Sadiq Khan faces anxious wait amid claims Susan Hall ‘has won’ London Mayor contest

A Westminster Tory campaign insider believes Susan Hall has beaten Sadiq Khan in London because “many Muslim voters stayed at home”

Kate Devlin,David Maddox
Friday 03 May 2024 20:17 BST
Sadiq Khan taunts Donald Trump during Eid celebrations

Sadiq Khan faces an anxious wait to find out if he will be re-elected as London mayor amid fears about low turnout and anger over his flagship motoring policy and Labour’s stance on Gaza.

A Tory Westminster insider close to Susan Hall’s campaign has told The Independent that the contest is “extremely close” and Mr Khan’s rival “may have won” in what would be a stunning election shock.

The briefing is based on an analysis of the turnouts in the boroughs across London which suggest that strong ones for the Tories have seen voters come out in greater numbers.

The source said: “Basically it seems that Khan has lost out because many Muslims have stayed at home because of Gaza and a lot of leftwingers have stayed at home because he was not strong enough on net zero.

“It means that it is extremely close, far closer than the polls have suggested and Susan may have won. There are some in the team who genuinely believe she has done it.”

In local election results on Friday Labour saw a fall in support in some areas with large Muslim populations, while the party’s elections coordinator Pat McFadden admitted the impact of the war in Gaza was “an issue in some parts of the country and I think there’s no point in me … denying that’s the case”.

Low turnout in the capital could put Sadiq Khan’s chances in jeopardy
Low turnout in the capital could put Sadiq Khan’s chances in jeopardy (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Along with anger over Labour’s position on Gaza, Mr Khan’s expansion of the ultra low emission zone (Ulez) has apparently been the strongest motivation in an election which has seen a low turnout.

Another Tory source said: There is no doubt that in a low turnout the most motivated voters were the ones angry about Ulez.”

Mr Khan is still the bookies’ favourite to win against his Conservative opponent Susan Hall, when the results are revealed on Saturday.

But with just two hours to go before voting closed on Thursday night, he released an impassioned plea on social media warning that “low numbers of people voting” meant the “real risk” of Tory victory.

He also briefed the Labour shadow cabinet that he was nervous of defeat because of a combination of 900,000 mostly Labour voters not having photo ID and being barred from going to the polls, a potential low turnout, the new first past the post voting system and anger over Ulez.

Labour has significantly stepped up its campaign against Ms Hall in recent days.

Susan Hall could be on the verge of a major upset
Susan Hall could be on the verge of a major upset (Shiv Gupta/PA Wire)

She only became her party’s candidate after its first pick, Daniel Korski, was forced to drop out amid groping allegations.

But she has come under fire for joining a Facebook group which contained Islamophobic hate speech and abusive comments about her opponent.

A former Tory cabinet minister, Sayeeda Warsi accused her of “gutter politics” in her controversial campaign.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said a win for her would be one for “racists, white supremacists and Islamophobes the world over.”

His stance was defended by former Labour MP and ex-Europe minister Denis MacShane who, asked if Ms Hall was a white supremacist, said “she comes pretty close”.

But Mr MacShane added that he had been surprised at the hostility in the city toward Mr Khan over his controversial charging policy for the most polluting cars, Ulez (ultra-low-emission zone).

A new poll, conducted by More in Common for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), found 13 per cent of voters said Ulez was a big issue in this election, compared to 45 per cent who selected affordable housing and 36 per cent who mentioned crime.

Wes Streeting made a controversial attack against Ms Hall on X (formerly Twitter)
Wes Streeting made a controversial attack against Ms Hall on X (formerly Twitter) (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)

However, Tory insiders believe with turnout low frustrated motorists will have been more likely to vote.

Pollster and Tory peer Robert Hayward has predicted Mr Khan is likely to avoid a backlash over Gaza, after he broke ranks early in the conflict to call for a ceasefire.

To add to Labour nerves a poll on Wednesday showed Mr Khan’s lead over Ms Hall had shrunk to its smallest since the campaign began.

The Savanta survey put the Labour mayor on 42 per cent and his Tory rival on 32 per cent.

Changes in the rules for this election mean Mr Khan’s vote cannot be “topped up” by second preference votes, which helped him win by a large margin last time around.

Counting will not begin until Saturday, after Friday was set aside to verify ballot papers.

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