Because of the devolution of powers to City Hall, London also held local elections, one for the city’s mayor and one for representatives in the London Assembly. There was an expected swing to Labour due to the unpopularity of Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, especially in comparison with outgoing mayor Boris Johnson, as well as the widely known fact that London is traditionally more left-wing than most of the rest of England. Out of all the elections that took place, the results in London were Labour’s strongest and because of this London will see more left-wing policies implemented in areas like housing, transport, and policing.
As I said the Labour Party had a strong night at the best example of this was the result of the London Mayoral election. Former Cabinet Minister Sadiq Khan won the mayoralty after receiving 44.2% of first preference votes and 65.5% of second preferences, bringing his total percentage up to 56.8% in the run-off vote. The scale of victory over Zac Goldsmith was due to the positive nature of Khan’s campaign and the London electorate’s apparent dislike of the Conservative Party. In the Assembly Labour also had a good night, picking up 12 AMs out of the total of 25. Although this isn’t a majority, support from the Greens on issues like energy and transport will enable left-wing programme to be implemented in the capital.
The Conservatives didn’t have a good night, and to be honest I’m glad. Zac Goldsmith was trounced in the mayoral election picking up 35.0% of first preferences and 34.5% of second preferences, bringing his total percentage up to 43.2% in the run-off vote. The reason I said that I was glad is that Goldsmith’s campaign was appalling in its dog-whistle racism and smear tactics. The thing about his campaign is that I’m not sure if he agreed with what he was saying or if Goldsmith was listening to Tory election guru and serial smear-merchant Lynton Crosby. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter, but I would question whether or not Goldsmith had broken libel laws by implying that Sadiq Khan was an Islamic extremist. In the Assembly, the Tories won 5 AMs putting them as the second largest party, but well behind Labour. This will mean that the Tories will be able to oppose Labour in an official capacity, but the size of Labour’s lead in the GLA is too large for the party to achieve anything.
The Greens had a relatively good night in London. As well as retaining their 2 AMs at City Hall, the party’s mayoral candidate Siân Berry picked up 5.8% of the first preference votes and beat the Lib Dem candidate into third place. Not only that, but Berry was elected into the Assembly on the list system to replace outgoing AM Jenny Jones. Former AM Darren Johnson was replaced by Caroline Russell. The presence of the Greens in City Hall will be crucial in supporting Sadiq Khan in a variety of areas, but mostly on improving road safety, energy, and housing, and if this were to happen the Tories wouldn’t be able to cobble together a coalition big enough to stop them.
The Lib Dems didn’t have a particularly good night, as Lib Dem mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon finished in fourth place. Pidgeon picked up 4.6% of the first preference vote and because of this electoral slump, she is now the only Lib Dem AM in City Hall. Although it appears that the Lib Dems are beginning to stabilise their poll numbers, albeit at a much diminished level, the support for the Lib Dems in London hasn’t really recovered. I believe this is because of the rise of the Greens in London. The Lib Dems prided themselves on environmental policies, being pro-European, and promoting socially liberal values; these are all positions that the Greens have. Furthermore, the Lib Dems garnered a large amount of support from students and young people, and after the student fees fiasco the Greens and Labour have massively benefited. The Lib Dems have a long way to go before recovering in London, and it may be a number of years before they do.
Unfortunately for us opponents of racism, UKIP made a breakthrough in London in the form of 2 new AMs at City Hall: David Kurten and Peter Whittle. Whittle was also the party’s mayoral candidate and finished in fifth place with 3.6% of first preference votes. From a UKIP perspective this was a good result because London is very ethnically diverse city and there was still a breakthrough. However, strangely, it could also be seen as a positive from a left-wing perspective. National polling suggests that UKIP support could be as high as 20% of the population, yet in London only 3.6% voted for Nigel Farage’s party. Therefore, I do not believe that there will be any progress for UKIP in the next general election, although there may be some gains in London borough council elections over the next few years.
The final thing I want to mention is the surprisingly good results of the Women’s Equality Party and their mayoral candidate Sophie Walker. Despite being formed in 2015 along the lines of Scandinavian feminist parties, Walker finished in sixth place in the mayoral election with 2.0% of the first preference vote. Not only would I say that this was a good result, but the party beat off competition from big name far-right parties like the BNP and Britain First, as well as finishing comfortably ahead of George Galloway, a candidate with huge name recognition in comparison. In the GLA elections, the WEP won 3.5% of the list vote. Considering that this was growth in one year, the potential growth of the WEP in London could be significant enough to win council seats and AMs in future London elections. I don’t subscribe to the view that I have to join political parties in order to support them, which is good because I support about seven different ones, but I will keep close tabs on the WEP and wish them ever success in the future.
The London elections showed a distinct swing to Labour that, although predicted by polling, was made even more emphatic by the loss of a Tory AM at City Hall. The rise of UKIP is troubling but heart can be taken from the minimal influence they will have in the Assembly due to the electoral arithmetic. The Greens’ continued success in London is evidence that left-wing parties can succeed in the capital, and the rise in popularity for the WEP shows that Londoners are crying out to see women’s equality achieved in the near future.