As the party political selection processes swing into action, so
the campaign race for mayor of London is hotting up.
On 12 August, the Liberal Democrats forged ahead by unveiling their
candidate, Susan Kramer, a specialist in the financing of major
transport infrastructure projects.
Last week, Labour maverick Ken Livingstone - who is threatening to stand
as an independent if the party does not select him - launched a poster
campaign, web site and six-point campaign card. Meanwhile, the
Conservatives are moving apace in their bid to select a candidate by 1
October, in time for the party conference.
To date, the mayoral path for prospective candidates from the main
political parties has been one of winning support from their own
For Tory candidates, this has been a fairly transparent process. Last
Tuesday, officials from the 74 London party associations and 25 regional
and area officers, narrowed the field to four. Later this month, the
shortlist of Lord Archer, Steven Norris, Brent Council’s Tory leader
Robert Blackman and former Hillingdon Council leader Andrew Boff will be
reduced to two, before a final ballot by all London party members
decides the winner.
The Lib Dems have already been through a similar process, and Kramer is
riding high on a decisive victory of 62 per cent of the final ballot of
all London party members.
But for Labour candidates, the nature and timescale of the selection
process remains unclear. While some Livingstone supporters interpret
this delay as a conspiracy to keep a potential Labour mayor strictly
pro-Blair, the candidates are upholding strategies that can accommodate
Adrian McMenamin, the man behind Trevor Phillips, one of Livingstone’s
Labour rivals, says: ’We think the matter will be resolved quickly
following the party conference.’
According to Greater London Labour Party (GLLP) press officer Rob
Yeldham, it is likely that people will be invited to submit their
candidature to a panel drawn up from members of Labour’s National
Executive Committee, the London Regional Executive Committee and four
independent Labour members, to form a shortlist. Then it will be one
member, one vote.
In the meantime, Phillips has been building his media presence with
interviews and an attack on Livingstone’s ’arrogant and patronising’
offer of the deputy mayor role - seen by some as a miscalculated use of
the race card - and, for the past six weeks, has concentrated on winning
selection within the party. ’We’ve set up a web site, mailed information
to party members and phoned to find out what they think of the campaign
so far,’ says McMenamin.
Getting the party onside in the short-term is a priority and McMenamin
adds: ’What we can do is say things to members of the Labour Party which
we wouldn’t be prepared to say to a larger audience.’
While Labour candidates ponder the vagaries of their selection process,
Tory candidates have problems of their own. Like all candidates, the
likes of Lord Archer and Norris are not allowed to know the names of
their key audience - the 38,000 members of the Conservative Party in
London who will decide their fate - and so cannot target them.
Steven Norris’ campaign, which kicked off at the end of July with help
from political communications consultancy PLS, has negotiated this
difficulty by establishing a network of party activists throughout
London. ’We did a big mailshot to councillors and so on whose membership
of the party is already in the public domain,’ explains campaign manager
Those who replied in support of Norris have received regular briefings
and literature to distribute to other party members. Norris himself, who
stepped down as director general of the Road Haulage Association to
campaign full time, has been attending constituency meetings and talking
with grassroots audiences of between 25 to 100 people.
Fullbrook claims Norris has also issued a challenge to Lord Archer for a
head-to-head debate, as yet to no avail. However, he remains hopeful
that once the field is narrowed to two - and this duet is the most
likely to survive the cut - Archer may be tempted.
Meanwhile, the campaign team for the relatively unknown Lib Dem
candidate Kramer, recognises it is starting from a different position to
the Tory and Labour big guns.
’We are explaining to the media quite straightforwardly what Susan’s
strengths are: that she’s not a politician, but a business woman with
experience in funding transport projects’ says Lambeth councillor and
Kramer campaign manager Ashley Lumsden.
Using a technique borrowed from US mayoral campaigns where unknowns have
been known to romp to victory, Kramer is going to walk every high street
in London. ’It will give us more bites at the media cherry when
discussing local issues,’ says Lumsden. It is hoped that once the
campaign proper takes off next January, Kramer will be a household
Come the new year, when the final runners for London’s top job are
evident, it will be interesting to see how the different campaigns
After such a lengthy process to pass legislation for London’s 25-member
assembly and first directly elected mayor, a major problem is likely to
be driving the electorate to the polls. After all, by 4 May, 2000, it
will be two years since Londoners first said ’yes’ to a mayor for their