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Face-off: is it undemocratic to make mayoral candidates pay so much?

Posted at 5:15 pm, March 25, 2012 in News

Mayoral Campaign at City Hall

London mayoral election candidates must raise a £10,000 deposit, returnable if they win at least 5 per cent of first-choice votes. We ask: Is it undemocratic to make prospective mayoral candidates pay so much before they can stand? Read below for your chance to hear two opposing views on the issue, and have your say in our Time Out poll.

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Yes- Wolfgang Moneypenny, prospective mayoral candidate

‘The question I get asked most regularly on the campaign trail is, “How are you funding your campaign?” “Proper” politics is seen to be for either the rich or party political teat-suckling conformists.

‘The best political minds have long since given up fellating the dead corpse of representative democracy. It is only the consensual sell-outs who work their way through the intestines of party machinery to be sent – complete with deposit – into battle for high office.

‘This £10,000 is only one of a number of blockades to real engagement between our best thinkers and mainstream politics. Do not, therefore, be surprised that bright young things occupy, protest, squat and riot whilst the mayoralty is contested by muppets from another world.

‘I admit that some level of restriction helps prevent the election getting clogged up with clueless comedy candidates. And for practical reasons, some degree of candidature limitation is useful to avoid the confusion of bog-roll-length ballot papers.

‘But money is such an institutionally conservative differentiation. I instead suggest something liberatingly heterodox to the commodification of London: a childhood residency criterion for standing as mayor. Aside from having the happy coincidence of ruling out the incumbent, Boris Johnson, it should prove a precept of similarly restrictive efficiency given the ongoing economic eviction (sorry, “urban renaissance”) of born-and-bred Londoners. London is an engine of inequality. We need to allow spanners a chance of getting in the works.’

No- Martin Hoscik, editor of website www.mayorwatch.co.uk

‘To run as Mayor, the rules require each candidate to demonstrate public support and credibility by collecting the signatures of 330 backers – ten in each borough – and paying a deposit of £10,0000. That’s an average of £30 per backer.

‘While I understand the temptation of independents to complain that the rules are undemocratic, I think that’s an unrealistic position to adopt. Based on polling, Londoners will elect Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson. Even with the backing of a government party, their nearest rival is polling 30 points behind.

‘As they did in 2004 and 2008, Londoners are looking to the two main national parties for their mayor. To overcome voters’ kneejerk drift to the familiar, an independent candidate would need to energise an army of Londoners and conduct a high-profile and necessarily expensive campaign.

‘At the last election, the independent candidate polled just 0.22 per cent of the first-round vote. By comparison Boris Johnson polled 43.20 per cent in the same round. The figures for the 2004 election are 0.36 for the independent and 36.78 for Ken Livingstone. ‘At both elections the independent runners were a statistical irrelevance to the outcome. It defies reason to suggest or believe those excluded because they failed to gain the required number of backers or raise the deposit would somehow have done better.

‘The entry requirements are a reality check. They are London’s way of politely saying: “If you can’t secure a fairly minimal level of backing before the election, you have no chance of winning of it.” ’

Nominations for candidates for the London mayoral election close on March 28. The candidates list is published on March 30. Londoners can register to vote until April 18. See www.londonelects.org.uk.

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