11 April 2012

John Coyne - how he could become the first Green Mayor of a British City (Part 3)

There have been two parts to this already, with a variety of points, written before the campaign began in earnest. Now we are underway, things are moving in our direction and the prospects are good. You'll note the slight change in the title also, because my good colleagues in Stroud have pointed out that they have had a Green Mayor already!

David Bartlett's blog is now essential reading for anyone following the political story of this election. Today he has covered our manifesto launch, summed up by this comment at the end of the Echo story:

"This is the most interesting and detailed manifesto I have read so far. New ideas, not just the same old promises that have been made over and over again. Looks to me like the most capable candidate to challenge Joe."

Significantly the Dale Street Associates blog has also picked up on the odds being offered on the various candidates. This confirms what we already knew, Labour's Joe Anderson is an incredibly strong favourite, the Lib Dems are currently seen as the nearest challengers and we are third favourites. If the election was tomorrow, that would probably be right, but things are moving in our direction.

We've picked up that many strong Labour supporters are not happy being bounced into a mayoralty without a referendum. They are looking around for a protest vote that is definitely not one of the coalition parties, but will still second preference Joe Anderson. We need to be attracting those votes and when we are speaking with people or they get to see the policies we advocate and the motions we've put to council over the years, they are happy to back us. Our main difficulty is that we are in a big city and we are a small party. We won't cover every ward, never mind every street, but we are going to do more than ever before in a Liverpool wide election.

A second factor we've noted is the perceived weakness of the Liberal Democrats. They have only managed 25 out of 30 candidates in the local elections. I've heard one theory, which is that they deliberately stayed out of Central, Riverside and Princes Park in the hope that we would be challenging for these seats and diverting Labour resources there. However it doesn't explain no shows in Everton and Belle Vale. My feeling is that it is precisely that - weakness. That, coupled with the realisation that there are no circumstances that a coalition party could win against Labour in Liverpool, means that even local Lib Dem voters, who will back Lib Dem councillors against Labour challengers in their remaining wards, are open to the best way to beat Joe Anderson in the Mayoral contest.

This is why the campaign and the media coverage for the Greens is going to be crucial in the coming three weeks. We have a very well designed slot in the Mayoral booklet and we'll be covering a great many postal voters with direct leaflets, but what will be crucial is how people see us and how they see John Coyne. He is a credible candidate, with 10 years experience as a city councillor. He was once a Liberal Democrat, but resigned on a point of principle to join a smaller party with no guarantee of holding his seat. People admire a politician with the courage of his convictions. My view is that more people can see of John versus Joe, the better things will go for us.

On the flip side Joe has always been a very pleasant guy in person to me, going back to the days when he was leader of the opposition, but he does seem to have a marmite quality that you either love him or hate him. What is clear is that everyone, the bookies included, currently look at the contest as a foregone conclusion. Even those who don't want Joe as Mayor are resigned to it. I said in a previous post that if a credible "No2Joe" candidate emerged, that would change this contest. John Coyne has the potential to be that person.

The campaign is not half way yet, but it is going to be interesting and I feel we are going to do well. Keep an eye on the odds put out by the bookies. On the day we launched our manifesto the Lib Dem candidate Richard Kemp started the day at 7-2 and has finished it at 11-2. We are at 10-1 at the moment, but as political punters will know, George Galloway started his Bradford campaign as a 33-1 outsider.

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