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Has there been a dirtier political scrap than this year’s London mayoral election contest?

Blog post   •   May 04, 2012 15:50 BST

There have been plenty of dirtier elections than this one. Despite the Boris-Ken lift in­cident, and arguments over their tax arrange­ments, this mayoral race was squeaky clean by comparison to some previous election contests.

The Bush family could teach us a thing or two about nega­tive campaigning. Mudslinging has featured prominently in lots of Presidential races. In 1988, George H W Bush destroyed Democratic candidate Mike Dukakis, by unfairly blaming him for the escape of convicted murderer Willie Horton. And in 2004, George W Bush used the Swift Boat veterans to ques­tion his rival John Kerry’s military service in Vietnam.

Yes, mayoral campaigns are more personal than tradition­al Parliamentary elections, but that’s partly the whole point. Personality can matter more than policy when we’re voting for a single individual. But Boris and Ken are usually quite civil and good-humoured to each other. They both have colourful personal histories, and yet these have remained largely private throughout this and the 2008 campaigns.

Why? A striking legacy of the expenses scandal is the im­portance of trust. More than ever, voters are looking to sup­port candidates with integrity. Mudslinging could just back­fire on the candidate throwing it, so we tend to steer clear.

This article first appeared in Public Affairs News - May 2012

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