Political PR: Mayoral nominees put faith in PR for exposure - Candidates for the newly created post of London mayor are finding innovative ways of working around party rules to boost their image in the eyes of the electorate

As the party political selection processes swing into action, so the campaign race for mayor of London is hotting up.

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

members.



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

any eventuality.



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

Mark Fullbrook.



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

name.



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

progress.



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

city.



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