Everything You Need To Know About The 2020 London Mayoral Election

By Maire Rose Connor Last edited 52 months ago

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Last Updated 05 February 2020

Everything You Need To Know About The 2020 London Mayoral Election
Photo: Shutterstock

Yes, we know, we just had an election. But now it's time for another one. 2020 sees a new mayoral election in London — here's everything you need to know about it.

When is the 2020 London mayoral election?

Voting takes place on Thursday 7 May 2020.

Who are the candidates?

Images by Ffzldn (Khan), Politico 1234 (Bailey), Jack Karimi (Benita), and Kelly Hill (Berry) under creative commons licence; and HM Government (Stewart) under open government licence.

Each of the four main political parties in London have put forward a candidate. They are:

Sadiq Khan: The incumbent mayor and Labour Party candidate stands for a second term after winning the support of over half of Constituency Labour Parties and party affiliates for automatic reselection. Khan won the 2016 mayoral election with a 45.3% vote share. He spent the prior 11 years representing Tooting as an MP (2005-2016).

Shaun Bailey: The Conservative Party candidate is a former youth worker-turned-special advisor to ex-PM David Cameron and has been a member of the London Assembly since 2016. Back in 2010, Bailey was the Tories' choice for the then-newly created of constituency Hammersmith and in 2017 he contested Lewisham and Penge, but failed to win either seat.

Siobhan Benita: The Liberal Democrat candidate ran as an independent in the 2012 mayoral election, where she finished fifth. She joined the Lib Dems in 2016 following the EU referendum. Prior to this, Benita worked in the civil service and in the Department of Economics at Warwick University.

Sian Berry: The current co-leader of the Green Party was the party's candidate for Mayor of London in 2008 and in 2016, finishing in fourth and third place, respectively. Berry has been a member of the London Assembly since 2016, and is currently the only Green councillor for the borough of Camden.

In addition to Khan, Bailey, Benita and Berry, Sue Black is standing for the Women's Equality Party. No candidates for UKIP or the Brexit Party have yet been put forward.

Anyone else?

There are also a number of independent candidates in contention, most notably Rory Stewart. Stewart served as MP for Penrith and The Border in Cumbria, 2010-2019. He was elected as MP as a Conservative, but had the party whip removed in September 2019 after voting in favour of a motion that took parliamentary control away from the government during Brexit negotiations.

Aside from Stewart, there's textile designer and Islington local Rosalind Readhead, who is running on a somewhat controversial ticket — she wants to ban all private car use in central London. Rapper Drillminister is also running as an independent, attempting to reach out to disenfranchised voters. Finally, Charlie Mullins, the founder of London's largest independent plumbing company, Pimlico Plumbers is shooting his shot.

What does each candidate stand for?

For the sake of brevity, we're focusing solely on the priorities of the top five most popular candidates, per recent polling data.

Sadiq Khan: In his bid for re-election, Khan pledges to campaign for the introduction of rent controls, in order to combat the capital's housing crisis. Reducing the cost of living in London is a key theme in his campaign, which includes building more council homes and making public transport more affordable (Khan was responsible for the TfL fare freezes and Hopper bus fare). Keeping public transport costs down is also part of Khan's pledge to clean up London's toxic air.

Khan also intends to tackle violent crime by investing in community initiatives and the police, "in the face of huge Tory cuts" by increasing Council Tax by 26p per week.

Shaun Bailey: The Tory hopeful pledges to "make London safer", a motto that hones in on what some see as his rival's Achilles' heel — violent crime has risen rapidly during Khan tenure, although Khan blames this on a lack of central government funding. It also reflects Bailey's background as a former youth worker and advisor on crime. As well as getting more police officers out from behind desks and onto the streets by "cutting waste" and "using new technology", Bailey intends to take a zero-tolerance approach to both gang activity and petty crime.

Other pledges include building more houses, putting driverless trains on the tracks to combat strike action, and introducing a"Boris Bike-style scheme" for electric cars.

Regent Street
Rory Stewart suggested planting trees on Regent Street. Photo: Nomadic Julien

Siobhan Benita: Benita is campaigning for a "greener, safer, and kinder capital". This would involve appointing a Young Mayor, pushing for the introduction of drug reforms (including legalising cannabis), improving youth access to public space to reduce crime, and striving for London to become a world leader on environmental issues.

Sian Berry: Per her selection statement, tackling the housing crisis will be a central tenet of Berry's campaign. She proposes giving Londoners more control over their housing via a People's Land Bank, which would work with community groups to map empty and underused buildings and land that can be built on. Berry has also stressed the need to reform the City of London Corporation and has pledged to set "new goals" for the financial sector in supporting climate justice.

Rory Stewart: The independent candidate has pledged to cut crime as his "top priorty" — via Operation Local, an initiative to "rebuild London’s neighbourhood police”. He also want to plant a lot more trees, including on Regent Street.

Who's the favourite to win?

Photo: Shutterstock

According to the latest opinion poll data, Sadiq Khan is on course for a relatively straightforward victory. In YouGov research commissioned for Queen Mary, University of London last November, the Labour candidate and current Mayor of London achieved a 22 point lead over his closest rival, with 45% of respondents choosing him as their first preference. Trailing him in second place is Conservative Shaun Bailey with 23%. In third, it's independent candidate Rory Stewart, who convinced 13% of respondents to vote for him just one month after entering the race.

Could that change?

A lot can change in a few months — anything from public gaffes to unpopular pledges could see that pecking order shift. And it's worth noting on how quickly Stewart shot up to third place in the polls — the bookies currently have the odds on the independent candidate coming second.

While Khan currently enjoys a big lead, an incumbent is generally disadvantaged by having a record to defend. The current mayor's rivals have repeatedly attacked Khan's record on housing and violent crime, for example. That being said, Conservative candidate Bailey and former Tory MP Stewart in particular could see this approach backfire — Khan and his supporters blame rising crime on Tory-led government cuts to policing and youth services.

What powers does the Mayor of London actually have?

An outline of the role can be found here. It's worth noting though, that for such a high profile position, the Mayor of London has surprising limited direct authority — and most of this power is concentrated in a few pockets: transport, policing and housing. While some power is devolved to Greater London Authority (GLA) — which is comprised of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly that holds the mayor to account — the GLA shares responsibility with local councils and is required to follow central government guidance.

So while a mayor has the power to, say, develop planning strategy, it's down to local councils to approve this — and, in turn, central government is in control of how these councils are allowed to raise the requisite funds.

Who can vote?

Photo: Shutterstock

To vote in the London Mayoral Elections you must be a British, Irish, Commonwealth, or EU citizen living at a Greater London address. You must also be aged 18 or over on election day, and be registered to vote.

How does voting work?

The mayoral election uses the Supplementary Voting system. Voters express a first preference and a secondary preference. If no candidate wins an absolute majority (i.e. more than 50%) of first choice votes, all but the top two candidates are eliminated, and votes for eliminated candidates are redistributed according to their second choice candidate.

What else is happening on Election Day?

Elections for the London Assembly also take place on Friday 7 May. People vote once for their constituency member and once for a London-wide representative.

When will we know the result?

In 2016 the result was delayed by a day due to vote count 'discrepancies'. However, barring any similar setbacks, we should know who's elected mayor the day after polling, Friday 8 May.