The MP for Battersea, Jane Ellison (CON) spoke on behalf of the ‘Back Boris’ campaign, whilst local Councillor and candidate for the London Assembly, Leonie Cooper (LAB), put the case for the ‘Ken for London’ team.
Jane Ellison took the floor first and offered a personal touch, stating that both she and Boris have known each other since University. “Boris has been Boris for as long as I can remember,” she said. She went on to state that she believes that the Mayor has put the interests of his city ahead of his political party, that he has to see the sense in keeping the major banks within London: concluding with the tagline: “London needs a Mayor who believes that this city’s best days are ahead of it, not behind it”.
Councillor Cooper then spoke about Ken Livingstone’s achievements when in office, his proposals for changes in policy, and how these might benefit students and others on low income, before finishing with the challenge, “If you want to have an approach that is fair for all Londoners, you need to be voting for Ken Livingstone”.
Students cross-questioned both speakers about their candidates’ policies on transport, affordable housing, and, of course, Higher Education. There was even a debate sparked around the question of why the city needs a Mayor at all.
But the biggest surprise of the session was the dramatic change in students’ voting preferences after hearing the debate. Anonymous electronic voters used before and after the session showed that the percentage of students who would vote for Ken Livingstone jumped from 17% to 54%. Most of these ‘swing’ voters had previously been committed to voting for another candidate altogether, or didn’t know which way they would vote. The percentage of those who said they would vote for Boris Johnson would be their pick declined slightly from 38% to 31%.