George Galloway for London mayor? Labour shouldn’t dismiss it as a joke
It's worth saying from the outset that George Galloway has zero chance of actually being elected as mayor of London. He has only just been booted out of his parliamentary seat and the last time he stood in London he came a poor third behind both the Labour and Tory candidates.
He is a shameful opportunist with very little obvious support outside of a small area of East London. In order for him to be elected it would take a collective act of mass hysteria not seen since the Great Fire of London. It is simply not going to happen.
However, it would be wrong to dismiss him entirely as a joke candidate. Galloway for all his many weaknesses, remains a skilled campaigner. His surprise victory in Bradford West shocked everyone but Galloway himself.
More importantly the London mayoralty has always been a personality contest and although Galloway's personality is not to everyone's taste, he remains a skilled orator and a big name. In a low-key battle between two relatively unknown Tory and Labour candidates, Galloway could still cause an upset. One thing is for certain, if Galloway runs he will get lots of attention from the press and wider media. This won't be enough to win but it could be enough to disrupt the race.
Luckily for Labour, the mayoral voting system allows Londoners to give first and second preferences, so even if Galloway does take a significant number of first preferences votes from Labour supporters, it won't necessarily affect the final outcome.
I'm standing for Mayor of London 2016. If you can help in any way, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org pic.twitter.com/UDX0KMZ2VO
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) May 28, 2015
However, in a close battle it could make a difference. It is also a further sign that Labour cannot be complacent about the result of next year's contest. London was the only part of the country where the party made significant gains in the general election. However, they did nowhere near as well as they had expected. Despite their success in local and general elections in London, they have a terrible record of winning mayoral elections. Out of the four held so far, they have won just one. Boris Johnson's departure and the shortage of any obvious Tory successors, means Labour are currently the firm favourites to take City Hall next year, but that could all change very quickly.
As we have seen in Scotland, voters no longer have the same tribal attachment to Labour that they once did. If a more appealing left-wing party led by a more charismatic politician comes forward, Labour's support can quickly drain away.
While a similar collapse seems highly unlikely to happen at the hands of Galloway, his decision to stand is just the latest reminder that Labour should take their voters for granted at their peril.