As the first week of campaigning in this year’s City Hall elections comes to a close, we speak to Labour candidate Ken Livingstone about his lost opinion poll lead, rows over his tax affairs and older Jewish voters and the importance of second preference votes in securing a return to City Hall.
This week’s YouGov poll is maybe not the best way to start a campaign?
I think the polls bounce around a lot, the thing that’s striking about that poll is the discrepancy between male and female voters. I don’t think it’s that extreme.
The other thing in all this is once you’re hitting a local election, differential turnout is a much bigger factor than for a General Election and everywhere I go on the streets the mood is so positive. It’s very hard to believe the poll.
But one of the things the poll shows is, depending on which question they’re asked, up to 30% of Labour backers don’t name you as their preferred Mayor. The second preferences play a part in the outcome but you need to retain as much of your own party’s support…
The defining thing about me and Boris is we both go out beyond the traditional core vote and it’ll be interesting to see how the polls shape up now that the budget has much clearer clarified the issues.
Boris has campaigned for this tax cut, he’s got it and pensioners are going to bear the cost of it.
Really that budget reinforces everything I’ve been saying about who the Mayor represents.
But that bleeding Labour support, is some of that attributable to the rows you’ve managed to get yourself embroiled in, first of all about tax and now about older Jewish voters?
I haven’t got myself embroiled in rows, I’ve just been subject to a smear campaign from the same sources who have been doing it for 30 years.
But Jonathan Freedland isn’t a source whose smearing you is he? He’s a Labour supporter who says he finds it difficult to back you.
What I found depressing about that, is that he knows exactly what I said.
When I was being asked ‘why can’t you can’t get huge Jewish support?’ I pointed out that no ethnic group or religious group votes monolithically and the main defining issue in how everybody votes is the level of income.
That’s why I get a lot of support from poor Jews in Stoke Newington, I get much less support in Mrs Thatcher’s old constituency up in Finchley.
That isn’t to say that’s anything to do with any particular Jewish group, every social group is primarily, it’s voting patterns is determined by income levels and has been forever.
Do you regret if people have been offended by the way your words have been repeated or by the way they’ve been understood?
Basically what you’ve got is people pretty desperate that I shouldn’t be elected under any circumstances and so the old smears, remember the smear about alcoholism?
It is odd that after thirty years in public life with unremitting media scrutiny there’s never been a photographer or journalist able to see me tipsy.
Final question, this week the Green party will vote on whether to endorse you for their second preference votes. Some voices inside the Green camp suggest that’s not a sure thing. How important is it to you to get that endorsement?
I’d love to have the endorsement, of course.
Irrespective of whether or not they endorse me I’ll be saying to people who are Labour ‘I’m using my second preference for Jenny Jones’ and I’ll be happy to see every Labour supporter use their second preference for Jenny.
Certainly if I am elected Jenny Jones will be a key part in my administration driving forward the cycling agenda.
Candidates for Mayor include Brian Paddick (Liberal Democrat), Jenny Jones (Green), Ken Livingstone (Labour), Lawrence Webb (UKIP) and Boris Johnson (Conservative). Mr Johnson’s campaign declines to provide policy details and campaign announcements to this site.