Incumbent mayor Boris Johnson, the Conservative (a.k.a. Tory) Party standard bearer, has been reelected to lead the city of London, one of the word’s leading financial and cultural centers, for another four-year term. In a rematch, Boris Johnson again defeated Labor Party candidate Ken Livingstone. Several minor party candidates were also on the ballot. London will be in the spotlight this summer as it hosts the 2012 Olympic Games.
Boris Johnson was just declared the winner by about 52% to 48% (after including the second preference) over Livingstone after a marathon ballot counting effort, including several delays, that ended shortly before midnight London time. Livingstone somewhat overperformed in that pre-election polls favored Johnson by six percentage points. Some 2 million votes were cast in the London mayoral election.
The London election offers what might be described an instant run-off, formally called a supplementary voting system. On election day, voters select their first and second preferences. If no candidate gets to 51% on the first preference, the second-choice is factored in to the calculation to determine a winner. This procedure avoids the need to hold a second election on another day.
Johnson, a pragmatic conservative and sometimes controversial gadfly with the Justin Bieber haircut, was a former journalist and television commentator who was born to British parents in New York City but has lived in England since he was five. He served in the U.K. parliament from 2001-2008. The equally controversial Livingstone is a self-described socialist who has a history of making anti-Semitic statements. Livingstone served as London mayor from 2000 to 2008.
Political writer Charles Moore of the London Spectator described the difference between the two candidates as follows:
[Boris Johnson] may not have yards of clear policies, but his essential message is important and genuine. He believes in freedom, and has a strong preference for letting people get on with their lives without official molestation. He is equally genuine in seeing his voters as Londoners, rather than blacks, whites, Muslims, gays etc. In all this he remains the opposite of Ken Livingstone, who sees politics wholly in terms of groups who can be made his clients with public money and then enlisted for his relentless assault on this country’s liberty, identity and tradition. It is actually more important now that Boris should win than it was four years ago.
Like the Democrats in the U.S., the Labor Party enjoys a sizable registration advantage in the cities, but some portion of the Labor vote was unable to support Livingstone. Before the election, Labor Party stalwart Dan Hodges blogged that “Ken Livingstone is one of the most crudely divisive figures in British politics.”
Labor made big gains in other municipal and local elections in London and across the country on Thursday, however, at the expense of the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition, in a low turnout (30%) election.
Here is a satiric look at both candidates from the Guardian:
Johnson released this YouTube video on election eve:
According to The Wall Street Journal, the person who gets the keys to London city hall “oversees a budget of about £14 billion ($22.7 billion) and serves as an ambassador for this summer’s Olympic Games. The mayor runs the city’s transport system and has some powers regarding policing and housing, though a lot of power falls to the national government.”
Although the London mayoralty is a quasi-ceremonial position, Boris Johnson is seen by many observers as a future political leader of the whole country, especially if his Conservative Party colleague David Cameron, the current U.K. prime minister, falters.
Do you think U.S. elections should have the instant run-off feature?
[image credit: Boris_Johnson_-opening_bell_at_NASDAQ-14Sept2009-3c.jpg]