On 2 May 2024, London voters will head to the polls to elect a new mayor and London Assembly.
Although London municipal elections usually take place on a four-year cycle, Londoners will vote only three years after last electing a Mayor and Assembly, after the previous elections were delayed by one-year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Greater London Authority, composed of the Mayor and the Assembly, controls an annual budget of over £13 billion and oversees local policy on transport, policing, economic development, and fire services, among other issues.
With the election eleven months away, the Mayoral race is starting to take shape. Incumbent Mayor Sadiq Khan will run for a third term as the Labour candidate, while both the Green Party and Reform UK have also named their candidates.
The race for the Conservative nomination is still in flux, with the shortlist of three candidates having been announced last weekend. To the surprise of many, Conservative MP and Government Minister Paul Scully did not make the shortlist, despite being widely seen as a frontrunner for the nomination.
Last week, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies ran a poll of London voters to see where they stand with a little under a year to go before they will vote for the next Mayor.
As the campaign gets underway, Sadiq Khan holds an eight-point lead over a generic Conservative candidate, taking 41% of the vote. Altogether the results of our poll are as follows:
Sadiq Khan (LAB): 41%
Conservative Candidate: 33%
Liberal Democrat Candidate: 8%
Zoë Garbett (GRN): 7%
Howard Cox (Reform UK): 5%
Another candidate: 5%
When those who say they do not know how they would vote in a Mayoral Election are included, Khan leads a generic Conservative candidate by 7%.
After weighting by likelihood to vote, 17% of the sample says they do not know how they would vote, including 10% of those who voted for Sadiq Khan in 2021 in the first round and 15% of those who voted for Shaun Bailey.
Khan retains the support of 67% of those who gave him their first preference vote in the 2021 election, when the election was run under a supplementary vote system. 10% of his 2021 supporters are undecided how they would vote if a Mayoral election were held tomorrow, while 7% would now back a Conservative candidate.
A factor which may upset the Mayoral race is the potential entry of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as an independent candidate.
Since last summer, a number of Corbyn’s allies have been urging him to run, pointing to the victory in similar circumstances in 2000 of another left-wing MP out of step with the Labour leadership, Ken Livingstone.
Our poll shows, however, that the former Labour Leader would be a long shot to win if he were to enter the contest.
With Jeremy Corbyn in the race as an independent candidate, Sadiq Khan’s lead over a generic Conservative candidate is cut to 4%. Jeremy Corbyn himself stands behind the Green Party and Reform candidates.
Sadiq Khan (LAB): 32%
Conservative Candidate: 28%
Liberal Democrat Candidate: 10%
Zoë Garbett (GRN): 9%
Howard Cox (Reform UK): 8%
Jeremy Corbyn (IND): 7%
Another candidate: 6%
When undecided voters are included, Jeremy Corbyn’s vote share drops to 6%, while Sadiq Khan maintains a four-point edge over the Conservative candidate.
Given such unpromising figures, Corbyn’s more likely move, one he has already signalled he may take, may be to contest Islington North, his current seat in the House of Commons, as an independent candidate at the next General Election.
Altogether, London Mayor Sadiq Khan holds a net approval rating of +27% among Londoners, with a majority of 53% of voters approving of his performance against 26% who disapprove. 17% neither approve nor disapprove.
A majority (55%) think Sadiq Khan has made a ‘significant’ or ‘fair’ amount of progress towards achieving the campaign promises he made during his 2021 re-election campaign, while 13% think he has made ‘no progress at all’ towards achieving them.
In addition, 51% would say Sadiq Khan has been a good mayor of London, against 23% who think he has been a bad mayor.
A plurality (41%) of Londoners meanwhile view the Greater London Authority as competent. 25% view it as incompetent and 21% view it as neither competent nor incompetent.
Despite the significance of the position of Mayor and of the Assembly, most Londoners regard the Prime Minister and Westminster as being more important in shaping policy for London.
In general, a majority of 57% believe the Prime Minister has more control over policies specific to London than the London Mayor, while only 33% believe the Mayor has more control over London-specific policies than the Prime Minister.
As regards specific policies, transport is the only issue on which a majority of Londoners (53%) believe the Mayor and the London Assembly have more power and responsibility with respect to London.
On all other issues listed, more Londoners believe the Prime Minister and Westminster have more power and responsibility, although on Housing the margin who believe the national government has more responsibility is only one point (43% vs 42%).
Given such perceptions, it is perhaps unsurprising that the turnout in London Mayoral Elections has historically been so low. In the six elections held since 2000, turnout has never risen higher than 46%, as compared with a turnout of over 65% in London for each of the last three UK General Elections.
Nevertheless, these figures show that Sadiq Khan is in a strong position to launch a re-election campaign.
A plurality of Londoners would vote for him if the election were to be held tomorrow, while majorities both approve of his job performance and think he has been a good Mayor of London.
However, the election is still a long way off, and the shape of the field is yet to be decided. While Khan is in a strong position, most Londoners are not yet engaged with the race, which will only happen once the Conservative Party has a nominee and the election comes closer into view.