Livingstone overtakes Boris in London mayoral poll shock

Boris the celeb is popular, but Boris the politician is showing his weaknesses against the veteran Ken

Column LAST UPDATED AT 14:41 ON Thu 19 Jan 2012

LONDON politics just got interesting again. After a series of polls suggesting Boris Johnson would easily win re-election as Mayor of London on 3 May, a YouGov poll released today has put Ken Livingstone two points ahead.

With just over three months to go before Londoners vote, the survey suggests that in the first round 46 per cent of Londoners would vote for Livingstone, 44 per cent for Johnson and seven per cent for Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick.

With Paddick's vote likely to be shared equally on the second ballot, Ken would be the winner.

This is - to put it mildly - extraordinary. Last June Boris was enjoying an eight-point lead over his Labour opponent and appeared destined to oversee the London Olympics and - who knows - become the next Tory leader after Cameron.

Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, says the change since last June is "enormous" and the poll shows the race is too close to call.

There is no denying the YouGov results are tremendous news for Ken and his supporters - and clearly they are mainly down to his recent promise to cut bus and Tube fares.

Crucially, the YouGov figures show a drop in the number of Labour voters who are willing to vote for Boris because they simply prefer him to Ken - the so-called 'Labour for Boris' brigade.

Joe Murphy, the Evening Standard political editor, also points out that the proportion of Londoners who see Livingstone as being "in touch with the concerns of ordinary people" has risen from 37 to 40 per cent; at the same time, the proportion who think Boris is "in touch" has fallen from 20 per cent to 13 per cent.

This will be a sobering day for Boris. There is no doubt that he is likeable and that the combination of blond mop, articulate speeches complete with Latin one-liners, and an exotic background of mistresses and Fleet Street anecdotes appealed to many, and not just Conservatives.

But that was Boris the celeb - not Boris the politician. It was always likely that when the finish line came in sight the mayoral race would become more political and the fact that Johnson is a Tory would begin to tell.

The hobnobbing with 'Dave' and 'George' might sound delightful when he's chatting to Humphrys and Co on the Today programme, but it is a reminder to ordinary Londoners of where his allegiance lies.

Livingstone has been a folk hero among Londoners for a lot longer - not because he's likeable but because he's an astute politician.

While Boris has been banging on about his airport in the Thames estuary, Ken has been concentrating on the travel issue that concerns ordinary Londoners - not the future of flying from London to Beijing, but the cost of taking the 176 from Tottenham Court Road to Penge. ·