Is Sadiq Khan’s lead narrowing in London?

Labour and Conservative sources both believe that the race to be London’s next mayor is closer than thought.


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Sadiq Khan’s lead has narrowed in the final set of polls before election day, meaning the London mayor may no longer avoid a second round run-off against his Conservative opponent Shaun Bailey

In a further blow, Khan’s staff and well-placed Tories both believe that the polls are underestimating the fall in the mayor’s support, as a combination of complacency among voters and anxiety about Covid-19 hurts the Labour incumbent’s chances.

“The blunt truth is: if you’re old, you’ve been vaccinated. And if you’re old, you’re likely voting for us,” a London Conservative said, “It’s Sadiq’s vote that is unvaccinated, worried about getting Covid and not registered for a postal vote. I think Shaun is going to surprise a lot of people.”

[see also: Sadiq Khan interview: “Brexit and Covid are a perfect storm against London”]

Adding to the unease in City Hall, Khan’s own private polling shows both a narrowing in his lead and widespread fears among Labour voters about getting Covid-19, with the party’s supporters much less likely to be vaccinated than Conservative ones. Senior figures in the Khan campaign conceded that the polls were “narrowing”. But well-placed sources in the Liberal Democrat and Green campaigns dismissed the claims, saying that their figures showed Khan easily winning. 

Are both the Labour and Conservative campaigns fussing over nothing? It’s certainly possible, given that most Londoners over 50 have now received at least one jab while most Londoners under 40 have yet to receive one, that differential turnout may cause a surprise. Or it may be that when the dust settles, Khan’s hope of a first-round victory remains and that London is not heading for the shock of the century: a Shaun Bailey victory. But as the mayoral contest enters its final 24 hours, what appeared a foregone conclusion may be in some doubt.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

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