What's stopping Oona King?

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 12 August 2010 in Diary
Last night Oona King had her first campaign party at her HQ near Canary Wharf.

Last night Oona King had her first campaign party at her HQ near Canary Wharf. The party had an open invite, advertised on Twitter to King's 4,000 followers, and had free advertising on Guido. But King could only muster around 30 supporters (and that's including her team). Listening to King, she was passionate, full of enthusiasm and had sensible policies. So what could be hampering Oona King's bid?

"The Labour leadership elections just take all the publicity away. It's the wrong time," said one of King's people. On the publicity front, we are in recess and the press are flocking towards any signs of activity. However, given that the mayoral elections are not until 2012, Labour could easily have chosen to have a longer contest which flows into 2011. Instead, the candidate will be announced September 23, 2010 at Labour’s conference.

The greater problem is not the date, but that King is lacking time — she only declared in May. Livingstone's had two years to build a team and cultivate policies. In contrast, Oona has only just found an office. As her aides told Total Politics, until recently, they were working out of her living room. It was not until this week that both an office manager and heavyweight Wes Streeting (ex-NUS president and Labour councillor) were added to the team.

But timing isn't King's only obstacle: trade union members have a 50% share of the vote. Oona has her very own trade union co-ordinator but, out of the 13 unions, King has the support of two and Ken has nine.

Shouldn't it just be Labour voters who decide on their candidate (after all most union members aren't even members of the Labour Party)? "The problem with the trade-union system is that it is rather outdated," replied one person on Oona's team. He continued: "Unions don't really do anything except give money... I shouldn't say that."

A change to the Labour system isn't going to happen in this contest, but it should be welcomed. Until then, it isn't all doom and gloom for King. Alongside the crisps and cheap wine she enthused that, after a texting poll of 10,000 supporters, she was on 42% and Ken was on 35%. One of her phone volunteers informed me that it is actually a lot closer: 53% to King and 47% to Livingstone.

Either way, King is slowly digging in to Livingstone's lead. With only three weeks to go Livingstone is putting £10,000 on victory. Personally, I wouldn’t call it.

Sunny Hundal for Liberal Conspiracy has followed up my blog. You can read it here.

Image Credit: Getty images

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