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  1. Politics
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8 September 2023

Will Sadiq Khan lose the London mayoral election?

The London Mayor is just a point ahead of his Conservative rival Susan Hall even without Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot.

By Freddie Hayward

Could Jeremy Corbyn prevent Sadiq Khan’s re-election as London Mayor next year? There have been rumours of Corbyn’s possible entry into the race as an independent candidate for months. Today, polling for Times Radio suggests Corbyn would win 15 per cent of the vote if he ran, which would be enough to deprive Khan of a historic third term.

While Corbyn has refused to rule out a bid, he is more likely to stand as an independent candidate at the next general election in his Islington North constituency, where he has been the MP for 40 years. Regardless, the poll is a reminder that three years on from the 2019 election, Corbyn and the politics he represents retain a significant following.

What is most surprising about the the Times’s result is that, without Corbyn, Khan and the Conservative candidate, Susan Hall, are effectively tied (with Khan on 33 per cent and Hall on 32 per cent). Hall, a relatively unknown figure who hails from the right of the Tory party, is a supporter of Liz Truss and Donald Trump. As this is not a strong position from which to fight a London mayoral campaign, her standing in the polls is an indictment of Khan.

There are also structural reasons why City Hall should be concerned. Next year’s election will be the first held under first past the post. In the past two elections, Khan was able to rely on the supplementary voting system, under which many Lib Dem and Green voters chose him as their second preference. But he will now have to prevail in a single round (last time, Khan finished five points ahead of the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey in the first round, a narrower margin than many expected).

The new system makes Khan’s re-election for a third term less likely. He will have to persuade Lib Dems and Greens to make him their preferred candidate (the two parties are on a combined 25 per cent in the poll). This is one reason why Khan is unlikely to back down over the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) or move to the right to target Conservative voters: he needs to shore up progressive support.

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Khan needs to persuade Lib Dem and Green voters that a vote for smaller parties is a vote for a Conservative mayor. Educating a whole city on the intricacies of electoral systems is a tall order. But the Mayor’s fate might rest on convincing Londoners to vote tactically.

A London Labour source said: “We always knew this was going to be a close two-horse race. The Tories have changed the way Londoners vote for mayor to first past the post to make it easier for them to win. That’s why Labour is asking Londoners to lend their vote to Sadiq to stop the Tories from winning and doing to London what they’ve done to the country.”

[See also: Does Susan Hall have any hope against Sadiq Khan?]

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