Chris Madel, London Communications Agency: The next race is now on

Will the London Mayoral candidates close ranks with their national parties or pull rank?

Chris Madel, London Communications Agency: The next race is now on
Chris Madel, London Communications Agency: The next race is now on

The blocks are set, the starting pistol is loaded and the key runners are now limbering up for the next significant election - the London Mayoral Race in 2012. With Conservative and Labour candidates now confirmed in the familiar rematch of Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone, only the Liberal Democrats have yet to join them on the starting line for this contest.

Boris and Ken both have immense political stature in their own right and are among the most well-known - perhaps the most well-known - figures in the Tory and Labour ranks. Yet they will need to muster all their brand recognition to fight off the accusation that the Mayoralty is becoming a closed shop.

The result in 2012 and the way in which they work with, or perhaps against, their national leaders will be fascinating to watch.

While Ken's selection by Labour was perhaps unsurprising, Ed Miliband's as leader was more so. He lost the MP, MEP and party ballots nationally to brother David and the party member count in every one of the 73 London constituencies. He didn't even earn a first preference vote from Ken.

And yet Ken and Ed are politically close. They share many of the same values and principles, have traditional 'old' Labour instincts and will work well together. Ed will also have the comfort of knowing Labour holds 38 of the 73 MP seats in London - ten more than the Tories. At a local level, they won control of ten more councils in May, now holding 17 of the 32 boroughs.

Ken and Ed will also both start the campaign in opposition, against an inevitable backdrop of public sector cuts, which will be biting deep by then. The battle will also begin just a few months before the Olympic Games - a project Ken championed.

For Ken, this will take him back to his GLC days in the 1980s, when he campaigned against a Tory national government. But if he reverts too far into this style of rhetoric, will it work with London voters today?

Boris, for his part, is already finding it hard to be supportive of the coalition's cuts and at the same time fight for London. In 2008, he was helped and supported by David Cameron, who saw a victory in London as an essential step to an election victory in 2010. While Cameron was wary of Boris, he did recognise the huge potential of this maverick politician.

And Boris famously relied on the blue-tinged leafy doughnut of outer London boroughs to win crucial votes in the close-fought contest, contrasting this with Ken's 'Zone One' Mayoralty. But if these boroughs start feeling the cuts, this won't necessarily work again.

Boris and Dave have another trick up their sleeves in the shape of the Localism and Decentralisation Bill, part of the coalition's promise to devolve power to local people. In London, this will see more devolution to the Mayor and Greater London Authority as well as the capital's local authorities. But how much difference will this make when it comes to an election, if people have lost their jobs, services are cut and there is little sign of growth in the economy?

And while London is arguably best placed economically to weather the coming storm, the business community is looking to Government for strong consistent messages about investment and opportunity. Nowhere is this more sharply drawn than the debate about the financial services sector.

So both Mayoral candidates will have tricky races to run. This is no sprint, but a marathon, and along the route there will be plenty of opportunities for them to close ranks with their national parties or pull rank.

The race is now on.

Chris Madel is account director at London Communications Agency

VIEWS IN BRIEF

- Which public sector budget cut is likely to be the toughest for the Government to push through?

Anything relating to defence is totemic for the right of the Conservative Party, as we have seen.

- Who would make the better lobbyist - David or Ed Miliband?

It would depend on what they were lobbying for and who they were targeting. But overall, David would probably open more doors, while Ed would be better at presenting the case.

- Which public sector organisation has made the best case for ringfencing its budget or minimising any cuts?

The Army, for the simple reason that we are at war.

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