Analysis: Why has the mayoral race turned so personal?

20 April 2016, Blog

Much of the debate around the London mayoral race has centred on the personalities and background of the two main candidates, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith. At almost every opportunity, Khan tells voters that he is the “son of a bus driver”, and much of Goldsmith’s campaigning rhetoric has attacked Khan’s ‘radical’ personal connections. This kind of campaigning comes across as negative, and gets in the way of the real policies, so why is it being played out this way?

In Khan’s case, he may believe that his humble background is his selling point. It certainly differentiates him from his rival’s privilege. By focusing on his own personality, he could also be attempting to distance himself from the Conservative propaganda message presenting Khan as “Corbyn’s man in City Hall.”

Goldsmith is perhaps more guilty of deploying personal attacks in his campaign; we have seen these gain momentum in the past few weeks. Goldsmith has described his opponent as “radical“, “divisive” and a “dangerous experiment” who has given “oxygen to extremists“. The rise could be linked to the fact that recent polls have indicated that Goldsmith is lagging behind Khan.

Some perceive that Goldsmith’s attacks are backfiring. Labour has accused the Conservative candidate of running a “desperate” and “racist” smear campaign against his Labour opponent. There have even been charges of islamophobia.

The media has viewed Goldsmith’s campaign as somewhat lacklustre, and has made unfavourable comparisons between his charisma and that of the current mayor, Boris Johnson. This could go some way to explain why he has chosen to a personal line of attack against Khan, but whether or not this will be successful will be decided in less than two weeks’ time. 

Helena Frisby, Account Manager 

JBP Staff Member

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