The London election is neck and neck. It is game on for Labour. We can win this but only if we pull the stops out.
For weeks there seem to have been two Mayoral election campaigns. The one you read about in the papers where Labour has been written off. And the one that’s really taking place, where Labour has raised its game and taken the fight to every corner of London with a message that only a Labour Mayor will make you better off under a Tory government. On the doorstep the reaction is fantastic.
The polls have shown Ken closing the gap for weeks, though the coverage has often been framed as if the gap is widening. The Tories opened up an eight point gap last month. Over the intervening period the gap has narrowed. It has gone from eight points, to five points, to today’s nail-biter.
With each broadcast debate the whole issue of the tax affairs of the two candidates has been eroded as a story. Even in the debates where it arose, the real story was that Ken was winning on the arguments about fares, policing, housing, young people, the environment and the riots. And at the non-media debates the issue has not arisen at all. The Tories introduced this issue to divert from the real choices. It is literally the only thing they have got to say.
Labour’s campaign has taken the long view and talked relentlessly about the cost of living issues that matter to people. This hard work is paying off. The latest YouGov poll for the Standard today now has the two candidates neck and neck – Boris Johnson on 51% and Ken on 49. Momentum is with the Labour campaign.
We now have it in our hands to win this. It is too close to call and every thing we do between now and polling day will make a difference. But we have made real progress. Labour can win this.
This leads us to an important political choice. Too many people in our party prefer to fight each other than fight the real political opponent, the Conservative Party. When Ken narrowed the polls to neck and neck in January the Conservatives unleashed a brutal character assassination campaign on Ken Livingstone. Some ostensibly in Labour ranks joined them.
Commentators and websites claiming to be Labour showed they did not have the discipline to make a difference to Londoners’ lives. We had the ridiculous scenario of a Labour website leading the attacks on Labour’s brilliant London election broadcast.
This lack of discipline cannot be repeated. Labour needs Ken to win. Much more importantly, Londoners need a Labour Mayor. Whatever you think of the personalities involved only a Labour Mayor will make Londoners better off and stand up for them in hard times.
Ken nailed it in his speech at Labour’s campaign headquarters today:
“a victory for the Tories in ten days time will be used as a green light for deepening the Tory onslaught. They will use it to vindicate the next phase of their plans. Every single person in Britain therefore has a stake in ensuring the Tories do not get that endorsement.”
That’s right. Those are the stakes. There are very direct stakes for Londoners, who stand to be £1000 or more better off with Ken – or, put the other way, very much worse off under Boris Johnson.
Every single one of us must now hit the streets and the phones, put up more posters, talk to more voters, leaflet more stations, use our social media and our conversations with our neighbours to make this victory possible. The biggest ever push London Labour has ever seen in a London Mayoral election is now a duty.
We can win. It’s up to us.
Len Duvall AM is Chair of the London Labour Party