As Londoners head to the polls tomorrow, Labour sources are warning that they are “expecting a considerably worse night than many pundits have predicted”. A YouGov poll released yesterday suggests that the gap between Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey and Sadiq Khan has narrowed by nine points. According to insiders, this tallies with internal polling, prompting “very real fears about turnout due to a mixture of complacency about the result and Covid”. A Labour source said: “We have always said this would be a close two-horse race between Sadiq and the Tories. Anyone who doesn’t want to wake up with a Tory mayor this week must lend their vote to Sadiq and Labour.”
Residents of the capital have three votes in the election: one for the mayor; another for their constituency London Assembly member; a third for a candidate on the London-wide list. LabourList spoke to Anne Clarke, who is standing for the Barnet and Camden London assembly seat. “I have been so lucky to have an incredible team throughout the campaign, and to speak with so many residents across Barnet and Camden – but turnout is a very real concern,” she said. “Voting is Covid-secure, but it is so important that voters understand that and do get out to the polls to make their voices heard.” Polling by Opinium commissioned by Labour shows 32% of Londoners are worried about going to vote tomorrow. Younger voters seem more likely to be put off by the pandemic, with 45% of those aged 18-34 reporting they are worried, compared to 29% of those aged between 35 and 54.
The YouGov poll this week showed Khan taking 43% of first preferences, down four points on the same research last month. Bailey was predicted to secure 31%, up five points. Second round results take the Labour candidate over the line with 59%. Savanta Comres today has Khan waiting until the second round to beat his Tory rival, rather than winning on first preferences as some had hoped earlier, although the poll again did have a very healthy 41% of first preferences going to the Labour incumbent. “Khan’s return to City Hall has appeared a foregone conclusion almost ever since he was first elected in 2016, but a narrowing of the polls in recent weeks will mean that he’s likely to rely on second preferences in order to get there,” political research director Chris Hopkins said. Winning the London mayoral election on the first round has never been done before.
The London Labour mayor is not complacent. “London had a Tory mayor just five years ago and in a pandemic which threatens to affect the turnout of Labour voters, we cannot afford to be complacent,” Sadiq Khan told LabourList today. “To keep London Labour, I need Londoners come out and vote for me. It’s always the Tories who benefit when people stay at home during elections.” To the Labour voters, activists and Londoners who share his values, he said: “Please do not think this is in the bag. I’d urge all Labour members to get involved with their local party tomorrow and help us get out the vote. To anyone who doesn’t want to wake up with a Tory mayor this week, please lend your vote to me and Labour.” The message from Labour is clear: in a city that until five years ago had Boris Johnson as mayor, the party needs every vote.