Winning back the suburbs
There's an interesting debate going on between Ken Livingstone and Tessa Jowell about why the suburbs didn't vote Labour in last May's Mayoral election.
I think there are aspects to what both of them say that are correct.
Tessa is right to suggest people in the suburbs thought Labour was anti-car and in favour of high taxes.
Ken is right that some people in outer London feel Labour nationally has let them down over lack of new social housing (though I doubt all but a few tenant activists care if their home is managed by the council, an ALMO or a housing association) and lack of support for manufacturing. But that's one kind of outer London voter, blue collar on the big peripheral estates, not the taxi-driver and white collar demographic living in semi-detatched stereotypical suburbia.
Other factors were cultural. Ken gave the impression of being a voice only for places like my home patch of Hackney - he talked a lot about inner London and multi-cultural London's concerns and not much about making life better in Croydon or Havering. And he didn't visit those areas enough as Mayor or candidate. There aren't many votes in hugging up to Hugo Chavez amongst Dagenham residents. He also alienated two large blocks of swing votes in suburban London - the Jewish community because of his stance on Islamist preacher Yusuf al-Qadari and his row with Evening Standard journalist Oliver Finegold; and black cab drivers with his stance on breaking up their monopoly in favour of licensed minicabs.
My hunch is that the suburban vote is leftwing on the economy and extra spending on public services and might have bought a message about Ken's investment in the police and the tube if it had been properly put to them; but populist/rightwing on tax, immigration and crime and did not feel Ken's campaign was talking their language on these issues.
Rather than swapping theories though, maybe someone should commission some research and polling so we can actually define what suburban voters are like (there's a lot of difference between say Harrow and Bexley) and what really motivated their support for Boris.