Sadiq Khan is on track for a history making win in the London Mayoral Election – where did it all go wrong for Shaun Bailey?

Abby Tomlinson

Digital Strategy and Campaigns Lead

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The latest poll on the London Mayoral Election by Opinium has Sadiq Khan on track to win in the first round with an incredible 51% of first preference votes, leaving Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey trailing behind with just 29%. Of course, this should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt given Sadiq Khan’s recent drop in approval ratings, but if the polls are right, in May Sadiq would be the first London Mayor since the creation of the office in 2000 to win in the first round, something which will no doubt embarrass former Mayor and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Sadiq Khan’s campaign has been, for the most part, uninteresting. Many Labour members and voters were probably hoping he’d have more achievements to point to after his extended term in office – it’s not quite enough for a Jacinda Ardern style video. However, Sadiq is widely commended as being a bridge-builder between communities, taking action on pollution, bringing in the night tube, and celebrating the diversity of the city as the first Muslim Mayor of a major Western capital.

Other candidates for London Mayor are struggling for push through in what is predetermined to be a two-horse race, with Opinium having Green candidate Sian Berry and Liberal Democrat Luisia Porritt neck-and-neck for third place on 7%. Both candidates cite housing and the environment as their main policy areas, and ones they believe Sadiq has been ineffective in improving, but neither is likely to get the chance to implement their own ideas.

As Sadiq verges on victory, to discover the full story behind his pending success, we need to consider main opponent Shaun Bailey’s many failures.

Firstly, Bailey’s campaign got off to an incredibly rocky start when his announcement as the official candidate was followed with journalists reporting on a whole heap of offensive comments he had made over the years, such as writing that single mothers deliberately got themselves pregnant for housing and benefits.

Since the campaign ramped up last year, it has been plagued by an astounding number of gaffes that appear to have unnerved CCHQ and given Twitter a lot to laugh about.

Take, for example, Bailey’s campaigning in Watford last November to save a tube station that was not under any threat of closure in the first place. Watford residents are in the county of Hertfordshire and cannot vote in the London Mayoral Election.

A more recent gaffe could be found in Bailey’s video about ULEZ charges, where he could be seen driving around and complaining that ‘BOOM! Sadiq Khan has just taken another £12.50 in taxes’. Except he hadn’t, because Bailey’s license plate was visible, and internet sleuths discovered that his car was exempt from ULEZ charges.

Aside from these mistakes, Bailey’s actual policy ideas have been criticised for being ludicrous too, such as his suggestion that homeless people would be able to save £5,000 for a house deposit.

It should have come as no surprise to Shaun Bailey and his team when in mid-March a story broke about the Conservative Party cutting funding to his campaign amid concerns about his less than encouraging poll performance. This was, of course, strongly denied by Bailey’s team, but briefings from members of his own party described him as the ‘worst candidate in history’.

Finally, journalist Jonn Elledge recently questioned in the New Statesman whether Shaun Bailey’s campaign was ‘a piece of performance art’ or perhaps ‘an undercover operation by the Labour Party’. Either way, the Conservative London Mayoral campaign has been a gift to Sadiq Khan’s chances of re-election despite a relatively uninspiring offering from Labour.

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