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Was Ken really a drag on Labour?

Livingstone finished less than a point behind his party.

New Statesman
Ken Livingstone won 40 per cent of the vote, Labour won 41 per cent in London. Photograph: Getty Images.

Throughout the London mayoral election, commentators (including myself) frequently noted that support for Ken Livingstone trailed support for Labour in the Assembly. The conclusion they drew was that an alternative candidate could have performed better. In the final YouGov poll, Ken underpolled his party by six points. Yet as Éoin Clarke noted this morning, the final results told a different story.

Ken won 40.3 per cent of the vote in the first round, less than a point behind Labour, which attracted 41.1 per cent. So, while Ken still trailed his party, the gap was nowhere near as large as previously thought. As Clarke notes, since Boris Johnson won 44 per cent, Labour would have needed a candidate who could outpoll his or her own party by three per cent. The reality, perhaps, is that any Labour candidate would have struggled against Boris, who successfully detached himself from the Conservatives and retained his unrivalled personal appeal.