Of course, it is being spun differently.
One, it is being presented that Labour should be doing better in the byelection. Labour activists should not be sucked into such ruses. A Labour win in a seat that was so hard-fought in 2010 would be very good news.
Two, the spin aims to show that Boris Johnson is on course for a comfortable victory next May, with the poll showing he is one point ahead of Ken Livingstone. If Ken is not ahead in a Labour seat like this, so the argument goes, he cannot win. Lord Ashcroft writes: “Even in what is about to become a safe Labour seat, Boris is running neck and neck with Ken Livingstone.”
But the poll actually shows the momentum is with Ken, in an outer London seat where Boris Johnson won last time. Ken’s vote is up, and up by more than Boris Johnson’s. In the first poll since Ken announced his seven per cent fares cut, the swing in Feltham and Heston is to Ken Livingstone.
In the last London Mayoral election in 2008, Boris Johnson won 41.9% of the vote, compared to Ken’s 37.5%. This poll shows that the two are now neck and neck in Feltham and Heston: 45% to 44% respectively. That means that Ken has added 6.5% to his vote here, and Boris Johnson 3.1%. So the momentum is more than double in Ken’s favour. Overall, that is a 1.7% swing towards Ken. It means that the mayoral race is narrowing towards eye-wateringly close percentages. It leaves Ken just 1.4% short of the swing across London he needs to seize victory. As we can expect that the Tory surge of 2008 in many parts of London will not be repeated mid-term, it shows not merely that the race is going to be nerve-rackingingly close – but that Labour can clearly win.
Ashcroft may think he has done Boris Johnson a favour, but in fact he has shown that the race is wide open and that the momentum is more with Ken than Boris Johnson.
There are plenty of reasons for Ken’s vote to have risen significantly in Feltham and Heston. Overall crime in the borough of Hounslow is up and police numbers have been cut. The number of young victims of knife crime between has risen 13.69% in Hounslow since Boris Johnson was elected. Under Ken Livingstone every electoral ward in London had a ‘safer neighbourhood’ beat police team with a minimum of six officers patrolling the streets – including one sergeant for each team. Under Boris Johnson eight wards in Hounslow have been forced to share a police sergeant: Hounslow central, Hounslow South, Chiswick Riverside, Chiswick Homefields, Osterley and Isleworth, Bedfont, Feltham North, Heston Central & Heston East. The latter four are all in Feltham and Heston.
And on transport, residents have every reason to swing towards Ken Livingstone. The constituency is in zones five and six. Under Boris Johnson a weekly zone 1-6 travelcard is up one fifth under Boris Johnson – from £44.60 in 2008 to £53.40 this coming January. That makes a local resident £457.6 a year worse off under Boris Johnson. A weekly zones 1-5 travelcard will rise by £2.80 in January, up to £49.80. As with all parts of London a single bus has risen 50% under the Tory mayor.
If Seema Malhotra wins in Feltham and Heston it will show the momentum in London is with Labour – and Ashcroft’s poll shows that in the Mayoral election it is with Ken Livingstone.
Tom Copley is a Labour list candidate for the London Assembly