In the first of a four part series looking at the main candidates in the London Mayoral Election, we analyse Brian Paddick’s campaign for the top seat in City Hall.
It is probably fair to say that once again Brain Paddick has not lit up this Mayoral election campaign. After knocking five percent off the Lib Dem vote in 2008, Paddick has performed abysmally in recent polls, with predicted vote share as low as six percent, putting the party’s £10,000 deposit at risk.
Fully aware of his poor performance last time round, Paddick has consistently claimed that he has matured as a politician in the last four years. It is unclear whether he counts his short stint in the celebrity jungle as part of this. That particular episode has done little to boost his personality in the eyes of the electorate and as we well know this election is all about charisma.
Of course this year Paddick is not only unpopular personally but is aligned to a criminally unpopular party. Although far from a party political stalwart, Paddick has not managed to divorce himself from national politics like Boris and Ken. Perhaps just to save some face rather than in a concerted attempt to win, the Lib Dems seem to have thrown a lot of money at this campaign. Brian Paddick’s is the only politician’s face I have seen smiling down at me from various billboards and tube posters in the last few months.
As with everything that the coalition era Lib Dems attempt however, they just haven’t got it right in this election. Constantly playing on Brian Paddick’s ex-cop image, they have sidelined sensible, popular policies like a one hour bus ticket to shout slogans like “you break it, you fix it”. Indeed Paddick used his entire opening speech on the Newsnight Mayoral debate to talk about crime as if he’d stumbled in to a police commissioner election a few months early.
Crime is an important issue and consistently ranks highly as one of the priorities Londoners want to see from the Mayor. But does Brian Paddick really make you feel safer? Furthermore a YouGov poll conducted in January showed that amongst Lib Dem voters “tackling crime” ranked a lowly fourth behind “improving transport”, the “cost of living in London” and “affordable housing” as the top issues that the Mayor should focus on. Isn’t it time the Lib Dems realised that if they are going to survive as a party, they need to start appealing to their core voters?
In conclusion then, Paddick is set to be embarrassed when Londoners vote on May 3rd. Whether this is his last attempt to break in to politics remains to be seen. But the Lib Dem’s experiment with populism has been a disaster and they should look to entice a much more credible figure in to the running next time round. Lembit Opik perhaps?