It’s only January but already things are beginning to heat up on the London Mayoral Election campaign trail. Christopher Sharp has been finding out how the competitors are faring and what their moves mean.
The past week has included an outright assault by Shaun Bailey on current incumbent Sadiq Khan, who held 45 per cent of the vote in a YouGov poll taken towards the end of 2019. Bailey, who’s campaign’s focus is to take a tougher stance on crime in London, is Khan’s nearest challenger as of January. He recently brought the spotlight onto the rising level of hate crime in the capital.
Though the Express says Khan was ‘savaged’, a word chosen no doubt for potent, if unnecessary clickbait, Bailey’s remarks are not entirely without justification. Not only is knife crime at an all-time high, so is hate crime.
It was revealed in the Evening Standard recently, that homophobic hate crimes have gone up by 22 per cent. There were 2,835 incidents in 2019, an average of 55 a week. The BBC also reported that hate crimes against the transgender community have quadrupled in the past five years.
This comes amidst a campaign for homophobic hate crimes to be categorised under aggravated crime, in the same way religious or racial hate crimes are. This would mean tougher sentences for perpetrators of homophobic hate crime. This campaign is endorsed by Liberal Democrat candidate Siobhan Benita as well as Bailey.
Green Candidate, Sian Berry added that this increase was also in some way down to Boris Johnson’s legacy. That his ‘inflammatory language’ has given people confidence to abuse others.
Despite these attacks, Sadiq Khan hasn’t been entirely on the defensive. In a bid to strengthen his position he is opening up a new front in his election campaign.
At the end of the 2019 general election I thought that the election had as much been lost by Labour and the Liberal Democrats as it had been won by the Conservatives. Whilst the Conservatives and the Brexit Party engaged in a loose tactical voting strategy, the Lib Dems and Labour didn’t. This split the pro-Remain vote.
Sadiq Khan has decided to target Liberal Democrat voters. Launching his campaign on Sunday in Kingston in south-west London, where Lib Dem candidate Siobhan Benita is based. He said that they had ‘shared values’ and should unite against Conservative Bailey.
Benita said in response, that it was proof that Khan considered her a serious rival. Whilst the Liberal Democrats, at least in my opinion may have lost their relevance, in London where their vote share increased, they still play a role in the capital.
Strangely, it feels as if Sadiq is trying to atone for what Labour refused to do in the general election. Though Khan has a strong lead over nearest rival Bailey, even he is aware his popularity has decreased in recent months. This appeal to Liberal Democrat voters is both a plea for coalition but also a ‘just in case’ measure, should his other rivals start to make larger inroads.
In the general scheme of events, even though the vote is still four months away, the main players are starting to move their pieces of policy into position and firm up their stances. So far though, we haven’t heard enough from the Green’s Sian Berry or Independent Rory Stewart. Will we have heard more this time next week?