In Depth

London mayoral election 2021: who is going to win tomorrow?

Londoners head to the polls after vote delayed by pandemic

Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan is campaigning for Londoners to keep him on as mayor for a second term as the capital heads to the polls tomorrow.

The vote has been delayed by a year due to the coronavirus lockdowns after officials said it would affect campaigning and voting.

Independent candidate and former Tory cabinet minister Rory Stewart dropped out of the race last May, telling the BBC it was “impossible” to ask unpaid campaign volunteers to work for another 12 months, but there are plenty of other candidates vying for the role. 

When is the election?

London will go to the polls on 6 May, the same day as a string of other elections across the country, including a by-election in Hartlepool, and local authority elections.

Who is in the running?

A record-breaking number of candidates are running this year, with 20 choices on the ballot paper, outstripping the previous 2016 record of 12.  

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, beating Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith by 56.8% to 43.2%. 

Khan announced last year that his intention was to make the mayoral race “a referendum on rent controls”. His manifesto includes a pledge for a £50m Green New Deal, outlining plans 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.

One of his latest campaign pledges is to create 170,000 green jobs if re-elected as mayor of London by creating jobs in flood-risk areas of the city, as well as continuing to electrify London’s bus fleet. Khan has also announced plans to review the decriminalising of cannabis, although the mayor’s office does not have the power to change laws.

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.

This month, the Conservative candidate pledged to reverse a recent 9.5% council tax hike, if elected. Bailey also outlined plans to extend London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (Ulez) and cut the capital’s congestion charge for motorists from £15 to £11.50. 

Luisa Porritt, Liberal Democrats: A Camden councillor and a former MEP, Porritt was selected when previous Liberal Democrat candidate Siobhan Benita withdrew from the race after it was delayed for a year.   

Porritt has said she will create a central housing company to take control of building homes in the city if she is elected. A London Housing Company would allow City Hall to “take control of building the homes we need directly”, she said. She has also pledged to commission a study into looking at turning offices into new homes as “in the coming years, we’ll have more empty office space come on to the market than ever before”. 

She has called for the resignation of Police Commissioner Cressida Dick after heavy-handed tactics were used by Metropolitan Police at a vigil for murdered marketing manager Sarah Everard in London in March.

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.

Berry has announced she would set a target of zero murders in London within ten years if elected. She said she will boost funding for youth services and early intervention programmes, as well as expand the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) set up under Sadiq Khan, which treats violence as a public health issue, rather than simply a criminal matter. 

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 are: 

  • Kam Balayev, London businessman, Renew Party  
  • Count Binface, satirical candidate created by comedian Jon Harvey, independent 
  • Valerie Brown, self-described mother, grandmother and vigilante, Burning Pink 
  • Piers Corbyn, weather forecaster and brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Let London Live 
  • Max Fosh, YouTuber, independent 
  • Laurence Fox, former Lewis actor, Reclaim Party 
  • Peter Gammons, motivational speaker, UKIP 
  • Richard Hewison, anti-Brexit campaigner, Rejoin EU  
  • Vanessa Hudson, film director, Animal Welfare Party 
  • Steve Kelleher, former Brexit Party candidate, Social Democratic Party 
  • David Kurten, retired teacher, Heritage Party 
  • Farah London, Croydon-based businesswoman, independent 
  • Nims Obunge, pastor and chief executive of The Peace Alliance, independent 
  • Niko Omilana, YouTube prankster, independent 
  • Brian Rose, former banker and media firm chief, London Real Party 

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.

What about the polls?

Of the 17 polls carried out since December 2018, Khan has trumped his opposition in every one. As election day draws closer, the latest YouGov survey carried out between 2 and 4 May gave him a 12-point lead over Bailey: 43% to 31%. The Greens came in third place with 10% of the vote, while the Liberal Democrats took 5%.

Londoners ranked housing, crime and the economy as the most important issues facing the capital, above health and the environment, which came in fourth and fifth place respectively.

Another poll by Opinium, for the London Evening Standard, published this week, gave Khan a 19-point lead. However, the Standard notes that the mayor is actually down three points since a similar survey a month ago, and has fallen below the 50% mark needed for a first-round landslide victory.

The newspaper thinks the drop in support is down to the “violent crime crisis” in the capital, noting that Khan and Bailey are “neck-and-neck on the issue of crime”.

“While people give Khan strong marks for his pandemic handling,” said Adam Drummond, head of political polling at Opinium, “his overall approval numbers have declined slightly and voters think that generally crime, housing and the economy are getting worse.”

Nevertheless, all the polls suggest that Khan is likely to return to City Hall, even if it has to go to a second-round run-off.

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