Next year's election for London Mayor may be about to get interesting, if this report for the Observer's Pendennis column
It would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago but top sources at Northcliffe House say the London Evening Standard will back the Lib Dem Simon Hughes in next year's London mayoral contest. The volte-face for the avowedly Tory/Ken-hating paper comes after what Northcliffe sources say was a 'friendly and very productive' meeting between Hughes, Viscount Rothermere and the paper's editor, Veronica Wadley. Apparently, the Tories' candidate, the love-god who is Stephen Norris, no longer cuts the mustard at the Standard - leaving the way open for Hughes who will be pro lots of things and anti-nothing. Genius.
I don't think it reflects any real move on the Standard
's part if it does happen, just a reflection of the reality that the electoral mathematics mean Hughes is probably the only candidate who can beat Livingstone. Why do I think that? Because of the two-preference system London uses to vote.
Consider this. As Livingstone is now likely to be Labour's candidate, there are going to be only three major candidates in the race - Livingstone, Hughes and Norris - with the second preference votes of the third place candidate deciding who wins out of the two leaders. The polls I've seen indicate that Livingstone is going to have a healthy lead on first votes, with Norris and Hughes in a battle for second.. So, whoever finishes second is going to need to get a healthy majority of the third place candidate's votes to beat Livingstone. Hughes' voters are, I would think, more likely to give their second preferences to Livingstone than Norris, whereas Norris' are more likely to go for Hughes than Livingstone. Thus, while Livingstone is the favourite, and I think he's likely to win regardless of who comes second, Hughes is more likely to have the opportunity to beat him than Norris. This is why the Standard
, which has been strongly anti-Livingstone, might back Hughes, on the grounds that he has the better (although slim) chance of winning than Norris.