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Tension as recounting of London mayoral and Assembly elections begins

  • By Henry Zeffman, chief political correspondent, and Adriana Elgueta
  • BBC News, London

Image source, EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Screenshot, There are 13 candidates running for the position of mayor of London

The counting of the London mayoral elections has begun.

Not a single vote was counted on Friday, which did not stop an intense avalanche of rumors that Conservative candidate Susan Hall could be on the verge of defeating two-term Labor incumbent Sadiq Khan.

Speculation grew even stronger when turnout figures were released in the evening, suggesting there may have been higher turnout in more conservative areas of London.

In response to those rumors, officials from both parties were seriously skeptical: not only for the obvious reason that the votes had not been counted, but also because Ms. Hall’s victory would be far out of line with public and private polls. , as well as with the results of the scrutiny. of door-knocking efforts during the campaign.

However, both parties have always insisted that the race was closer than many imagined.

“Political fragility”

There is a hackneyed slogan in places that “London is a Labor city”.

In general elections this has been the case recently, although it still does not really explain the resilience of the Conservatives on the outskirts of London.

In mayoral elections, of which there have only been six before this one, that’s not really true. Ken Livingstone won the first mayoral election in 2000 after resigning from the Labor Party, with the Labor candidate coming third.

Screenshot, Ken Livingstone (left) and Boris Johnson faced off in previous London mayoral elections.

In 2008, Livingstone, now back in the Labor fold, was defeated by a much larger turnout by the Conservative, one Boris Johnson.

And most importantly, Khan did not win by a particularly convincing margin last time, at least in the first round (the electoral system used has since changed).

Khan’s vote dropped significantly in his first contest in 2016. Some attributed this to the election taking place in a year of real conservative strength, although it may also have shown political fragility on his part.

One of the reasons rumors of a close campaign have surprised people is because of Hall’s weakness as a candidate: few in the Conservative hierarchy expected or intended her to emerge victorious from their chaotic candidate selection process.

But frustrations in conservative ranks over his selection were not just due to their own perceived weaknesses, but also what they saw as Khan: they thought he would be beatable.

Screenshot, The Labor leader said he was confident Sadiq Khan would win.

Speaking at a rally in the East Midlands with newly elected Labor mayor Claire Ward, Sir Keir Starmer was asked whether Khan could lose in London and whether he was the right candidate.

“Sadiq Khan was absolutely the right candidate,” he responded.

The Labor leader said Khan had “two compliance terms” behind him, adding: “I’m sure he has another compliance deadline ahead of him.”

All that said, not a single person I’ve spoken to at either game believes Mrs. Hall will win today. If she does, she will be surprised.