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Sadiq Khan elected London mayor for third term in further boost for Labour


Aletha Adu Political correspondent
Sunday May 5, 2024

Labour incumbent beat Tory candidate Susan Hall, despite inaccurate claims by ‘excited Tories’ that she might run him close

Sadiq Khan has been elected mayor of London, winning a historic third term after a dramatic contest.

Khan was declared the winner over the Conservative candidate, Susan Hall, on Saturday afternoon, with 43.8% of the vote.

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The London mayor was booed as he began his victory speech. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart, thank you, London,” he told an audience at City Hall before a heckler walked across the stage shouting, “Khan killed London.”

He pressed on, noting: “It’s been a difficult few months. We faced a campaign of non-stop negativity,” but went on to praise his team for leading a campaign that responded to “fearmongering with facts, hate with hope, and attempts to divide with unity”.

Hall, his rival, appeared stony-faced as Khan made his speech, and slightly shook her head in disapproval as Khan told the crowd he would be a mayor for all Londoners, including those who did not vote for him.

Khan had described the battle as a “close two-horse race” when polls predicted he had a 25-point lead over his Tory rival, in what appeared to be an effort to encourage Labour loyalists and more apathetic Londoners to vote.

According to London Elects, which manages the mayoral and London assembly elections, voter turnout was only 1.5% down on 2021, at 40.5%. Bexley and Bromley, led by the Conservatives, had the highest constituency turnout with 48%.

Khan’s team became confident of winning the race after Labour took the North East and West Central constituencies from the Conservatives.

On Saturday morning, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, had said he was confident of Khan’s victory and described the mayoral race as “effectively the last stop on the journey to the general election”.

Speaking in Mansfield, in the East Midlands region that has selected the Labour candidate as its first mayor, Starmer said: “He [Khan] has got two terms of delivery behind him and I am confident that he has got another term of delivery in front of him.

“But look, if you look across the country, I am standing here in Mansfield in the East Midlands, where we have won a significant victory in the mayoralty here, but that is the pattern across the country.”

The victory in London followed a tense Friday night, described by Labour sources as a “24-hour vacuum” because a pause on London mayoral counts had enabled “excited” Tory activists to fill social media with rumours of polling predictions being “completely wrong” and Hall posing a much greater threat. It led some Labour insiders to believe the possibility that the candidates could be a few points apart.

This mayoral election was the first held after changes to the voting system that were introduced by the Conservatives. It had been made into a first-past-the-post contest with photo ID required at polling stations, measures that had been expected to harm Labour’s vote.

Aides working for Khan had argued that a Labour victory would be heavily reliant on turnout.

Senior Labour figures acknowledged that the party’s stance on Gaza had weakened support in local elections in areas such as Oldham, Pendle and Bolton. It led some to accept early on Saturday that London voters could still send the party a message, despite Khan’s call for an immediate ceasefire weeks after the 7 October attacks.

Activists warned that some voters in London felt the party had “taken its core vote for granted”, as Keir Starmer celebrated historic wins in Blackpool, Hartlepool and Thurrock on Friday.

A London Conservative MP criticised Hall’s campaign for being too focused on channelling “anti-Khan” sentiment and failing to provide voters with a vision of what she would actually do, contrasting her campaign with those of other Conservative mayoral candidates.

“Ben Houchen and Andy Street are both up against the difficult climate Susan Hall is also facing – an ‘anti-Tory’ sentiment – but with bold ideas, they are making it through,” they said. “In London there’s been no positive vision and Hall is hardly a local champion. She has only set out what she won’t do.”

The results came after more Labour victories in mayoral elections in the north of England on Saturday. Steve Rotheram won the Liverpool mayoral election, while Andy Burnham was re-elected in Greater Manchester and Tracy Brabin won a second term as mayor of West Yorkshire.



 





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