Astonishing poll indicates shock result for the London Mayor election next year

This would be a MAJOR upset

Sadiq Khan

Voters across London will head to the polls next May to elect their next Mayor. Sadiq Khan is seeking re-election for an unprecedented third term.

A new opinion poll suggests he faces a challenge in that re-election bid. Redfield and Wilton polled Londoners on who they’re backing in next year’s election for The Times.

According to the poll, Sadiq Khan has an exceptionally narrow lead over the Tory candidate Susan Hall. 33% of voters say they’re backing Khan, compared to 32% for Susan Hall. The Lib Dem candidate Rob Blackie is on 16% and the Greens’ Zoë Garbett is on 9%.

That shows a neck and neck race between Khan and Hall.

In previous elections, Khan could feel a degree of confidence that he would get re-elected even with those figures. That’s because at every previous election for London Mayor, voters were allowed to give a first and second preference vote.

Previously, if a candidate didn’t receive 50% of the vote in the first round of counting, all but the top two runners would be eliminated. The second preferences of every voter who backed one of the other candidates would then be counted. With both the Greens and Lib Dems picking up a lot of support, it is likely that Khan would get over the line, as more of their voters would give their second preference to the Labour candidate than the Tory.

However, the Tories recently changed the rules for Mayoral elections. From now on they will take place under first past the post – the same system used for electing MPs and councillors in England.

Under first past the post, voters are allowed to give just one preference. Whichever candidate receives the most votes is declared the winner – irrespective of whether a majority of voters backed other candidates. As such, the next London Mayor could be elected with a minority of the electorate’s backing.

Redfield and Wilton’s poll illustrates the impact this could have next year’s election. As well as polling Londoners on who they’d back out of the declared candidates, the firm also asked them to make their choice if the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were to stand as an independent. There have been rumours that Corbyn might contest the election, although he has not yet confirmed whether this is the case.

With Corbyn in the mix, the numbers come out very differently. Corbyn himself polls at 15%, with him seeming to pull support mostly from the Greens, Labour and minor candidates.

The impact of this – according to Redfield and Wilton’s poll – would be to allow the Tory candidate to pull ahead of Sadiq Khan. With Corbyn as a candidate, the poll suggests Tory Susan Hall would get 30% of the vote to Khan’s 25%. Combined, the Greens, Lib Dems, Labour and Corbyn poll 61%.

A Tory being elected Mayor of London despite nearly two thirds of voters backing candidates to their left is perhaps one of the better examples of the deeply distorting effects the first past the post system has on democracy.

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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