Sadiq Khan has swept to victory in the 2021 mayor of London election, comfortably beating out Tory challenger Shaun Bailey.
After two rounds of voting, Khan won with 1,206,034 total votes to Bailey’s 977,601 votes.
The incumbent mayor won the election in a closer race than most pundits expected, with Bailey getting the most votes in several outer London constituencies that were expected to go to Labour.
Khan’s vote share was down by about one per cent from the 2016 election.
In his victory speech Khan said that he would “strain every sinew” to “build a better and brighter future for London after the dark days of the pandemic and to create a greener, fairer and safer city for Londoners”.
“I’ll always be a mayor for all Londoners – working to improve the lives of every single person in this city,” he said.
He also addressed Labour’s poor performances in elections over this weekend.
“The results of the elections around the UK show our country and our city remains deeply divided, the scars of Brexit are yet to heal, the crude culture war is pushing us further apart,” he said.
“As we now seek to confront the enormity of our challenge ahead and we endeavour to rebuild from this pandemic, we simply must use this moment of national recovery to heal those damaging divisions.”
Khan led Bailey in polls by 20+ points for the past year, leading many to predict a landslide.
The race was neck-and-neck during the first day of counting, before Khan kicked away to a solid lead today as a series of solidly Labour constituencies reported results.
Khan based his campaign around his plans for London’s Covid recovery – including the creation of new jobs and skills centres for young people and a campaign to get people back into central London – while also touting his socially liberal credentials to London’s progressive-leaning electorate.
He often attacked the pro-Brexit Bailey for not having “London’s values” in reference to a long history of socially conservative comments the Tory candidate has previously made on welfare recipients and ethnic minorities.
Bailey, a former social worker, ran as a “tough on crime” candidate, promising to hire 8,000 more cops and to increase the Met’s use of random stop and search.
Bailey said in his speech that throughout the long campaign that was delayed by Covid-19 that there was “one feeling that was the same” – “that was being written off by journalists, pollsters and fellow politicians”.
“I am proud my campaign was able to shine a light on many things that people are being unheard on,” he said.
Addressing Khan, Bailey said: “I hope you take this opportunity to concentrate on the fact that people who look like me are four-times more likely to be murdered than people who look like you.”
Khan’s team lament low turnout in London mayor election
The turnout for the election was 42 per cent – down three per cent from 2016.
Labour was blaming the closer than expected result on a low turnout, with one party source saying there was “no question we are seeing significant impact from turnout and voters believing they could put a smaller party first preference without influencing the election result”.
It also appears that Khan lost many first preference votes to Green candidate Sian Berry, who increased her vote by 2 per cent from 2016.
Khan got the most votes in the constituencies of North East, Barnet & Camden, Greenwich & Lewisham, Merton & Wandsworth, Enfield & Haringey, City & East and Lambeth & Southwark.
Bailey got the most votes in the constituencies of West Central, Havering & Redbridge, Ealing & Hillingdon, Bexley & Bromley and Brent & Harrow, Croydon & Sutton and the South West.
A senior London Tory party source told City A.M. yesterday that Bailey had “acquitted himself really well”.
Bailey, a former social worker and current London Assembly member, came closer to beating Khan than the Tory’s 2016 candidate Zac Goldsmith.
“He’s tapped in to what people are talking about – he’s had his ear to the ground and he’s tapped into something in London,” the source said.
“He’s been talking about knife crime, about violent crime where Sadiq Khan just keeps blaming the government for it.
“He’s a bright star of the party and he has a lot to give.”
Noticeably, Bailey outperformed the Tory London Assembly vote in every constituency bar one – Merton & Wandsworth.
Professor Tony Travers, local politics expert at the London School of Economics (LSE), told City A.M. that this indicated Bailey was “more popular than the Tory party in London”.
“I think maybe his authenticity has come through and that people think he’s un-spun,” Travers said.
He said that Khan’s camp would be “relieved” that it held on to win and that next time around both parties would want to give more resources to the mayor of London campaign.
Tory minister for London Paul Scully said Bailey “defied the usual naysayers, campaigned on the issues that matter to Londoners”.
“That’s why voters turned to him, running Sadiq Khan close in what’s wrongly been described as a Labour city,” he tweeted.