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London elections: narrow win for Boris Johnson, but how did Livingstone lose?

This article is over 10 years, 3 months old
Boris Johnson's re-election as London mayor is a blow for everyone who wanted to see the Tory beaten.
Issue 2301

Boris Johnson’s re-election as London mayor is a blow for everyone who wanted to see the Tory beaten.

He narrowly defeated Labour candidate Ken Livingstone by just 1,054,811 votes to 992,273 after second preferences were counted, on a low turnout.

On a day of defeat for the Tories, Ken Livingstone could have won this election.

Polls showed that Johnson didn’t have an overall lead, but led among people who said they were certain to vote.

But Livingstone suffered from his failure to mount a radical campaign that could have motivated people angry about austerity to back him.

Things were worse for Lib Dem Brian Paddick as the Greens pushed him into fourth place.

And in the assembly list election, the Nazis of the BNP lost the seat they won in 2008.

Meanwhile the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition polled around 0.8 percent.

The question so many will be asking is: how could Johnson win again?

While the Tories sunk in the polls, Boris Johnson benefited from being seen as somewhat independent from his party.

He has sometimes criticised the government over cuts, and can seem more of a ‘maverick’ than a hard-nosed reactionary.

But this wasn’t a big endorsement of Johnson. The real problems were with the Labour campaign.

Ken Livingstone was first elected mayor as an independent in 2000, standing against New Labour. He won support by focusing on issues like opposing tube privatisation.

This time he was the official Labour Party candidate – but he did not benefit from the increased Labour votes elsewhere. In fact many senior Labour figures made clear that they were refusing to back him.

He did campaign against high public transport fares.

But he lined up with the Tories over crime, criticising them only by saying he’d put more resources into the police than Johnson.

He has always defended the cops over the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005.

And he also backed pro-business policies, talking up the importance of making London ‘business-friendly’.

The more radical politics that could have won support was missing.

Boris Johnson’s victory doesn’t reflect the right wing nature of London’s voters.

It reflects the fact that people didn’t feel there was anyone who speaks for them who had any chance of being elected.

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