Who are you and why are you doing this?
We are Thoughtplay Ltd - a privately held UK company, run by Andrew Chapman and Paul Lenz. In the run up to the 2005 UK General Election we created whoshouldyouvotefor.com - the first widely used voter comparison site in the world. The quiz was taken by over one million people in the three weeks running up to the election, and was the Hitwise verified most popular political website in the country. Our US Presidential Election 2008 version was used over 250,000 times despite us having no time to actively promote it. We relaunched the site for the 2010 UK General Election and it was used over 400,000 times (it would have been much higher but the volume of traffic caused our servers to fatally crash on election day!). Over the last five years numerous similar sites have been created for elections around the world, driven in part we hope by the success and awareness of our original site.
What is the aim of the site?
The aim of the latest version of the site is to provide voters in the 2012 London Mayoral election with a simple tool to see how the policies of the main parties and candidates represent their views. While this site is not pursuing any political agenda we would obviously urge all users to research the issues in greater detail themselves before making their final voting choice.
Are you affiliated with any political party?
No. We are not members of or activists for any political party or movement. We have not received any payment from any political party, organization or individual to create the site.
How do I use the site?
Select whether you strongly agree, agree, are neutral, disagree or strongly disagree with each of the statements made. You should only select a 'strongly' option if this is an issue that you care deeply about - we wouldn't expect many users to select more than seven or eight 'strongly' options. The site will then compare your feelings on the statements made against the policy statements of the main parties. The site will then suggest which party you should vote for based on a points system which scores your result.
How does the scoring system work?
Each opinion you give will score between -9 and 9 points each political party, depending on how closely your views reflect theirs. The points for each opinion are totaled, and the party which gets the highest score is the one recommended to you. The number of points allocated to each party for each opinion statement is clearly key to this survey. The allocation of points has been based, wherever possible, on clear policy statements from the parties concerned. Where a clear policy statement has does not exist, a judgment is made based on similar policies, speeches or statements of general philosophy. In some instances where a party or candidate would go significantly further than the statement (for instance Jenny Jones legalising drugs on the decriminalisation of cannabis question) point allocations of 9,3,-3,-9 are used. In other instances where a party shows partial agreement/commitment to a policy issue allocations of 3,1,-1,-3 have been used. The detail of the points allocated for each party for each question is available to registered members of the site.
I believe that you are misrepresenting the position of a political party/candidate, what can I do?
If you are a private citizen with no connection with a political party, then nothing. Parties are big enough and ugly enough to look after themselves, and if they believe that we have got something wrong (and indeed care sufficiently) then we are sure that they will get in touch. Further to this point, if a political party or official representative of a candidate feels that we are mis-representing them on a particular issue, please would an official party spokesperson contact us directly - via email in the first instance, including a contact landline number. We would be happy to discuss with your objection, and how you believe your policy should be represented, provided you are prepared to substantiate the position on the record.
I'm the campaign manager of a major political party/candidate, how much will I have to pay you to make my party come up as the recommendation every time?
Nothing, nada, zip ? as you really should have gathered from the above we are independent and can't be bought. Even if we did try and rig the system it would become immediately obvious as we are completely transparent about the system of points allocation.
The successful candidate should have previous experience as either Mayor or Deputy Mayor
Fairly simple and straightforward for the first question out - do you think it is important for the person seeking to Mayor to have experience in that or one of the deputy roles? Obviously Boris and Ken have both been Mayor, but you might not know that the Green Party Candidate, Jenny Jones, served as Deputy Mayor under Ken Livingstone in his first term The scorings reflect this
Candidates for public office should pay at least 40% tax on earnings over £42,475
Aha, the tax question! Now this is very interesting, or to be more accurate, it is very interesting to us in Thoughtplay Towers. Many of you will be probably be aware that Boris has claimed that Ken has avoided tax by having money paid into a company, rather than to him personally. As companies only pay tax at a rate of 20% then Ken has effectively paid a lot less tax then he should. Polling data suggests that lots of Londoners believe this, and it is reflecting badly on Ken's campaign. The problem is, Boris is (seemingly) unaware of how the tax system in the UK works. The company might only have paid 20% tax on its profits, but the money is then sitting in the company. If Ken wants to get his hands on it then the company will have to pay him a dividend, and Ken will have to pay tax on that dividend. He isn't avoiding anything. Don't just take our word for it - read this piece in CityAM by Doug Richard. (We should add that Doug has made a couple of small errors though - he compares the 20% + 32.5% rate of dividend tax against the 50% rate of tax incurred on earnings over £150,000 pa - actually at that rate the dividend tax rate is 42.5%. However he doesn't take into account that there is a dividend tax credit which then nets down the total % owing in both instances. Simple huh? And who says tax doesn't need to be taxing.) Anyway, it seems that all of the candidates pay an appropriate amount of tax, with only Lawrence Webb (to date) no releasing information. The scores reflect this.
The Mayor of London should have been born and brought up in London
Do you think it is important for the person running London to be a true "Londoner'? Do the need to have spent their childhood and adolescence here to really understand the heart of the city? Or can any person with the requisite skills run the city? Ken was born in Lambeth and grew up in Tulse Hill. Boris was, yes, born in New York City and spent his childhood in Brussels, Sussex, and famously Eton. Jenny Jones grew up in Brighton. Brian Paddick in Balham, growing up in Tooting Bec. Siobhan Benita was born in Wimbledon and grew up in Merton. We don't know where Lawrence Webb was born and brought up. The scores reflect this.
Cannabis should be decriminalised
Again a nice simple question. Jenny Jones and Brian Paddick share this view - Paddick pretty made this a reality in Lambeth when he was a police commander. Jenny would indeed go further and legalise cannabis Boris is anti, what does Ken think? Well, we tracked down this statement he made in 2002 praising Paddick's scheme: so we deem him to be broadly pro. For Siobhan Benita and Lawrence Webb we are not certain where they stand. The score reflect these positions.
London should have more police officers
A simple question, but potentially complicated answers. With Boris and Ken we can look at past performance as well as future promises - however how one assess that performance is open to debate. Anyone wanting to read the detail on this issue is urged to read this excellent piece of analysis on fullfact.org. The way that we have looked at this question for the former Mayors is to do the following:
London transport fares should NOT be reduced
Oh, before you ask, why have the word 'NOT' in there? Well that is all due to our policy on 'language neutrality' - yes, it is a bit clunky, but it does reduce the acusations of bias against us. So, fares then. This is another on with some numbers in - as we have past performance for Boris and Ken to look at. Here we go (for reference, please check out this)
A third runway should be built at Heathrow Airport
According to the BBC Siobhan Benita is the only candidate to support this. We believe the BBC. We do also additional weight the result of Jenny Jones to reflect her green credentials.
A major new airport should be built in the Thames Estuary to serve London
This is of course the plan to build an airport in the Thames, much pushed by Boris. Actually the idea isn't that new, look you can read all about it here. Ken is against, Jenny Jones is definitely against, as is Brian. Given Siobhan's push for the third runway at Heathrow she likewise is not for it. We did a quick search on Lawrence Webb's site and we got the pretty amazing result: Nothing Found Sorry, but nothing matched your search criteria. Please try again with some different keywords. Ho hum. We do however know he wants to "Redevelop Manston Airport in Kent as international hub serving London via upgraded existing rail to Victoria."
New-style Routemaster busses should be introduced into London
New Routemasters - love 'em or hate 'em you can't err, ride on them yet. Boris loves them, Ken hates them - as does Siobhan. From this tweet is would seem that Brian is not a fan either. As for Jenny we found this statement: The Green Party said its London mayoral candidate Jenny Jones had questioned "how the mayor will deal with the problem of fare evasion and also, whether expenditure on the new bus is the best environmental choice". So not a huge fan, but not massively anti. For Lawrence Webb.
More trees should be planted in London
The trees, those useless trees, produce the air that I am breathing. Boris thinks there should be more of them, he wants to plant 20,000 in the coming year. "20k? pah!" says Brian Paddick "I want to plant 2 million by 2025!". (In the interests of accuracy we must state that we have no idea if Brian Paddick has ever said these words. He does want to plant a lot of trees though. Seriously, a lot. Tonnes.). Ken likes trees too - in fact he is a woodland trust celebrity supporter>. He thinks we should plant, oh, a million. Jenny Jones has said that planting trees "is important". We are as yet uncertain on the positions of Siobhan and Lawrence on tree planting - we hope to update as we learn more.
Rental properties should be officially checked and/or landlords assessed
This is perhaps a bit of clunky question, but it is intended to broadly reflect the fact that a number of candidates believe that there should be more controls in place to ensure that people renting from private landlords are better protected. Boris would introduce a landlord accreditation scheme, Siobhan, a rental property MOT where properties are assessed, Brian Paddick, a 'Mayor's kitemark'. Whilst all different the broad spirit is the same. Ken doesn't have a specific policy on this issue, but does want to set up a non-profit lettings agency - not really addressing this problem though. Jenny Jones would do something similar (see next question). Lawrence Webb?
An ethical/not-for-profit lettings agency should be set up for London
Very much a follow on from the earlier question - Ken and Jenny pro, the others not so - though Brian Paddick would "Set up a 'Rent London' website which will help students and young people searching for decent and affordable accommodation".
London should reduce its CO2 emissions by at least 90% by 2030
Brian Paddick would aim for a zero carbon London by then, Jenny Jones would aim for 90%. As far as we can tell, none of the other candidates have made similar specific commitments in CO2 reduction.
The Education Maintenance Allowance should be brought back
Jenny and Ken both support this. Siobhan has no clear statement on this. Boris seems to be at least not anti - see here.
An independent office of Budget for Responsibility for London should be established
This is a policy specific to Siobham Benita.