'Could London, just possibly, be next' in UK electoral shocks as Susan Hall closes gap on Sadiq Khan?

'Could London, just possibly, be next' in UK electoral shocks as Susan Hall closes gap on Sadiq Khan?

Sadiq Khan is unlikely to secure an electoral landslide in next week’s mayoral election.

The race is proving tighter than most commentators anticipated.

At one level, this is surprising.

Khan is Labour candidate in a city that leans heavily towards the party. Londoners welcome many of Khan’s policies, particularly his pledge to build 40,000 council homes by 2030.

They believe he’s done an effective job where the mayor has real powers, notably overseeing London’s transportation system.

Meanwhile, the Conservative candidate, Susan Hall, is barely known. Her party is nationally unpopular in a contest where voters generally split across party political lines.

The odds are stacked against Conservatives in a diverse London repelled by the party’s nativist world-view.

And yet Khan’s position hardly appears impregnable. It was never going to be straightforward given he is an incumbent seeking an unprecedented third term.

As mayor Khan has courageously pursued ULEZ expansion, a measure he knows some voters detest.

Nevertheless, Khan has substantive political vulnerabilities.

For one, he is relying heavily on particular demographics: in our poll, 66% of 18-24 year olds intend to vote for the current mayor; 61% of ethnic minority voters and 56% of private renters will do the same. In the past, turnout among these groups was less predictable.

His main opponent advocates policies that are popular, notably abolition of 20 MPH speed restrictions on London’s roads and curtailing ULEZ.

Many who say they will vote for Hall are worried about crime and the threat to personal safety. Voters feel overtaxed. They want politicians to ease the burden on their finances.

Given the change in the electoral system to first past the post, the mayor has called on ‘progressive voters’ to back him in a two-horse race.

Yet our survey shows 47% of Green voters and 42% of Liberal Democrats are dissatisfied with Khan’s performance.

Sadiq Khan still retains considerable advantages. He is perceived by more voters as competent and decisive, while he is narrowing the gap with the Conservatives in outer London in comparison to the last mayoral election.

Between now and polling day, the mayor has the opportunity to articulate an agenda for the capital’s future rather than merely defending his record.

Nonetheless, we are living through an era in which economic discontent and contempt for the political establishment are inflicting electoral shocks. Could London – just possibly – be next?

Professor Patrick Diamond is director of the Mile End Institute, Queen Mary University of London