For the past few months my comrades have been urging me to vote for evil. I must forget about Ken Livingstone’s decision to ignore London’s liberal Muslims and ally with the far Right, they say, and banish his Jew-baiting from my mind.
The condemnation of his own Labour government’s modest proposals to tax Indian tycoons and Russian oligarchs cannot be held against him. Nor should I mention his friendship with speculative developers whose grotesque high-rises will disfigure the London skyline well into the 21st century.
As for the public money that has disappeared into organisations run by friends of his cronies – come on, Nick, you’re a man of the world. There’s no need to get on your high horse. Just shrug your shoulders and remember that the only way to stop Boris Johnson is to vote for Livingstone – the “lesser evil”. For the past few months my comrades have been urging me to vote for evil.
But is it? The Standard’s poll this week showed Johnson 12 points ahead. As it stands, Livingstone can’t be re-elected because Johnson is almost home. If his popularity starts to fall, however, the candidate most likely to beat him is Brian Paddick.
This may seem an odd claim. The Lib-Dems are a distant third, and a vote for Paddick looks wasted. But everywhere I go I meet people caught in a Left-wing dilemma: we don’t want Johnson but we won’t be able to look at our faces in the mirror if we support Livingstone.
If enough of us were to swing behind Paddick, however, London’s perverse election system would be on our side. Here’s how. If no candidate gets 50 per cent of first preferences, then a run-off takes place. The second choices of voters for the eliminated minor parties are then counted and added to the leaders’ totals.
Obviously, hardly anyone who put Livingstone as their first choice will put Johnson as their second, and vice versa. But Paddick will be the second preference for most Labour and Tory supporters.
It will take nothing less than a mass defection of voters from Ken to the Lib-Dems in the first round – but if Paddick can get to the last round, he wins because a majority of second choice votes will come to him. But if Johnson is ahead and faces a final showdown with Livingstone, Johnson wins because the second preferences of Liberal-Democrat voters split evenly between Tories and Labour, as you would expect them to.
It’s a sign of how malicious and incompetent the Mayor’s campaign has been that he has smeared his rival as a “racist,” which Johnson isn’t, instead of a buffoon, which is how he often seems to many. Perhaps Johnson will give him a break he doesn’t deserve by making a spectacular blunder between now and polling day.
A lot can change, in other words. But as things stand, if you want a candidate who can reform the police, take a Leftish stand on social, environmental and economic issues and beat the Conservatives, then Paddick, not Livingstone, is your man.