Voting to choose the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London is coming to a close. The choice is an extremely important one for the future of the party in our nation’s capital.
Three years ago I wrote for ConservativeHome on the challenge facing the Conservatives in London. Boris Johnson’s victory over Ken Livingstone had not received the credit it deserved given the ground-level support that Ken enjoyed; the number of Tory Councillors was a little over 80% of what Labour had.
Since then, things have got much worse.
Following local elections in 2014, the number of Conservative Councillors is now 58% of what Labour’s is. The outstanding London Data Store shows us that Labour boasts an impressive 1,060 Councillors compared to just 612 Conservatives. Let’s not forget the disappointing general election results in London: Labour now have 45 MPs to the Conservatives’ 27. Add in trade union membership of 670,000 and Labour’s Mayoral hopeful, Sadiq Khan, has an incredible head-start on whoever the Tories choose.
Sadiq Khan has lost no time in setting out his stall and gaining valuable publicity at the same time. He’s has been smart enough to distance himself from Jeremy Corbyn (strongly attacking his decision not to sing the national anthem) and telling City AM, “I want to be the most pro-business mayor we’ve ever had”. Khan is a savvy operator. Overturning the poll lead of his main rival, Dame Tessa Jowell, proved just that.
But here’s the nub of it. Khan’s impressive victory owed much to union endorsements and strong support from left-leaning “registered supporters” who joined the party to back Corbyn. The fact that Khan actually nominated Corbyn for Labour leader (although voting for Burnham) shows his willingness to court the hard Left. Make no mistake – the London Labour Party was being colonised by Corbyn-types long before Corbyn rose to prominence. Hence why Khan was canny enough to appease them by nominating dear Jeremy. And it is precisely this large (and growing) left-wing membership that will campaign in all weathers to evict the Tories and install Khan in City Hall. The left will be running London. The Conservative Party in London will be dealt its third major blow in three years.
That is why the Conservative Party need to choose the candidate best placed to win. If it doesn’t, it means Corbyn and his brand of loopy left politics will no longer be a threat but a depressing reality.
That means the Conservatives need to select the candidate who has proved time and again he can reach outside his party, one who has repeatedly shown he stands up for the best interests of the people he represents. And one who, because of these qualities, triumphs at the ballot box.
Zac Goldsmith is the stand-out candidate by far. Opinion polls put him as best placed to beat Labour. He increased his majority in the general election by a staggering 19,000 votes. He has the best name recognition among the public and the highest media profile. With a policy platform that will no doubt contrast sharply with Saqid Khan he can turn out core Conservatives. As a Eurosceptic as well as environmental campaigner he can appeal to left-leaning Greens as well as UKIP supporters for second preference votes. He is, quite rightly, the one Corbyn and Khan fear the most - which is why London Tories should vote for him to be the Conservative candidate.
Dominic Cumming’s blog has made for required reading for anyone interested in the upcoming EU referendum.
His most recent post concerned the latest polling he has undertaken on the issue. It showed both Yes Remain and No Leave have a core support of a about third each while a crucial fifth of voters would like to leave but are worried about the effect on jobs and living standards. Another fifth don’t know or don’t care. In summary, there is all to play for.
Just as interesting was the question about “enthusiasm”, added because evidence from the US says tests about enthusiasm are more accurate predictions of turnout. Leave voters are much more enthusiastic about the prospect of a referendum, prompting the post headline: “New ICM poll shows differential turnout could be important, only a third support the failing EU project”.
So, what is differential turnout and why is it important?
First of all, turnout is the proportion of electors who cast their vote in an election. So, if 800 out of 1,000 registered electors actually vote, turnout is 80%. You would therefore assume that, on average, 80% of each party’s supporters had turned out. Differential turnout is when that assumption proves incorrect.
Let’s say that out of our 1,000 electors, 400 usually vote Labour, 300 Conservative, 100 usually vote for other parties and 200 won’t vote. Turnout is 80%, so in our average election Labour secures 320 votes and an 80 vote majority over the Conservatives. However, if the election is subject to differential turnout then you might get only 60% of Labour supporters voting while the Conservatives manage 85%. The result then is the Conservatives clock up 255 votes to Labour’s 240.
How does differential turnout come about?
Quite simply, because one party’s set of supporters are more motivated to go and vote than the other parties’. This is why, in any election campaign, the three phases I referred to in a previous post are so important: identification, motivation and GOTV.
To win, the Leave campaign needs to do as Dominic sets out: (1) Turnout the core third of the electorate who back leaving and (2) Reassure enough of that crucial fifth who would like to leave. The Reassure part of the campaign will come mostly from the “air war” – fought out in media. The Turnout part of the campaign cannot happen without an effective ground operation – something that needs to be built as soon as possible.