In Depth

London mayoral race 2020: who will win?

Candidates face off on Friday in mayoral debate, with Khan leading in the polls

With the London mayoral election just two months away, the main contenders are due to face off this Friday at the Southbank Centre’s annual Women of the World (WOW) festival.

Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan, who beat Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith by 56.8% to 43.2% in 2016, will be making the case for Londoners to keep him on as mayor for a second term. But he will face an array of challengers on the debate stage, including Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, Liberal Democrat candidate Siobhan Benita, Green Party candidate Siân Berry, Women’s Equality Party candidate Mandu Reid and Independent candidate Rory Stewart.

According to the event website, the nominees will “battle it out on topics including the cost of childcare, safety on public transport, the gender pay gap, the NHS, women’s health and the increasing cuts to schools and social care”. Here is what you need to know about the 2020 London mayoral election.

When is the election?

London will go to the polls on 7 May, the same day as a string of other elections across the country, including for the mayors of Liverpool and Greater Manchester, and for local authorities in several regions.

Who is in the running?

Sadiq Khan - Labour: Sadiq Khan, the city’s incumbent mayor, will be running for reelection for Labour. He spent 11 years as MP for Tooting, and became London mayor in 2016.

Khan this week announced that he is making the race “a referendum on rent controls”. He has also pledged to make the capital carbon neutral by 2030, and said that he is trying to reduce crime despite facing government cuts. Khan wants to create more community and sports projects for young Londoners, and to fund 1,300 police in the city by increasing council tax by 26p a week.

Shaun Bailey - Conservative: The Conservative candidate, Shaun Bailey, is a former youth worker and special advisor to David Cameron, and has been a member of the London Assembly since 2016.

He has vowed to make tackling violent crime his “number-one priority”, arguing that he would be better at securing government funds for more Met Police officers than the Labour mayor. Bailey has pledged to fund policing without a big rise in council tax, but instead with a “tourist tax” levy on hotel rooms for those visiting London, alongside an emergency budget.

Siobhan Benita - Lib Dems: The Liberal Democrats’ Siobhan Benita ran as an independent candidate for mayor in the 2012 race, in which she finished fifth.

Having joined the Lib Dems following the EU referendum in 2016, the former civil servant is now pitching herself as potentially the “most business-friendly London mayor”. She has pledged to set up an international trade team at City Hall, to lobby government for a “London visa” that addresses skills needed in the capital, and to open a city-wide tech incubator.

Sian Berry - Green Party: Running for a third time, Sian Berry is the co-leader of the Green Party and a member of the London Assembly.

She has criticised Khan’s Green New Deal, saying that the £50m he has pledged to make the capital carbon neutral by 2030 is not nearly enough, and attacking his support for airport expansions at Gatwick and London City.

Berry is campaigning to cut traffic pollution, stand up for renters and restore community confidence in the police.

Rory Stewart - Independent: Rory Stewart, the former international development secretary and MP for Penrith and the Border, had a heavily publicised run for the Tory leadership in 2019, making waves by touring the country and speaking to people to try to understand their priorities and concerns.

Now running as an independent, after he became one of 21 MPs to have the Conservative whip removed when they voted to try to block a no-deal Brexit, he has made headlines with his #ComeKipWithMe campaign to come to Londoners’ homes and spend the night. He is pledging to build affordable housing, and to triple the number of uniformed police on the streets.

Mandu Reid - Women’s Equality Party: Women’s Equality Party leader Mandu Reid announced in February that she would represent her party instead of Professor Sue Black, who dropped out after experiencing medical complications relating to a vaginal mesh implant.

The pair have used the opportunity to shine a spotlight on what they call “health inequalities” between men and women, and part of their campaign now revolves around getting the mesh permanently banned in the UK. “The experience has strengthened my resolve to see the Women’s Equality Party elected,” Black said. “Until women have an equal say in decisions that affect our lives, we will continue to be dismissed and mistreated.”

The Guardian adds that “tackling domestic violence and London’s significant gender pay gap” will also be key campaigning issues for Reid.

Other candidates include:

  • Count Binface, satirical candidate created by comedian Jon Harvey, independent
  • Drillminister, London-based rapper, independent
  • David Kurten, Brexit Alliance London Assembly Member, independent
  • Winston McKenzie, political activist, Unity in Action
  • Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers, independent
  • Rosalind Readhead, environmental campaigner, independent
  • Nims Obunge, pastor, independent
How will the vote work?

The election will use a supplementary vote system, in which each voter has a first- and second-choice vote.

As the London Elects website explains, if a candidate receives more than half of all the first-choice votes they are elected. If this doesn’t happen, the two candidates with the most first-choice votes proceed to a second round. All other candidates are eliminated.

The second-choice votes of everyone whose first choice has been eliminated are then counted. Any votes for the remaining two candidates are added to their first-round totals. The candidate with the highest combined total of first- and second-choice votes wins.

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What do the bookmakers say?

According to the betting aggregator Oddschecker, Khan is the odds-on favourite at a best price of 1/6. Stewart is in second place at 6/1 and Bailey lags behind in third place at 20/1.

What about the polls?

Opinion polling for the contest has been thin on the ground so far, with the most recent survey - compiled by YouGov and Queen Mary University of London - published back in November. 

This poll gave Khan a 22% lead. The survey of 1,175 people put Khan in front on 45%, followed by Bailey on 23% and Stewart on 13%.


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