Sadiq Khan has been elected as mayor of London for a second term, following a victory that was less emphatic than predicted after a late increase in support for his Conservative opponent.
As recently as March, polls had given Khan a 25-point lead over his Tory rival, Shaun Bailey, handing him 53% of the vote.
That would have seen him win outright on the first round of counting, without the need to count the second preferences of voters. However, with polls tightening in recent weeks, insiders suggested the issue of crime had dented Khan’s lead.
After the first day of counting votes on Friday, Khan had a lead of just 24,267 over Bailey. However, as counting progressed on Saturday, it became clear Khan was leading in most of the outstanding areas.
When the first preference votes had been counted, Khan was on 1,013,721 (40%) while Bailey had 893,051 (35.3%). Siân Berry of the Green party came third with 197,976 (7.8%) while the Liberal Democrats’ Luisa Porritt was fourth with 111,716 (4.4%).
In the runoff, Khan received 192,313 to win a total of 1,206,034 (55.2%), while Bailey received 84,550, bringing his total to 977,601 (44.8%).
It was announced Khan had won a second term at 11pm on Saturday, amid earlier suggestions that the declaration would be delayed until Sunday.
The result will be a glimmer of hope for the Labour party after it suffered in local elections in England, losing control of a host of councils and a sliding to a humiliating defeat in the Hartlepool byelection.
Khan was first elected mayor of the capital in 2016 in a landslide victory, breaking the Conservatives’ eight-year hold on City Hall.
In his victory speech on Saturday night, Khan pledged to build a “better and brighter future” for the capital following the pandemic. “I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
“I am deeply humbled by the trust Londoners have placed in me to continue leading the greatest city on Earth.
“I promise to strain every sinew, help 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 all Londoners, to get the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential.
“I am proud to have won an overwhelming mandate today.”
London and the country were divided, Khan said, adding that “the scars of Brexit remain, a crude culture war is pushing us further apart. We must use this moment of national recovery to heal those divisions.”
He said there was more that united people than divided them and pledged to “build bridges rather than walls between City Hall and the government, and to create a greener, fairer and safer city for all Londoners, to get the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential”.
Bailey had faced widespread criticism within his own party over his campaign, as well as suggestions he should be replaced as the candidate. However, with polls tightening in recent weeks, insiders suggested the issue of crime had dented Khan’s lead.
Bailey pushed Khan throughout the contest, which was closer than expected. In a speech from City Hall after he was defeated, Bailey said Londoners had not “written him off”.
He said: “As I went through these, for me what was two years of campaigning, one feeling felt familiar to me, one challenge had always felt the same.
“And that was the feeling of being written off – by pollsters, by journalists, by fellow politicians. But it’s no surprise to me that Londoners didn’t write me off.”