Labour leader Sadiq Khan wins record third term as London Mayor; Conservatives take a hit

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan after winning a record third term in the May 2 local elections. Photo courtesy: Instagram/sadiq

UK Labour leader Sadiq Khan has registered a decisive victory to secure a record third term as Mayor of London. Overall, this month’s local election results from England and Wales reflect a strong swing in favour of his party, hitting the Conservative Party hard.

Khan, the 53-year-old Pakistani-origin Labour candidate, secured a massive 10,88,225 votes with a 43.8 per cent vote share, well ahead of the Conservative candidate Susan Hall, who got 8,12,397 votes — that was an impressive majority of over 2,75,000.

Indian-origin Delhi-born businessman Tarun Ghulati, contesting as an independent candidate among a total 13 mayoral candidates, secured 24,702 votes and came in 10th in the overall tally, in the results published yesterday.

I am beyond humbled right now and express my deep gratitude to my fellow Londoners, and make this pledge to you: I promise to repay the trust you’ve placed in me by working tirelessly to deliver the fairer, safer and greener, London you deserve.

Sadiq Khan, in his acceptance speech from the London mayoral headquarters of City Hall

“It’s been a difficult few months; we faced a campaign of non-stop negativity, but I couldn’t be more proud that we answered fear-mongering with facts, hate with hope, and attempts to divide with efforts to unite,” said Khan. “We ran a campaign that was in keeping with the spirit and values of this great city, a city that regards our diversity, not as a weakness, but an almighty strength.”

He added, “It is truly an honour to be elected for a third term and to do so with record levels of support from Londoners, with an increased margin of victory. But today’s not about making history, it’s about shaping our future.”

Earlier, the Sadiq Khan camp and the BBC had already called the election in his favour, as borough-wise results poured in for the United Kingdom capital to show that he was on course to beat his nearest Conservative Party rival, Susan Hall, with a strong voter swing in favour of Labour.

Significantly, the UK capital’s Muslim population did not seem to have punished the Labour mayor for his party’s failure to strongly condemn Israel over the Gaza conflict in the same way as other parts of the country had.

Some of Khan’s controversial policies, such as the high costs on drivers of vehicles falling under the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) tariff bracket as part of his anti-pollution drive for London, did not result in a major dent in his overall popularity.

“Sadiq Khan was absolutely the right candidate. He has got two terms of delivery behind him and I am confident that he has got another term of delivery in front of him,” said Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer just before the results were declared.

The office of the Mayor of London represents the 8.9 million people living across the capital and has a budget of GBP 20.4 billion. It is responsible for Transport for London (TfL) and has some control over roads, policing, and housing in the city.

Sadiq Khan at a bakery during his poll campaign
Mayor of London and UK Labour candidate Sadiq Khan at a bakery during his campaign for the May 2 elections. Photo courtesy: Instagram/sadiq

Londoners also went to the polls on May 2 to vote for one of 14 local representatives on the London Assembly and 11 London-wide Assembly members who hold the Mayor of London accountable.

The Labour Party continued its winning streak in most of the local elections, seen as reflective of the electorate’s mood ahead of a general election expected later this year.

Popular Labour incumbent Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham was re-elected with 63 per cent of the vote. He committed to get right back to work to see through his transport reforms and called for more powers over welfare and housing.

“I am ready to fight harder than I have ever fought for anything before, for a Greater Manchester where people can live free from the fear of debt, hunger and eviction, and where everyone is set up to benefit from the growing success of our city region today,” said Burnham in his victory speech.

The party won the Liverpool City Region and South Yorkshire mayoral races, the North East mayoralty, as well as the brand-new mayoralty of East Midlands.

Tory rebellion again Rishi Sunak subsides

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who was handed a glimmer of hope on Friday with Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen retaining the seat for the Conservatives, will be hoping that Birmingham’s Tory Mayor Andy Street is able to win a contest that has been on a knife-edge between the Conservatives and Labour — a recount was ordered due to the results being too close to call.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with police personnel
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with police personnel during a recent announcement to fortify protection from criminal assault for retail workers. Photo courtesy: Instagram/rishisunakmp

However, any immediate manoeuvres by the Tory rebels to try and challenge Sunak’s leadership seems to have been averted for the moment, as there is not much appetite for another upheaval in the party ranks.

An analysis of the local election results by the BBC’s polling expert Professor John Curtice suggests that Labour is now in pole position to win the general election, with the local elections extrapolated to a national level giving the Opposition a comfortable lead.