Boris clings to poll lead
The race for Mayor narrowed today in the final poll of the campaign.

By Pippa Crerar
Published May 1st 2008 in Evening Standard
Boris Johnson's lead has almost halved to six points over Ken Livingstone as the capital goes to the ballot box.

In the final YouGov poll for the Evening Standard, the Tory candidate was on 53 per cent to the Mayor's 47 in the almost inevitable run-off. The results suggest the contest will go to the wire as 11 per cent of voters said they had still not decided.

As the leading candidates took to the streets for last-minute campaigning, Mr Livingstone made his first prediction of the outcome.

"If you ask me to guess, I expect to win by 52 to 48 per cent," he said.

Mr Johnson was handing out leaflets to commuters at London Bridge while Mr Livingstone was visiting key battlegrounds. The Tory candidate was seven points ahead on first preference votes on 43 per cent to Mr Livingstone's 36 per cent. This is down from 11 points - 46 per cent to 35 per cent - in the YouGov poll earlier this week.

Polling experts suggested the wider gap on Monday could be explained by Mr Livingstone being hit by Labour's national troubles over the 10p tax rate.

With the race so close, turn-out will be a key factor. The Tories, with their core support among older people who are more likely to go to the ballot box, would benefit from a lower turn-out while Labour needs a higher proportion of Londoners to vote to have a chance of winning.

Another crucial factor in the final outcome is likely to be the large number of undecided voters. When asked to choose solely between Mr Johnson and Mr Livingstone, the Tory MP remained ahead on 46 to 40 per cent. However, 14 per cent of Londoners said they still "don't know".

The survey will bring some relief to Mr Livingstone as it shows his support among traditional Labour voters is strengthening, suggesting they are planning to vote. This backs up Labour claims that there has been a solidifying of support on the doorstep in recent days.

The Mayor has also slightly increased his lead on second preference votes from one point to four points ahead. It is now a dead heat with his Tory rival among 18 to 34-year-olds, up from 11 points behind in the last poll, and he has narrowed the gap to two points in the 35 to 54-year-old age group.

However, the over-55s remain overwhelmingly behind Mr Johnson, with 49 per cent of the grey vote backing him compared with the Mayor's 30 per cent. Mr Johnson's support among traditional Tory voters also remains extremely high.

He retains his lead among both male and female voters although in both cases it has narrowed by several points.

The poll suggests his credibility will still be an issue as 41 per cent of Londoners agreed he was not serious enough to be mayor, down just one point from last week, although there was a four-point increase in those who disagreed.

Mr Livingstone could suffer from the row over cronyism at City Hall as 62 per cent of voters agreed he had made some "extremely bad" appointments in picking his closest advisers.

The poll will bring some relief to Lib-Dem Brian Paddick who, after dismal showings, was up to 13 per cent of first preference votes.

This would mean he avoids the embarrassing prospect of coming in lower than Susan Kramer in 2000, though would still not reach Simon Hughes's 15 per cent mark in 2004.

Mr Paddick claims the support he is receiving on the capital's streets makes him believe he will do better than any of the polls have suggested.

His predecessor Mr Hughes appeared to endorse Mr Livingstone last night for the Lib-Dem second preference vote, which Mr Paddick has resolutely refused to do.

For the London Assembly, the Tories collected 40 per cent of the vote - up 12 per cent on 2004 - while Labour was up eight points on 33 per cent, and the Lib-Dems were down three points to 14 per cent. This suggests Labour and the Tories could each pick up one seat.

However, there is also a very real prospect of both the Greens and BNP winning seats - although according to the poll the far-Right party is just below the five per cent threshold needed to take one, so turn-out will be key. The London Assembly is likely to be made up of nine Tories, seven Labour members and five Lib-Dems, as well as the Greens and the BNP.

A spokesman for the Johnson campaign said: "The only result that counts is the one at the ballot box today. We urge everyone in London to vote for fresh thinking, new ideas and a change for the better."
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