PR battle begins ahead of May election for London Mayor

The PR battle in the election of the next Mayor of London has heated up, with the first Monday of the new year seeing coverage of the impact on commuters of train fare rises.

City Hall: Headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA)
City Hall: Headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA)

While the annual study on train ticket prices by the Rail Delivery Group is always a major story in the first working days of January, it has taken extra significance this year ahead of the 5 May election of London's Mayor.

Labour's mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan has said he would freeze rail fares for four years if elected, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has joined a protest against fare raises, while some media coverage has reported that commuters are paying £1,000 or 25 per cent more for travel since David Cameron became Prime Minister.

The press team for Khan is led by Patrick Hennessy, the former Sunday Telegraph journalist who joined the party as deputy director of comms in 2013. PRWeek understands that Hennessy was appointed to Khan's team within days of his selection as candidate. His team, which is run independently rather than out of the London Labour Party, is supplemented by James Ryan.

Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith - who now appears to be second favourite for mayor after Khan – has been quieter on the issue of rail fares, and instead will begin the year focusing on housing.

PR for Goldsmith is being led by Katy Eustice, who told PRWeek she was on secondment from the agency CTF Partners. Eustice, who married Conservative MP George Eustice in 2013, is working with Enfield MP Nick De Bois, who is running the Goldsmith campaign. Eustice and colleagues are based in Conservative Campaign Headquarters in London although Eustice is not working alongside the central party press office.

Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon's PR is led by Nick Carthew, who is employed by the party itself.

Siân Berry, the Green Party candidate, will have her campaign led by Adam McGibbon, a campaign manager who has worked for the party since 2013. The media element of the campaign is led by London campaign press officer Simon Edge. The party's candidate Jenny Jones came third in the 2012 election.

UKIP candidate Peter Whittle – reported by PinkNews last year to be the only gay candidate in the race – already has several PR staff working for him within the party, and announcements will be made shortly, a UKIP spokesman said.

Mayoral candidates may spend a maximum of £420,000 on their campaigns between their official declaration as a candidate and the election day, according to Electoral Commission guidance. The earliest date candidates can officially declare themselves is 21 March – although the major parties all chose their candidates in the autumn.

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