Jeevan graduated from the London School of Economics with a Masters in Comparative Politics, specialising in terrorism and political violence. Regular tweets can be found @jeevanvc.
Politics is driven by underlying patterns which ultimately determine the outcome of a contest. Some of those patterns appear to be at play yet again in this year’s riveting Mayoral contest between Zac Goldsmith and Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate, Sadiq Khan. I think that the combination of Mr Goldsmith’s appeal to previously undecided or reluctant voters, coupled with public distrust of the Corbyn regime, can propel him to mayoral election victory. The stakes are high for Londoners and there is no reason why the Tories cannot hold on to the prized office.
It is true that Sadiq Khan has a lead in the polls, but the figure is in the single digits. This is encouraging for Zac for a number of reasons. In the face of London’s changing demographics, with more pro-Labour voters particularly in the inner boroughs and among immigrant populations and the general youth, Labour could be expected to be in the lead by a significant margin. This has not been the case. Zac Goldsmith certainly faces a great test, but when have the Conservatives ever shrunk from a challenge? The Tories can point to the pleasant and (generally) unexpected results of 1992 and 2010, as well as the successful re-election of Boris Johnson as Mayor. A six point lead is a long way from insurmountable, as Boris amply demonstrated at the last mayoral election.
The great negative factor for Labour – their ineffective leader Jeremy Corbyn – continues to cast his long shadow over everything associated with his unfortunate party. Already tanking in the polls, his leadership continues to generate grave concerns from the electorate. This will surely impact on voter perceptions of Sadiq, who himself is not from the centre-right of his party. Victory traditionally goes to those who capture the centre ground. Famed environmental activist Zac can gain a real advantage here. Framing his rival as the puppet of the militant Left could yield significant gains for the Conservative candidate. Will Labour activists, members and campaigners be enthused about the prospect of handing a boost to Jeremy Corbyn by helping Sadiq win? Deep down, I very much doubt they do.
A centre-right candidate that can appeal to voters who are traditionally left-leaning is the stuff of nightmares for Labour. It is not as unlikely or implausible as it seems. David Cameron’s outreach to minorities and others to broaden the Tory tent has had rather impressive results. What was done nationally can be repeated locally. With his history of campaigning for our environment, Zac Goldsmith can appeal substantially to those swing voters for whom sustainability is important. Green voters and Liberal Democrats may find themselves sorely tempted by the Tory candidate who clearly is passionate about ecology. As this is not a first-past-the-post election, this could potentially be of great significance to the mayoral race. Zac can gain many second preference votes thanks to his pro-environment record.
The only poll that matters is ultimately the one on the day of the election itself. With less than three months to go until the election and Sadiq’s lead narrowing, the potential for election winning momentum clearly exists. Polls which historically greatly underestimate the Conservative vote are unlikely to pick up the underlying trends that count. Scepticism and distrust of Corbyn, Sadiq and a non-credible Labour party will combine to alter the reality on the ground. Back Zac to win this election, narrowly but clearly.