Just a week after the publication of the Demos report Faithful Citizens, which established linkages between people of faith and progressive politics, comes evidence that religious issues are creeping into the forthcoming and hotly-contested elections for London’s Mayor.
This is suggested by a YouGov poll for the Evening Standard, conducted online between 13 and 15 April 2012 among a sample of 1,060 Greater London residents aged 18 and over. The full data tables are available at:
One of the questions asked was about the eleventh-hour intervention of the current London Mayor, the Conservative Boris Johnson, to block an advertising campaign on the capital’s buses by two Christian groups (Core Issues Trust and Anglican Mainstream).
The proposed advertisement appeared to suggest, as Johnson saw it, that ‘being gay is an illness that someone recovers from’. The poster was widely regarded as mocking one by the pro-gay group Stonewall which implied that homosexuality is perfectly natural.
51% of Londoners thought that Johnson had been right to ban the advert, rising to 58% of his own supporters, 12% more than among the backers of Labour’s Mayoral candidate (Ken Livingstone), who one might have expected to have taken an even tougher pro-equality stance.
Women were more likely to endorse Johnson’s actions in the affair than men, the 18-24s more than older age cohorts, non-manual workers than manuals, and whites than non-whites. 26% opposed Johnson’s intervention, with 24% undecided.
More generally, 48% of voters thought that, in his election campaign, Johnson wanted to help some groups more than others (with 35% convinced he was out to assist all Londoners). Of the former sub-sample, 78% identified rich Londoners as the group being advantaged by Johnson and 23% white Londoners. Only 5% each said Jews or Muslims, although the proportion reached 11% and 13% respectively among those intending to vote for Johnson as Mayor.
Slightly more of the whole sample, 53%, believed that Livingstone was out disproportionately to benefit only some groups of Londoners. Of these, 41% were convinced he wanted to help Muslims (rising to 53% among the over-60s), 40% Black and Asian Londoners, and 40% poor Londoners.
9% (and 12% of his own supporters) saw Livingstone as out to favour Jews, a figure which may be slightly inflated on account of the humble pie Livingstone has been publicly eating following his recent suggestion that Jews would not vote Labour because they are too rich.
This is not the first time that Livingstone has incurred the wrath of British Jewry. In 2005, when in his second term as Mayor of London himself (he was unseated by Johnson in 2008), he got into very hot water by refusing to apologize for likening a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard. Public attitudes to the controversy were tested out in a ComRes survey at the time, in which 50% thought that Livingstone had been wrong not to apologize and 32% right.
Coming back to the current YouGov poll, it would appear that London’s Jews are not seen as being especially courted by either of the two main Mayoral candidates. However, whether true or not, Livingstone is obviously perceived as making a strong pitch for the Muslim vote, in contrast to Johnson. 22% of all Londoners think Livingstone has the Muslim vote in his sights.
This accords with a widespread view in the 1980s and 1990s that Muslims particularly favoured Labour, but that all seems to have changed with Muslim opposition to the Labour administration’s military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s.
Doubtless, fresh in Livingstone’s mind are the lessons of the recent by-election in Bradford West where Respect’s George Galloway inflicted a heavy defeat on Labour’s candidate (Imran Hussain), with a 37% swing, apparently as a result of a widespread defection of Muslims from Labour to Respect.