Unsurprisingly Zac Goldsmith’s confirmation that he’ll vote to leave the EU has been welcomed by Labour supporters who believe it’ll give their man the edge in May’s election, but there’s a danger that they’re significantly overreaching.
London’s voters are pretty savvy which is why they vote differently in the Mayoral election than they do in the London Assembly constituency and list elections – this explains how smaller parties such as the Greens and Liberal Democrats get more Assembly seats than their showing in even broadly accurate mayoral polls would suggest.
The same sophisticated electorate are quite capable of considering the mayoral vote separately to the EU poll which will take place a month later, not least because they understand the mayor’s job is, principally, about running the transport network and the Met and nothing to do with foreign policy.
Whatever the candidates’ views on Europe, the future of the UK’s nuclear weapon platform, Roswell or whether the moon landings were a fake, are irrelevant to the job that’s up for grabs and voters know that.
Londoners who, for example, believe Goldsmith’s claims about Sadiq Khan’s fares “blackhole” aren’t going to say “I’m really worried a Khan mayoralty will plunge the Tube network into chaos and leave me stranded and unable to get to work, but Zac Goldsmith’s anti-EU so I’m willing to take that risk” in sufficient numbers to determine the race’s outcome.
Like Boris who, in his own words, is pro having his cake and eating it, Londoners can pick the mayor they really want and, a few weeks later, decide whether we stay in the EU. They don’t have to compromise on their mayoral choice or use the election as a proxy to send a message to government.
The contest to succeed Boris will come down to who Londoners like and trust on the issues that affect their daily lives and which of the leading candidates is more successful in reaching out beyond their own party base.
This means, like every City Hall race since 2000, second preference votes will decide the victor.
So if Europe is to have an impact it won’t be the one some Khan supporters think.
The proximity of the two votes could lure more UKIP supporters out on May 5th and, if this group is as single-minded as popular wisdom has it, Goldsmith’s Brexit stance makes it more likely that he’ll secure most of their second preferences.
So how big Khan’s lead in the first round and how many Lib Dem, Green and others voters cast a second preference for him or Goldsmith – remember, second preferences are optional and not everyone casts theirs for one of the front runners – will all matter.
PS: Those who to think the job is to lobby for, and represent, the City of London, may have got their mayors mixed up.
While the Mayor of London has a role in ensuring the capital is a good place to do business, the role of representing the City’s business community falls principally to the Lord Mayor of London. When the financial services industry want the Government lobbied over tax and financial regulation they’re far more likely to knock on the door of the Guildhall than they are to cross the river and pop into City Hall.