Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq
A record number of 20 candidates are standing in the 2021 London mayoral election. We’ve lost Rory Stewart and gained youtuber Max Fosh; celebrated underdog Count Binface and controversial figures like Piers Corbyn and Lawrence Fox are also standing. The more conventional candidates are: Labour’s Sadiq Khan, Conservative’s Shaun Bailey, Women’s Equality’s Mandu Reid, and Greens’ Sian Berry.
Monopolising on some of the anger and distress caused by lockdown, Lawrence Fox nevertheless falls flat in being the “anti-woke” candidate. Even Farage, with his reprehensible views, nevertheless managed to exert some sort of the charm needed to draw people away from centralised politics; Fox lacks this. While there was the potential to galvanise the “anti-lockdown, anti-woke” vote, he is not the right man for the job. He has no allure, lacks appeal, and instead comes across as patronising and arrogant. Moreover, his “free London” message comes just as London is being freed up.
Sadiq Khan, on the other hand, has the charm and energy that Fox lacks. He has a potent persuasiveness and seems more representative of Londoners; Boris always seemed out of touch. I voted for Khan in 2016; it was my first time ever voting, having turned 18 just days before.
Alas – Khan’s term has failed to maintain my once high hopes. While his introduction of the “hopper” fare has been revolutionary for many commuters (myself included), it is undeniable that his work on housing and crime have been less impressive. Less than half of his promised affordable houses have been started, while crime has risen sharply in the last four years. Considering crime has become the ‘biggest issue’ in the current election, this is particularly pertinent. Khan has blamed housing delays and rising crime rates on a lack of funding – which is very likely a huge contributing factor – however, Khan must also focus on understanding the roots of rising crime – not just dealing with its aftermath. It is only through understanding its origins that crime will be able to be reduced.
While Khan’s track record has been less impressive than his 2016 self would have hoped, we must take into account the devastating impacts that covid-19 and the lockdowns have had on London, its economy, culture and inhabitants. Khan must promise to do more if he is re-elected in May – which is expected, given he is currently polling at 47 per cent.
This, however, might be a closer election than 2016. Khan’s opponent then, Zac Goldsmith, ran an appalling campaign, completely misunderstanding the public and trying to stir up islamophobia – it was abysmal.
Khan’s current conservative opponent seems to be stronger than Goldsmith. Shaun Bailey, in terms of his background and achievements, is a compelling candidate. Before politics, he worked as a youth worker for 20 years; additionally, he also worked as a policy advisor on crime for David Cameron. Bailey has experience in the problems that are pervading London life today, and thus may be able to offer real solutions. Nevertheless, he also has a history of questionable, particularly misogynistic, comments – such beliefs are out of place in today’s society. Moreover, Bailey has failed to convince Londoners of his worthiness, and is currently sitting on a meagre 27 per cent.
While Count Binface represents our secret desires as Londoners – from ensuring no croissant costs more than a pound and renaming London Bridge after the incredible Phoebe Waller-Bridge, this election seems like it is in fact a ‘two-horse race’ – between Khan and Bailey. Though Bailey has more experience in London’s pressing issues, Khan seems more representative of our current times. Khan is also the likely winner, but he must do more to ensure he is deserving of Londoners’ faith; something he is yet to fully demonstrate.