2024 is the year of the election.
With the endless speculation of whether we could be facing a Spring or Autumn election (or even later) in the UK, it’s easy to miss what is going on elsewhere.
However, with more than half of the world’s population going to the polls (health warning: not all will be free and fair), it would be foolish to not take note of the trends we are seeing.
Take the election result in the Netherlands last month. The right-wing Party for Freedom and its leader Geert Wilder’s surprise victory sent shockwaves across Europe.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was quick to respond, sending a digital rallying cry to progressives warning of the dangers of complacency against the “threat of the far-right”.
Why has the result of one election rattled the Mayor so much?
Talking to those in City Hall, Khan sees London as the first battleground in a year of fending off the right.
The most obvious figure the Mayor has in mind is Donald Trump, who remains favourite to become the Republican Presidential candidate.
But he is also looking at the trends elsewhere. In India, for instance, voters in the world’s largest democracy look set to reward the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi with another term.
Returning to Khan, the question stands as to why he, the Mayor of London, is concerned about what is happening in national elections elsewhere.
While progressive values obviously run deep in the Mayor’s blood, the answer might be that it’s also a handy electoral tool.
Critics say his record as London’s chief is mixed. Despite some delivery in both areas, housing and transport costs are still rising, and violent crime remains a concern. Not to mention ULEZ expansion – which polls say divide Londoners.
His supporters would argue that in fact he’s been hamstrung at every turn by central government, and his big-ticket policies – the return of council house building, free school meals and the Superloop bus – have been a success.
But with all that said, Khan’s team will be looking to drive a wedge between him and the Conservative hopeful, Susan Hall, on values. Her historic social media activity, for instance, is something her opponents argue leaves her at odds with London being a welcoming, liberal city.
Despite successive polls showing Khan in a comfortable lead, the Mayor’s team is looking at ways to motivate his voters to turnout. They think positioning May’s election as a ‘stand up and be counted’ moment could prove effective – a call-to-arms for liberals and progressives alike.
And what’s more, with the possibility of a Labour government on the horizon, eagle-eyed observers will have noticed Khan’s references to what could be achieved with both a Labour Mayor and Prime Minister working together.
Predictions are a mug’s game. But in a policy-light era, positioning London as a key battleground in stemming the 2024 populist tide could see the incumbent Mayor returned for a third term.
Earlier this year, Portland and Ketchum launched Beyond the Ballot. With elections the world over, the tectonic plates could shift dramatically over the next 12 months. We’re already sharing our insight with business leaders across the US, UK and Europe, as they try to chart a course through the turbulent year ahead.
Visit beyondtheballot.com to find out how we can help.