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|London Mayor promises to work
harder after narrow election win
By City Mayors' London Correspondents
5 May 2012: London Mayor Boris Johnson said he and his team would work theirs socks off for London after he narrowly defeated former mayor Ken Livingstone in Thursday's mayoral elections. The results were only announced late last night after the count was severely delayed when it was discovered that two batches of ballot papers had been ‘mislaid’. Boris Johnson’s victory margin of 51.5 per cent to 48.5 per cent for Ken Livingstone was much closer than opinion polls had predicted only two days before the elections.
What new powers has the London mayor gained since 2008?
Under the 2011 Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, the London mayor acquired the powers over budget and appointments of the police in the capital which elsewhere in England will be vested in directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners from November 2012. A new Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC, known as ‘Mopsy’) performs this role, which was previously undertaken by the Metropolitan Police Authority. The 2011 Localism Act also gave the mayor a new role in economic development and housing, performing the functions of the Homes and Communities Agency in the capital and giving him the power to establish mayoral development corporations (such as for the Olympic Park).
What issues are likely to define the 2012 campaign?
The London mayoralty is a very different beast to the modest city-wide office created in post-millennial Britain in 2000, both in terms of its powers and role and the makeup and outlook of the capital itself a decade or so on. Having recently acquired significant powers over policing, crime remains quite prominent among Boris Johnson’s campaign themes, with the recent Stephen Lawrence murder trial and phone hacking scandals propelling the Met police to the fore of media attention. Labour challenger and former mayor Ken Livingstone has made the running on transport and housing costs, especially topical during the recession, accusing the mayor of unnecessary fare rises and failing to provide more affordable housing for low earners. While Livingstone brought the 2012 Olympics to London and Johnson delivered the venues on time and on budget, being able to preside over the capital’s hosting of the games is a substantial prize for whoever wins.
Are the London elections of any national significance? Is it just about how the capital is run?
Local elections in the UK are often seen as a mid-term referendum on the government of the day’s performance, but under the mayoral system in London personalities of candidates have much more sway to determine outcomes. Until early 2012 Boris Johnson was thought to have an edge over Ken Livingstone and Labour usually polls well ahead of Johnson’s Conservative Party otherwise in the capital. A defeat for Labour under Livingstone would be interpreted as another set-back for Labour’s beleaguered national leader Ed Miliband, while a Conservative victory under Boris Johnson would be seen as reassuring for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s mid-term prospects. However, Johnson’s re-election is also seen as a potential threat by Cameron’s supporters should Johnson seek national office himself.
How is the Mayor of London different to the Lord Mayor of the City of London?
The Mayor of London was created in 2000 as executive head of the Greater London Authority and is elected by 5.8m voters, the largest franchise in Europe after the French and Portuguese presidencies. The ancient office of Lord Mayor of the City of London Corporation was created in 1189 and is chosen annually by the livery companies (ancient guilds) of the City of London to act as a figurehead for the ‘square mile’ financial district. The best known holder of the office was Richard Whittington (d. 1423), later popularised in the story of Dick Whittington and His Cat.
What does the London Assembly actually do?
The London Assembly’s formal role is to scrutinise the policies and appointments of the London mayor and hold him to account. It can also amend or reject the mayor’s budget by a two-thirds majority. The London Assembly also conducts investigations into issues affecting the lives of Londoners and appoints some of its members to London’s fire and transport authorities.
Why haven’t I heard of it before? Which assembly members might I have heard of?
Compared to the London mayor, the assembly tends to have a lower public profile, not least because of media indifference to its role and functions by comparison. Several current assembly members are or have served as London Borough councillors and leaders, while several former members have gone on to be Members of Parliament or serve in the House of Lords.
Conservative assembly member Kit Malthouse has served as Deputy Mayor for Policing since 2008 and is visible in the media on law and order issues. His Conservative group colleague Richard Tracey was formerly a Member of Parliament (1983-1997) and an environment minister under Margaret Thatcher. Brian Coleman has been a frequent, if controversial, media presence on account of his bellicose chairing of the London fire authority.
Labour’s Len Duvall is the former chair of the police authority (2004-2008) and party boss of Labour in London. His group colleague Nicky Gavron served as Deputy Mayor of London (2000-2003 and 2004-2008). Darren Johnson, of the Greens, was mayoral candidate in 2000 and 2004 and was briefly national party leader in 2002.
What are the spending limits for candidates?
The limits on expenditure for the London elections are:
• Mayoral candidates: £420,000
• Constituency Assembly candidates: £35,000
• London-wide Assembly candidates: £330,000 (for an individual independent candidate or political party list).
Candidates and political parties are limited to how much they can spend on their election campaigns during the ‘regulated period’ which starts on
20 March 2012 and runs up to, and including, polling day.
When will the results be known?
On 4 May 2012, the day after polling day, the counting of votes cast in the Mayor of London and the London Assembly elections will begin. This process will take place in three count centres across London: Alexandra Palace, ExCeL Exhibition Centre, and (Kensington) Olympia. The 14 Constituency Returning Officers will notify constituency Assembly candidates of the results at the count centre, while the list candidates and mayoral candidates will be notified of the results in the main chamber of City Hall once all three count centres have counted and verified their ballots.
Who or what is the Greater London Returning Officer?
The Greater London Returning Officer (GRLO) is the chief election official as defined in law. In the UK each election is supervised and declared by a Returning Officer. The GLRO ensures that election law is adhered to and manages the efficient and fair administration of the polls. The GLRO in 2012 is John Bennett, Head of Special Projects and Elections at the GLA. Previously the role was undertaken (in 2004 and 2008) by Anthony Meyer, the then GLA Chief Executive (that post since abolished by the current mayor Boris Johnson).
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