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Does Susan Hall have any hope against Sadiq Khan?

The Tory London mayoral candidate’s vocal support for Donald Trump and Liz Truss means she will likely struggle in a Labour-voting city.

By Freddie Hayward

Congratulations Sadiq Khan on your election for a third term as London Mayor. I’m being flippant, of course. But that does seem to be the most likely outcome after the Conservative Party selected Susan Hall as its candidate for next year’s mayoral contest. The former Conservative London Assembly leader received 57 per cent in the run-off against Moz Hossain. 

The process to select a Tory candidate has been chaotic: senior politicians such as the London minister Paul Scully unexpectedly were excluded, and the front-runner and former David Cameron aide, Daniel Korski, withdrew over sexual misconduct allegations (which he denies). All of which has led to the selection of Hall, a relatively unknown figure.

Hall hails from the party’s right. She was a Boris Johnson fan, praised Liz Truss’s mini-Budget and supported Donald Trump’s re-election campaign to “wipe the smile of [sic]” Khan’s face. That is not an optimal record on which to win over a largely Labour-voting city. 

[See also: Keir Starmer’s most dangerous months now lie ahead]

There are several key pointers in the forthcoming campaign. First, expect Hall – whose slogan is “Safer with Susan” – to go hard on the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) and crime. Tomorrow’s by-election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip will be worth studying to see whether opposition to Ulez is a Tory vote-winner.

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Second, watch out for how involved Conservative Campaign Headquarters gets in Hall’s campaign. It distanced itself from Shaun Bailey (now Baron Bailey of Paddington) when his dismal 2021 mayoral attempt became unedifying. This is unlikely to happen again given Hall needs all the help she can get, but remember that candidates sometimes prefer to run a more independent campaign (see the West Midlands mayor Andy Street).

Third, Khan is not polling particularly well on most policy areas. The incumbent does have vulnerabilities, particularly the loud opposition to the Ulez expansion in outer London. That said, a recent poll from Redfield & Wilton had Khan eight points ahead of a generic Conservative candidate. And he will be able to ride the wave of support that Labour is expected to have ahead of the next general election.

Fourth, the electoral system is changing to first past the post, meaning there will be no option for a second preference. It will be interesting to see whether that spurs Green and Liberal Democrat supporters to vote tactically in favour of Khan to keep Hall out. Finally, Jeremy Corbyn is “ruling nothing out” on whether he would stand as an independent. Corbyn still has a substantial, if reduced, following. Will he run? And to what extent would he cut into Khan’s lead?

Additional reporting by George Fitzmaurice.

[See also: Why MPs are fleeing Westminster]

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Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
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