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15 January 2021

Shaun Bailey is a loser, but the Conservatives haven’t “lost” London

Our new Redfield & Wilton poll puts the Tory candidate 21 points behind Sadiq Khan. That’s not surprising, but some of the survey’s findings are. 

By Stephen Bush

Sadiq Khan is on course for a landslide victory in this year’s London mayoral election. That, far and away, is the least surprising part of our poll of the capital’s electorate by Redfield & Wilton*. Khan, at 49 per cent before transfers are taken into account, is 21 points ahead of Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate, whose 28 per cent of the vote puts him closer to the third and fourth place candidates, the Liberal Democrats Luisa Porritt and the Greens’ Siân Berry, on 10 and 9 per cent respectively, than it does to the Labour mayor.

That’s what we’d expect, given that Khan is a very able campaigner, and Bailey, who recently suggested that shared ownership could help London’s homeless off the streets because they could save for a mortgage, might not be the worst possible Tory candidate, but he cannot be far from it.

What’s more striking is that our poll shows, contrary to the consensus in much of Westminster, that London is far from being a city the Conservative Party has “lost”. Two-thirds of Londoners say they could “definitely” or “maybe” see themselves voting for a Conservative candidate in the future. While a greater proportion of Londoners (81 per cent) say they could “definitely” or “maybe’”see themselves voting for a Labour candidate, the capital’s willingness to elect Conservatives compares favourably to the Liberal Democrats (69 per cent) and Greens (66 per cent).

There is one party, however, to which London definitely is a cold home: that of Nigel Farage. Some 60 per cent of Londoners say they could “not at all” see themselves voting for Reform UK.

The Conservative conviction that the party cannot win London and that denigrating the capital is a cost-free proposition could yet become self-fulfilling.

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The poll has implications well beyond the capital: it’s a reminder of an important and neglected truth, which is that British politics has become more volatile because there are many more swing voters than ever before, with voters more willing to try different parties. That makes elections more difficult to predict, stable and enduring parliamentary majorities harder to come by, and political strategies based around the idea that such-and-such group will “never” vote for you more foolish.

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*Redfield & Wilton polled a representative sample of 1,500 Londoners.