Ken 51, Boris 49
They thought it was all over ... but now it looks like a photo-finish.
The second poll in a week has Ken Livingstone ahead in the mayoral battle, albeit by a teeny two points.
Although Boris HQ says it's a useful wake-up call for complacent supporters (see below) the numbers must have given the Mayor a sickly knot in his stomach. For the first time in four years, there is a serious possibility of having to hand back his crown to its previous owner.
For Livingstone it is a pleasing moment - proof that there is life in the old pro’s left hook. But Ken is far too experienced to get over-excited about a two-point lead, a gap well within the margin of error.
Cool heads note that January has been Labour’s most intensive month of campaigning so far, with 1,000 activists shoving out leaflets against the New Year fares increases. If the fares issue fades, so might their lead.
The cold fact is that there is now a real battle on, and every vote counts. Turnout on May 3 will be absolutely critical with the polls this close - ultimately, the winner will be the man who gets his supporters off the sofa and into the voting booths.
“Thank goodness it was not another eight point lead,” joked one of Mr Johnson’s staff, meaning that some Boris backers have been lulled into a false sense of security. The danger is not imaginary - our poll finds that Londoners by more than two to one think that the Mayor will get a second term.
In terms of issues, Johnson is ahead on running the economy, representing London overseas and - by a big two-to-one margin - on squeezing the best deal out of his friends in central Government.
Fares are Livingstone’s key issue, but the 38 per cent who are more likely to vote for him because of the New Year rises may just reflect Labour’s core vote. He is ahead (35 - 24) as the candidate who knows most about the concerns of “ordinary Londoners”, which reinforces research by YouGov that found Ken was seen as more “in touch”.
More surprising, only 30 per cent dislike Johnson because of the Government’s spending cuts. Ken’s campaign to “Tory-ise” the Boris brand has yet to succeed.
Alas for Brian Paddick, he is not breaking through. The ex-policemen is even behind on fighting crime, and only two per cent trust him most on the economy.
But the fight is wide open between the frontrunners. May 3 looks set to be a cliffhanger.
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