London’s diplomats voted Boris Johnson as the best ambassador for London of all the mayoral candidates in an Embassy poll conducted on the eve of the local elections.
Johnson won convincingly, with 38 per cent of envoys believing he would represent the city more effectively than his arch-rival Labour candidate Ken Livingstone, who only managed to secure the approval of 19 per cent of diplomats.
Diplomats cited the Conservative candidate’s “larger-than-life” personality and “international outlook” which would be useful for raising the profile of London on the international stage. Others mentioned that Johnson was good at articulating his policies and was a “media magnet”.
Meanwhile Livingstone’s supporters said he would have made a good ambassador for London because of his “cutting edge” policies and his receptiveness to new ideas.
However, when it came to choosing the best overall candidate for London, the diplomatic vote was locked in a dead heat between frontrunners Johnson and Livingstone.
The Embassy survey revealed a much closer contest than in 2008, with the Conservative incumbent and his Labour rival both garnering 33 per cent of the vote.
Lib Dem hopeful Brian Paddick trailed in third place with 19 per cent, down on his 2008 performance, probably due to a solid performance of independent candidate Siobhan Benita (who attracted 10 per cent of the vote), and the Greens’ Jenny Jones, who got 5 per cent of diplomatic support.
Johnson’s supporters credited the incumbent for being a “good technocratic manager” of London as well as raising the international profile of the city during his term. He also scored highly for creating more space for international cultural events.
Johnson’s detractors, meanwhile, accused him of “lacking substance” and “not delivering enough for Londoners during his term”. Johnson’s cycling policies attracted praise and criticism in equal measure from diplomats.
Livingstone, meanwhile, was seen as an innovator who was most trusted to run an affordable transport network, lower taxes, improve social security and create jobs.
Opponents of Livingstone said they “didn’t trust” the Labour candidate and had doubts that he would be able to deliver sustainable policies in London. Others said voting for Livingstone would be a “step backwards”.
Former Met police officer Paddick scored highly on community policing and managing safety and security in London, while other supporters wanted to vote for the Lib Dem candidate because they were “fed up with the other main candidates, who spend most of their time trying to score points off the other”. Paddick supporters also felt the media had not given the Lib Dem candidate a fair share of coverage.
Some embassy workers were impressed by independent candidate Siobhan Benita and would vote for her “to make a refreshing change from the Boris-Ken seesaw”.