Dave Hill: London Mayor 2024 – the state of the race

Dave Hill: London Mayor 2024 – the state of the race

I got a phone call last week from a lady from Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ, the people who’ve lately brought you a TV interview with Sadiq Khan doctored to make it sound as if Labour supports antisemitism (“it’s been clipped”: R. Holden) and the video that famously contained footage from a station in New York, portrayed London as so crime-ridden that children cower in fear inside their own homes, and described Khan as having “seized power” (all excused as probably the work of an “inexperienced intern”).

What did the CCHQ lady want? She was solicitous and polite. “I’m calling about Susan,” she said. For a split second I wondered if she thought I was the Samaritans, a charity to which I donate. But no. “Will you be able to help on 2 May?” she asked. Flummoxed, I blustered for a bit before working out what had happened and making a full disclosure about why I wouldn’t be assisting an admirer of Liz Truss and Donald Trump to become the Mayor of London (though I was good enough to not mention those things).

The misunderstanding had occurred because I’d signed up to a mailing list of candidate Hall, just to see what junk might come my way. The result has been precious little, I expect because my bog standard journo ruse was spotted early.

But even when approached through its formal media channel, the Hall campaign has been uncommunicative, ignoring my every request for detail or clarifications about this or that Hall promise or remark except when asked about her past attitude to fellow Harrow councillor Aneka Shah-Levy, when – perhaps significantly  – a spokesperson for Susan, Friend of Women, got back to me very quickly.

I’m not taking it personally. This, remember, is the Tory mayoral campaign that launched in a car park in Uxbridge without, so far as I can ascertain, a single media person, let alone me, being invited. As we enter the penultimate week of the race, the big question is whether Hall will even produce a manifesto, let alone risk being asked difficult questions about it. Not bothering would be extraordinary yet apt, given how hard it is to distinguish her from Nigel Farage, who has not troubled himself with such trivia in the past [see update]

An intriguing new element of Hall’s campaign, brought to wider attention by Noah Vickers, is a letter signed by Steve Tuckwell, the MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip. Taking time out from pretending to want a fish and chip shop in Uxbridge (having recently opposed one) in order to surreptitiously top up his mailing lists, Tuckwell urges people to use their postal votes to vote for “someone else” so that Khan wins “by a smaller margin than he’s expecting”. The letter only mentions Hall in the fine print and doesn’t mention the Conservative party at all.

Liberal Democrat candidate Rob Blackie has said the letter shows that the Tories have given up. Perhaps, though they’d surely like to lose by a narrow enough margin to be able to try claiming that they’d given Khan a fright and, to borrow from Jeremy Corbyn apologists, to have “won the argument”.

And Vickers is surely right that it’s a tactic designed to “drive votes away from Khan in any direction possible” in the hope that, as in the mayoral contest in Bedford last May, the Tory candidate might even sneak home in first place under First Past The Post with a vote share of just 30-odd per cent.

The most recent opinion poll provides hope for Hall that she can at least muster 30. Conducted by YouGov, it shows her up three points to 27 compared with the previous YouGov survey in mid-February, and Khan down by three. This could mark the start of the predicted narrowing of the gap – see also 2021 – as voters start paying attention, though Khan’s lead with YouGov is still a towering 19 points, which is also bigger than in two other recent polls.

The consensus among knowledgeable friends is that Khan will end up winning by 10 points or so. In November, following three polls in a row that gave him leads of 20-plus, I took a barely-educated guess that he would win by eight. Reckon I’ll stick with that.

Update: Speculation that Hall wouldn’t publish a manifesto has proven unfounded.

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Categories: Comment

1 Comment

  1. Caroline says:

    Although it would stick in my throat to vote Conservative, I would do anything to get rid of Khan since he’s ruining London. With the LTNs that leave ambulances and fire engines unable to get through the long traffic jams (while one or two cyclists serenely pedal along their wide cycle lanes), that prevent disabled and elderly people from going out in their cars and forcing them to drive four times their usual distance to doctors and shops, that prevent elderly from using now infrequent buses (due to the cycle lanes taking their part of the road) that are so crowded that they are dangerous and create falls and accidents, with increased pollution due to vehicles sitting in traffic jams unable to turn off congested roads and with ‘closed’ or partially ‘pedestrianised’ road management duping people into having to pay exorbitant fines, he must be stopped. 1984 is here and Khan is Big Brother – next – wait for it – the telescreens in all our homes.

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