunt’s defence, despite not being in possession of all the facts.

As I argued yesterday, a win for Boris could halt the flow of bad news and shore up support for the government from Conservatives. This is somewhat ironic given that if Boris wins, it will be contingent on how much he can differentiate himself from his party’s top command.