One of the most famous snapshots of President Truman shows him holding a newspaper aloft: the headline is “Dewey Wins”. So certain was the paper that Truman had been beaten that they ran the wrong story when they went to print. I’m sure that all the confidence and certainty of triumph made Dewey and his supporters feel nice at the time, but history is made by actual votes, not headlines or polls, so Truman was President.
That’s worth remembering as London votes today. Opinion polls show a Conservative Mayoralty, but polls are often wrong. So if you think that a Boris win is guaranteed, and that you don’t need to bother voting, you’re wrong. It’s that very feeling that can lead to surprise results. In part because interest in local government per se remains stubbornly minimal, and in part because people erroneously think that they know what will happen, turnout is going to be low – but Ken’s rock solid core vote will definitely come out.
From the client base he built up amongst those who benefited from his largesse with your money, those of his extreme views (remember he welcomed Sinn Fein/IRA to London at the very height of the Troubles) and those who thrive on the culture of jealousy he so assidulously cultivates, there will be votes en masse for Ken that you never quite expected. These people aren’t polled much. They don’t shout the odds or appear on political chat shows. But on the day, the Labour machine drives them (metaphorically and literally) to vote.
If you’re reading this site today, the odds are that you're not only a Conservative or at least inclined towards Conservatism, but also that you’re a part of London – an optimistic, aspirational, ambitious part – that Ken’s core just despises. You embrace all parts of our capital, and you want better for London. But Ken’s bitter sectional warriors don’t share your openness – they resent you for doing OK, and even for wanting to do well – and they don’t want better for London (most especially, not for you) – they want better for themselves.
Remember, too, that some people will mistakenly use this vote as a referendum on our national government, a chance to “stick it” to Cameron and the Coalition. They’ll vote against Boris, too. Others will come out to punish their local Tory Councils and vote against Boris into the bargain. Those “collateral” votes against Boris may be cast for the wrong reasons, but they count all the same.
So you can’t rely on others to do it for you: if you want to protect the future of business in London, you’ve simply got to vote for Boris. Furthermore – and I've never asked ConHome readers to do this before – you should email this to your friends, and tweet it. After all: do you want to wake up tomorrow and find out that Ken is our Mayor? If your honest answer is “yes”, then do nothing. But if the idea of Ken being the representative of London when we welcome the world to the Olympics makes you feel queasy, then vote before you head home tonight.