The importance of the London mayoral election

[T]his is a big job and a serious political prize. It represents the largest direct electoral mandate in western Europe, bar only the presidencies of France and Portugal. The mayor of London is chief executive for a city of 7.5m people, commanding a budget of £11.3bn. His decisions on transport affect not only those who live in London, but the hundreds of thousands who commute into the city and the millions of other Britons, and tourists from around the world, who visit.

The mayor has a huge role in planning decisions: some will say Livingstone has had more impact on the London skyline, by allowing a new crop of tall buildings, than any other individual. And he oversees the Metropolitan Police.

So the job itself matters. But this contest has an extra political weight. Fairly or unfairly, it will be seen as the first electoral test of strength since Gordon Brown took over as leader of the Labour party. If Labour were to lose in London, it would be a severe blow to Brown, an omen of defeat to come: London and the south-east have been crucial elements in the New Labour coalition. A Johnson victory would be hailed by the Conservatives as clear evidence that they were on their way back to power.

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