The evidence shows no Ken/Labour gap

7th May, 2012 2:15 pm

As soon as the ballot boxes closed on Thursday, the media talking heads had made up their minds. Labour had lost London and it was all because Ken was much less popular than Labour in the capital.

Although the counting had not yet begun, this was then eagerly taken up by some in our own Party – on twitter and elsewhere – who never wanted Ken as the candidate in the first place. Ironically, given the very positive results in the much of the country on Thursday, it was often the very same people who just a few months ago were calling for Ed Miliband to go as, in their opinion, he was also underperforming.

With the full figures now in, was there any significant Labour vote above that for Ken? The answer is clearly no.
As the table below shows, across London Ken won 890,000 votes and Labour in the Assembly won 911,214 (using the List figures).

The difference of 22,000 votes is just 0.96% of those who voted in the Mayoral election.

In percentage terms, Labour in the Assembly election won 41.1% whilst Ken achieved 40.3% in the first round of the Mayoral election – a gap of just 0.8%.

Even when you break it down seat by seat the result is similar. Overall in 5 seats Ken was either narrowly ahead of Labour (as was the case in 4 seats) or the difference was effectively zero; in 4 other seats Labour’s lead over Ken was below or around 1% ; in 4 seats it was around 2% and in one seat it was around 3%.

Vote for Ken
Ken %
Vote for Labour on the list
Labour list %
Difference between Labour Mayor and List vote
Difference between Labour Mayor and List vote %
Barnet and Camden 58354 167793 34.80% 63688 167847 37.90% 5334 3.20%
West Central 40741 147322 27.70% 43754 147010 29.80% 3013 2.10%
Ealing and Hillingdon 64085 162810 39.40% 68100 164219 41.50% 4015 2.10%
Merton and Wandsworth 51144 151768 33.70% 53978 151718 35.60% 2834 1.90%
Havering and Redbridge 48525 141687 34.20% 51144 142090 36.00% 2619 1.70%
Brent and Harrow 67083 145188 46.20% 69133 145494 47.50% 2050 1.30%
City and East 106149 170255 62.30% 108395 171522 63.20% 2246 0.80%
Enfield and Haringay 69399 143920 48.20% 70801 144847 48.90% 1402 0.70%
Bexley and Bromley 37520 168033 22.30% 38832 170440 22.80% 1312 0.50%
Greenwich and Lewisham 63772 131604 48.50% 64042 132090 48.50% 270 0.00%
Lambeth and Southwark 78333 157757 49.70% 78174 158149 49.40% -159 -0.20%
South West 51486 173895 29.60% 50986 174167 29.30% -500 -0.30%
Croyden and Sutton 50393 154003 32.70% 49804 154365 32.30% -589 -0.50%
North East 102934 192440 53.50% 100383 192911 52.00% -2551 -1.50%
TOTAL 889918 911214 21296
Average difference 1521
Average difference % 0.80%

The evidence shows there was no significant Labour gap in the sense that Ken was able to attract almost identical support to other Labour candidates on aggregate.

Of course, anyone who has spent hours on the doorsteps over the recent months can recount someone saying they were voting for Labour but not Ken. This is not surprising given the personalised media onslaught from a Tory press over recent months.

But as the figures show, these were nearly completely matched by those who backed Ken but did not support Labour. This can be for all sorts of reasons. As results in Bradford have shown, some people have still not been won back to Labour because of unpopular wars. Whilst Ken also picks up large support from voters concerned about the environment and who would not normally back Labour. I encountered both arguments frequently whilst tube leafleting in my own constituency of the North East – encompassing Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest which are all very strong Labour areas – where Ken out-polled Labour.

But regardless of the causes, the overall impact is that Labour and Ken scored almost identically the same number of votes. Even if Ken had won the extra 0.8% votes that backed Labour, he still would not have won. He needed another 65,000 votes to win.

A focus on the alleged Labour-Ken gap misses the bigger picture. The real issue is that Boris outpolled both Labour and Ken.

This is not only due to the soft soaping that Boris Johnson had in the media where his lack of policies was subject to almost no serious scrutiny. It is also smart media positioning by Boris Johnson to pose himself as a celebrity, almost separate from politics, meaning many people back him who would never normally vote Tory.

In total, Boris Johnson attracted 263,000 more votes for Mayor than his party did on the London Assembly list.
Far from this being due to Labour supporters, over half of these votes came from parties to the right of the Tories. A comparison of the Assembly list votes and Mayoral votes indicates that up to 140,000 Johnson first preferences will have come from voters who backed UKIP, BNP, Christian People’s Alliance – For Traditional Marriage, English Democrats and the National Front in the List election but not for Mayor.

The chart below shows the total of the voters who backed one of these right-wing non-Tory parties in the List but not in the Mayoral election. The overwhelming bulk of which will have been first preference voters for Johnson.


Against this combination of constant onslaught against the Labour candidate from the Tory press; a candidate who cultivates celebrity and which made it difficult to get the label of him being a blue-blooded Tory to stick and strong backing from the non-Tory right, Ken did very well to even get near to winning. No factual argument – aside from assertions and false claims over a Labour gap – has been put forward that anyone else would have done so well. In fact, that it was so close is testament to Ken Livingstone, his record in London and the policies he put forward.

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