The latest poll of mayoral election voting intentions tells us much the same thing as all five such polls during 2020: that Sadiq Khan is on course for a huge re-election victory on 6 May, or later this year if the vote is again postponed.
The Redfield & Wilton survey, conducted last week, puts the incumbent Labour Mayor on 49% of first preference votes, with Conservative Shaun Bailey in second place on 28%, followed by Lib Dem Luisa Porritt on 10%, the Greens’ Siân Berry on 9% and UKIP’s Peter Gammons on 2%.
For ten months Khan has led Bailey by more than 20 percentage points. Miserably for Bailey, no fewer than 14% of Londoners who voted Conservative in the 2019 general election told Redfield & Wilton they will vote for Khan to be their Mayor again. Khan also enjoys very high approval ratings, with 46% of Londoners either approving (35%) or strongly approving (11%) of his performance since becoming Mayor in 2016, compared with any evenly-split 26% who disapprove or strongly disapprove.
On these figures, Khan looks set to make history. The biggest first preference vote gap between the first and second placed candidates in the five London Mayor elections so far was the 11.9% that separated Ken Livingstone from Steve Norris in the very first mayoral election in 2000. He even has a chance of becoming the first London Mayor candidate to win on first preferences alone under the supplementary vote system, by getting more than 50% of them.
That probably won’t happen, partly because Londoners who intend to vote for Bailey are a little more certain they will vote at all than those who intend to vote for Khan (by 59% to 54%). Also, Bailey will receive more media attention closer to polling day, which in theory ought to help him make up some ground.
Even so, Khan still looks well on the way to a record-breaking win, not least because he also seems likely to secure more second preference votes than Bailey, assuming they need to be counted – 17% compared with 13%, according to Redfield & Wilton’s findings.
It therefore seems a fair bet that if Bailey does reach a second voting round he will fall even further behind Khan, who could win the election by an even larger margin than the 13.6% he won by in 2016 – the second biggest mayoral election win ever – and beat the current record winning margin of 15.8%, set in 2000.
Given the sorry state of the Tories’ mayoral challenge, it is no wonder Steve Norris believes the party has “given up on London“. Part of the problem seems to be the candidate, who 40% of those polled said they haven’t even heard of (compared with 51% who said they have). The same percentage say they know nothing about his policies.
In addition to this, an already-considerable track record of false claims, misleading campaign literature and interview mishaps mean that additional exposure closer to election day might be of limited help to Bailey, once the Big Media start taking more of an interest in him. In 2016, Zac Goldsmith’s dubious campaign tactics often attracted more attention than his manifesto.
For Berry and Porritt, it still looks like a repeat of the battle for third place we saw between the Green and Lib Dem candidates in 2016 and 2012 (the Greens winning out narrowly both times). The difference in 2021 could be that the candidates of both those parties finish significantly closer behind the likely Tory runner-up.
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