The following article defending the requirement for Mayoral candidates to pay a £10,000 deposit appears in Time Out as one side of their Face Off column.
The full column contains an opposing view. Pop along to your news agent for a copy of this week’s edition.
To run as Mayor the rules require each candidate to demonstrate public support and credibility by collecting the signatures of 330 backers – 10 in each borough – and paying a deposit of £10,000.
That’s an average of £30 per backer, less any money the would-be Mayor or their party put away during the four years since the last election.
While I understand the temptation of independents unable to satisfy the requirements to complain they’re “unfair” or “undemocratic”, I think that’s an unrealistic position to adopt.
Based on current polling, Londoners are set to elect either Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson as Mayor. Even with the backing of a government party, their nearest rival is 30 points behind in the polls.
As they did in 2004 and 2008, Londoners are looking to the two ‘main’ national parties for their Mayor.
To overcome voters’ knee-jerk drift to the familiar, an independent candidate would need to energise an army of Londoners and conduct a high profile and necessarily expensive advertising campaign.
Of the three Mayoral contests to date, the closest we’ve seen to this was Ken Livingstone quitting the Labour party in 2000 and taking a chunk of its campaigners and donors with him.
At the last election, the independent candidate who satisfied the entry criteria polled just 0.22% of the first round vote. By comparison Boris Johnson polled 43.20% in the same round. The figures for the 2004 election are 0.36 for the independent and 36.78 for Ken Livingstone.
At both elections the independent runners were a statistical irrelevance to the outcome. It defies reason to suggest or believe those excluded because they failed to gain the required number of backers or raise the deposit would somehow have done better.
The entry requirements are a reality check – they’re London’s way of politely saying if you can’t secure a fairly minimal level of backing before the election, you have no chance of winning of it.