The Weekend Debate: Who’d get your 2nd preference after Brian in the race for London Mayor?

Here’s your starter for ten in our weekend slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

This Thursday, millions of voters will go to the polls to cast their votes in local elections. And although London is only one of those elections, its electoral size and the colourful prominence of its candidates means it has got the lion’s share of the media coverage.

For the Lib Dems, Brian Paddick has fought a terrific campaign. The former Metropolitan police chief only narrowly squeaked ahead of Mike Tuffrey for the party’s nomination following what Brian himself has acknowledged was a tricky first outing as a Lib Dem candidate in 2008.

This time round, however, he has more than held his own in the televised debates, while his advertising, social media and online presence has achieved real impact. As I reported last month, the Lib Dems’ London fundraising has been a huge success, allowing the party actively to compete at this election in a way that’s not previously been possible.

Lib Dems can of course hope for a Brian win. I’ve no doubt he would make a better Mayor than either of the two front-runners, Boris and Ken. However, the polls are clear enough: in this particular two-horse-race, the Lib Dems are unlikely to be Neptune Collonges.

Which leaves those of you in London with a vote — and those of us who have no vote but take a keen interest — with an interesting dilemma… Who will/would get your second voting preference in this contest?

According to Unlock Democracy’s Vote Match, Siobahn Benita ought to get my next preference. Yet that seems like a cop-out: surely I should choose between Ken and Boris to ensure my vote makes a difference? Talk about Hobson’s choice.

But what about you, Lib Dem Voice readers? How are you going to vote (or, like me, how would you vote if you could) in this year’s London mayoral contest? And why…?

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Grammar Police 28th Apr '12 - 9:20am

    I’ve voted Ken 2nd pref for the last two Mayoral elections. Not sure now. No point wasting it on another candidate; can’t bring myself to vote for Ken or Boris. The voting system is a typical new Labour stitch up. Makes 2nd prefs for anyone who’s not Lab/Con pointless . . .

  • Grammar Police 28th Apr '12 - 9:23am

    And Siobahn Benita’s anti-politics campaign is thoroughly disturbing and dishonest. She’s the insider’s insider – a former treasury mandarin, friends with “GOD” the former cabinet secretary. Something tells me if I’d run as an independent, the broadsheets wouldn’t have run sympathetic profiles of me. Talk about friends in high places . . .

  • Simon McGrath 28th Apr '12 - 9:31am

    From a tactical point of view we should support Ken. As Mayor he would be a daily reminder of the follies of Labour particularly when it turns out that he can’t meet most of his promises.
    But on moral grounds we should back Boris. Livingstone is not an anti Semite not is he personally anti gay. But he is running a campaign trying to convince the Muslim community (who he sees as anti gay and anti Semitic) that he is both. He should not be rewarded for this because the lesson Labour will take is that dividing London’s communities works and will undoubtedly do the same in future elections.
    As Paddy put it:
    “Ken Livingstone knows exactly what he is doing when he describes the Conservatives as “riddled” with homosexuals. He knows what he is doing when he connects Judaism and wealth. I do not believe for a second that Ken Livingstone is an anti-Semite or a homophobe but he knows what gallery he is playing to.”

  • First choice Brian, Second choice Siobahn (the only other candidate with a sensible platform.)

    I couldn’t bring myself to choose between the two evils of Boris and Ken – one’s well-hidden intelligence and economic right-wingery, not to mention his cronyism, has done London no end of damage, the other is a totalitarian-supporting tax-dodging populist, standing on unimplementable policies like the massive tube fair cut. I was going to 2nd preference vote Green until I heard about the candidate’s love-in with the Labour campaign.

    Given the state of the opinion polls, I weep for London.

  • It would serve the antiken press right if they’d hammered him so much that Brian pipped him for second.

    @Simon – Paddy also said ‘I will never recommend a vote for a Conservative’, which presumably, given the context, includes 2nd preference votes.

  • John Richardson 28th Apr '12 - 10:22am

    Boris is a unique political character and it would be a shame not to have his regular antics on the national news. As someone who doesn’t live anywhere near London this is my only criteria. 🙂

  • Richard Dean 28th Apr '12 - 10:39am

    Bumbler Boris will bouce back, and anyway doesn’t he have an autobiography to write? But yes, voters really do choose on the basis of who they want in the televisual firmament. It’s reality TV for real! Perhaps we should follow George Galloway and the other parties, and learn that lesson.

  • Richard Dean 28th Apr '12 - 11:04am

    Tactics is complex! What about choosing the second preference as Jones? Tactically, that would avoid helping to form the impression that Boris is unstoppable, and would also help voters to recognize that green is valued and that our own green credentials make us good first choices in 2016.

  • Stephen Clarke 28th Apr '12 - 11:33am

    The important thing on the 3rd of May is that we do as well as possible not just in the Mayoral and GLA elections but in all the local Council by-elections happpening across London. That by and large means hoping the Ken and Labour vote is as low as possible and that anything that helps them in any way is bad for us. What happens with Boris is largely academic from our point of view it doesnt really help or hinder us. There is a marginal advantage in that if Boris wins he is term limited so can’t stand in 2016. So we would be fighting with no incumbent and possibly also new candidates from other parties. Hold your nose and vote 2nd preference Boris.

  • Richard Dean 28th Apr '12 - 11:54am

    @Dave. Wouldn’t we be leftist bananas if we supported Ken? And what about the hefty anti-Ken vote? Couldn’t we find some apricots somewhere? Maybe a common or garden apple? Where are the mangoes and limes in all of this? Although I admit, as a diehard Brazil nut, peaches shake my tree!

  • I voted last week, boris 2nd of course, he is a mainstream democratic politician, ken isnt.
    Its not just kens hypocracy over tax, his fishing for anti-gay & anti-jewish votes or his links to terrorists. Ken got the labour nomination because of the organising of Socialist Action, he is their candidate not labours. Look them up, they are communists not democrats & they have close links with respect.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 28th Apr '12 - 1:13pm

    A dilemma indeed. Doing anything other than putting Ken or Boris as one’s second preference is clearly pointless. But I suppose if one genuinely finds Ken and Boris equally as objectionable, there’s not much point choosing one over the other.

    From my standpoint, I find Boris less unpleasant than Ken, partly because of what Simon McGrath points out above. I won’t be merrily giving Boris my second preference, but will be doing so nonetheless.

  • Richard Dean 28th Apr '12 - 1:21pm

    @Paul: Ken has “links to terrorists”?

  • Simon Beard 28th Apr '12 - 6:57pm

    Four years ago I was convinced I was going to give my second pref to Boris, then changed my mind in the polling booth. This time round I am disenfranchised by a couple of miles.

    This time round I am sure I couldn’t give my second preference to either of them, and if that means I waste my second preference well I usually end up wasting my first preference too anyway, so I’d go Paddy then Jenny. She is a silly socialist with the usual bizarly statist take on environmentalism, but I think that makes her the second sanest and most atractive option, which is really saying something.

  • Leekliberal 29th Apr '12 - 9:28am

    If Ken and Boris the are the best that Labour and Tories can offer a great City like London it makes a powerful argument against opting for mayors in the referendums in provincial cities.

  • I agree with the analysis that there’s little point casting a second-preference vote for anyone other than Ken or Boris (BTW, Dave Page: yes, the 2nd preferences do get counted and the result published; the Lib Dem candidate typically piles them up uselessly).

    Personally, I couldn’t cast a vote for Ken. I didn’t like his administration; he got rid of Routemasters, which are brilliant. He hiked up the Council Tax pretty much every year. Oona King shld be the Labour candidate; if she was I’d happily cast my 2nd-preference vote for her.

    Boris… I have to confess that I rather like him. Sorry. I like his bikes (and I don’t care who had the idea in the 1st place; he brought them in). He froze his share of the C-Tax for three years, and has now cut it, which is a decent achievement (Lib Dem cllrs are boasting about having frozen C-Tax for two years).

    Also, I’d like to see another hung parliament after the next election – mainly because it will show again that the current voting system is broken and not delivering the sole thing that FPTP is meant to deliver: a clear winner. I think that bursting Labour’s current polling bubble will help to bring the polls back to a place that points towards an inconclusive election result next time. That suggests I shld vote for Boris.

    So, for me it’s a decision between casting no 2nd-preference or voting for Boris. Right now, four days out, I don’t know what I’ll do. As someone who normally exactly how he’ll vote, this is a interesting new experience, and quite illuminating in understanding the floating voter’s mindset in the closing days of a campaign.

  • Patrick Smith 29th Apr '12 - 10:15am

    I have voted positively for Brian Paddick as my first choice and believe he has fought an admirable campaign backed by a very able London L/D Team led by Caroline Pidgeon.All who derserve support as first voter choice.

    As far as second choice ,it matters,and have voted Boris Johnson. Labour do not have as much chance with Ken Livingstone and with those Londoners who remember his `loony’ track record, in the 1970`s : and a leopard does not change his spots.

  • Elliot Bidgood 29th Apr '12 - 1:04pm

    @Stephen Clarke. There aren’t any term-limits on Boris. Boris had originally pledged that he wouldn’t run again in 2016 of personal accord, though he has also said he regrets making the pledge and may run again (despite having listed this as one of “kept” promises in a recent checklist of progress on his pledges). I think Siobhan Benita has mandatory term-limits in her platform, if you support it. I personally tend to be against them – I understand that the concept is meant to deal with 90% incumbency rate in politics and in the context of some early democracies they’re a bulwark against renewed dictatorship. But an episode of the West Wing where Bartlet attacks them and says “we already have term limits, they’re called elections”. That’s roughly my sentiment- at the end of the day, they trample on my democratic right to re-elect a politician again if I want to.

    I’m a Labour & Ken suppporter, but I like reading LDV. Unless the polls are wrong, there’s probably not much worth in who I give my second preference too after Ken, but since I get two preferences I’m still intent on using both. I like Jenny Jones & Siobhan Benita (vote match said they’re my closest matches, along with Ken), but Brian Paddick’s a good and experienced and progressive man, and if he won, I’d be happy with him personally, despite my disagreements with the Lib Dems more broadly. On Ken, I don’t defend everything about him, neither him or Boris are perfect. But I defend him on the charge of homophobia, I truly believe his remarks were taken out of contex (Peter Tatchell said the same), or of “dog-whistling” to the Muslim community with this or his comments in the Jewish community meeting. Ken has support among Muslim voters anyway, so on top of that fact that such a tactic would be morally repugnant and something that, despite other failings, I honestly don’t believe Ken would do, there’s no logical reason he would do it either. Moreover, “dog-whistles” only work if no one else hears them- even if Ken’s intention was that (and again, I don’t believe that under any circumstances), he’s suffered worse from the backlash. On policy, I don’t know whether he can deliver all that he’s promised, but that’s inherent in politics, and I agree with Ken’s values and pledges (fare reductions, a London EMA, living wage, rent-capping etc) and he’s pledged to resign come October if he doesn’t make his fare reduction.

  • Alex Sabine 29th Apr '12 - 7:16pm

    I urge those who think reintroducing rent control is the solution to London’s housing problems to read this powerful critique of it by Paul Krugman:

    I may not agree with Krugman on deficits and macro-economic policy but he is a Nobel prize winner and damn good technical economist – not to mention the Keynesian poster boy who my leftie friends always cite as a fount of wisdom…

    Economists as different as Krugman and Milton Friedman have concluded that rent control does more harm than good. In fact the leftist Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck went so far as to say, “In many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city—except for bombing it.”

    Recognition of the counter-productive effects of rent control is one of the least controversial issues in economics, next to the benefits of trade. The fact that it persisted for many years despite that chorus of professional disapproval led Krugman to quip: “So now you know why economists are useless: when they actually do understand something, people don’t want to hear about it.”

  • Alex Macfie 30th Apr '12 - 2:14pm

    For the same reasons as given by @Simon McGrath, @Stephen W and others, I intend to vote Boris 2nd. Under full AV I should put Siobhan 2nd, but I feel it necessary to vote tactically to keep Ken out.
    @Elliot Bidgood: No-one is suggesting that Ken is homophobic. What critics are saying is that he is pandering to homophobia in the Muslim community. For a liberal, this is unacceptable: illiberal attitudes need to be challanged wherever they come from.
    @Richard Dean: When he was Mayor, Ken honoured a radical Islamist cleric (Yusuf al-Qaradawi) who condones suicide bombings (as well as being sexist (pro wife-beating and FGM) and homophobic (in favour of execution of gays)). Also as GLC leader he similarly honoured Sinn Fein leaders. Yes, that was nearly 30 years ago, but he has never recanted that action, and his subsequent treatment of al-Qaradawi as a hero shows that he has not changed in this respect.

  • The main reason I can’t bring myself to vote for Boris in second place is his insistance that all tax revenue raised from Londonners must be hypothecated to London.

    I’m still undecided (and probably will be right up until I get to the polling station).

  • Although, on reflection, the argument that I have some kind of democratic duty to use my second place vote to choose between Boris and Ken would really only hold any water if I thought that the battle between them was too close to call.

    I think I’m tending towards putting Siobhan in second place.

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