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London Mayoral Series: An introduction to the top six contenders

Using in-camera HDR in low light.

Comment Editor Sam Pennifold introduces six key candidates for London Mayor and explains why Sadiq Khan may easily top the lot.

On the May 6th, all those who have been registered to vote by midnight on April 19th will be eligible to cast their vote for the next Mayor of London. The London Mayoral elections currently use a Supplementary Vote system, where voters choose a first and second preference. If no one receives a 50% majority based on first preferences the top two candidates enter a runoff. If your first choice candidate makes it to this runoff your vote stays with them, however, if your first choice does not make it through but your second does then your vote is reassigned to them. This system is designed to give a clear winner with a 50% majority.

On the other hand, in parliamentary races, where the first-past-the-post method is used, you could see the winner of a constituency holding the largest proportion but not a 50% majority of the vote. Note, this method of voting is set to change in 2024 under the current Conservative government in a ploy to swing the elections towards them.

Since the role of London Mayor was established in 2000 there have been two mayors, each serving two terms: Ken Livingstone an independent who had Labour backing and now Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the Conservatives. The third Mayor of London is Sadiq Khan of Labour who is seeking re-election in May.

First round polling by Opinium polling gives Sadiq Khan a clear majority of 53% of the vote, enough to win outright in the first round without a runoff. But who is Mayor Khan and who has the opposition put forward to challenge him?

Sadiq Khan, incumbent Mayor of London and Labour Party candidate

Mayor Sadiq Khan was born and bred in Tooting, south London to a British Pakistani family. He has been a human rights solicitor, as well as a Labour councillor for the London Borough of Wandsworth and MP for Tooting for eleven years until he was elected Mayor in 2016. As Mayor, he has implemented night tube services, frozen Transport for London (TfL) fares (though they have now risen) and introduced the Low Emission Zone. He has also backed the expansion of London City and Gatwick Airports. In 2020, he established the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm following the momentous Black Lives Matter protests in London and around the world. Whilst having a largely successful first term, many have criticised Khan for his handling of rising knife crime in London. Khan argues the crime surge is due to funding cuts from the central government rather than the Mayor’s office. For his second term, Khan promises to continue to stand up to the Conservative government, as well as backing his council tax hike and extending the Low Emission Zone.

Shaun Bailey, London Assembly member and Conservative Party candidate

Khan’s most serious opponent comes in the form of Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey who is struggling in the polls at only 28%. Bailey, like many of the candidates, is a born and bred Londoner hailing from North Kensington. Born to a British Jamaican family, he has worked with young people for most of his life; for three years, he was a special advisor to then-Prime Minister David Cameron on youth and crime. He is currently a member of the London Assembly that holds the Mayor of London to account and has twice run and failed to be elected to two different parliamentary seats in London. Shaun Baileys key campaign promises include hiring 8,000 more police officers, reopening 38 police stations, opening 32 new youth centres with 4,000 new youth workers, building more affordable housing for under the 40s, fixing the black hole in TfL’s finances and a range of other policies.

Louisa Porritt, former Member of European Parliament for London and Liberal Democrat candidate

Louisa Porritt is a Liberal Democrat (“Lib Dem”) hailing from Camden. She has been a Lib Dem politician since 2016; in 2018 she became a councillor for the London Borough of Camden and in 2019 was elected as a member of the European Parliament where she was the deputy leader of her party. Her main promises include reinventing London’s high streets, the creation of a London Apprenticeships Hub and establishing a London Housing Company to build affordable homes. She has been critical of the Conservative government’s handling of Covid-19 and also of Sadiq Khan’s management of TfL.

Porrit is currently tied at 7% in polling with Siân Berry of the Green Party. 

Siân Berry, London Assembly member and Green Party candidate

Siân Berry is one of few Mayoral candidates not from London, she was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. She became involved in the Green Party at age 27 and is now is the co-leader of the party in England and Wales. Berry has previously run for Mayor of London in 2008 and 2016 where she came a distant third, being eliminated before the runoff. Her key campaign promise is to make London’s transport system net-carbon zero by 2030, as well as supporting renters and minority groups. Berry has been a keen activist for her whole life working on campaigns, including banning four-by-four cars from cities. Former Mayor Ken Livingstone took part in this campaign when introducing a higher congestion charge for vehicles with higher emission rates.

Minor party candidates

At 5th place in polling sits Dr. Peter Gammons of UKIP on 2% and in 6th sits Mandu Reid of the Women’s Equality Party on 1%. With 2% of voters plan to vote for even more unknown candidates.

Gammons of UKIP is what one might call a rogue candidate, with a Twitter following smaller than my own number of Instagram followers it would be the underdog story of all underdog stories for Gammons to win the election. He gained his PhD from Canon University, Florida. Since the EU Referendum in 2016, UKIP has slowly faded into irrelevancy. 

Reid holds British nationality but was born in Malawi. A former member of the Labour Party, she is the current leader of the Women’s Equality Party.  She has stood unsuccessfully to be an MP. Her campaign mostly concerns fighting for women’s rights of all creeds and races, as well as other minority or discriminated groups. Whilst not a campaign to win per se it does highlight very important issues. A potential worthy candidate of a first preference vote.  

As well as these candidates there are several others such as actor Laurence Fox who founded the Reclaim Party in 2020 and YouTuber Max Fosh – who is only running to get more votes than fellow Harrow alumni, the aforementioned, Laurance Fox.

If the polls are anything to go by, the election is expected to be a landslide victory for Sadiq Khan, but it is still important to vote nonetheless and to be informed on the candidates.

The London Mayoral Elections and elections for the London assembly will take place on May 6th. All British and Commonwealth citizens are eligible to vote and can register before April 19th here.

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