Imagine a British election that’s not – first and foremost – about Brexit. Given the one we’re having right now it’s tough, isn’t it? There are younger voters, now in their early 20s, who have gone to the ballot box a handful of times. They will have never known an election when British politics isn’t operating under the existential question: having voted to Leave in June 2016, will the UK now leave the European Union?
If the Tories win in December then the London mayoral election of spring 2020 could well be the first such major electoral contest since the referendum not to take place under that long shadow. Polling conducted by the Mile End Institute and YouGov demonstrates what’s changed since 2016 in the London, and what’s stayed the same.
There is a neat symmetry to this, as the last contest in May 2016 saw Sadiq Khan – himself in one sense a relic of an older, pre-Brexit Ed Miliband-era-Labour politics – elected in the capital on a landslide. In the first round of voting, Khan took 44% of the votes, a 9-point lead over the Conservative Party’s Zac Goldsmith on 35%. The next nearest challenger – Siân Berry of the Greens – trailed on 6%. The voting system then whittles the candidates down to a final two: in that round, Khan beat Goldsmith 57% to 43%.
Now, according to the polling, Sadiq Khan goes into the campaign with a commanding 22% lead over his Conservative challenger, Shaun Bailey. But it’s actually far from clear that the final run-off will even be a Labour-Conservative battle this time round. The contest has been disrupted by jostling for position among those in third, fourth and fifth place and by the introduction of Rory Stewart into the contest.