London mayoral election: Sadiq Khan and Susan Hall face anxious wait for result after polls close

Sadiq Khan and his main challenger Susan Hall face an anxious wait to find out who will be the next London Mayor after polls closed on Thursday night.

More than two million Londoners are expected to have voted in the London mayoral election with Labour candidate Mr Khan, who is seeking his third term in office, the favourite to win against his Conservative challenger Ms Hall.

Mr Khan has had a healthy lead in the polls, but the race between the two frontrunners was electrified on Wednesday by a poll in the Standard which showed Mr Khan’s lead over Ms Hall had closed to the smallest since their campaigns started.

The Savanta survey for the Centre for London put the Labour mayor on 42 per cent and Tory candidate 32 per cent, the latest in several polls that showed Mr Khan’s lead narrowing over the course of the campaign.

Mr Khan had said polls suggesting he was on track for a historic third term were “meaningless” and said he would happily take the narrowest of victories. He told the Standard: “I’m quite clear, as someone who used to captain our cricket team: a win is a win.”

Both the candidates, along with the 11 others in the mayoral race, now face a nervous wait ahead of the result, which is due to be announced on Saturday.

Ballots will be verified on Friday but the actual counting of votes will not take place until Saturday, with thousands of volunteers to count the votes by hand across 14 centres.

The votes will be counted alongside the vote in the London Assembly elections. The first results are expected at around noon on Saturday with speculation that by around 1.30pm it might be clear who will emerge as winner, but the final result is not expected until the evening.

The campaign has not always caught the public’s attention but has had its feisty moments with the Mayor’s Ulez expansion a clear dividing line after Ms Hall said it should be scrapped while Mr Khan said his opponent would “cancel” free school meals for primary school children after she said it should be a “temporary” measure to help with the cost of living.

Other points of difference include Ms Hall’s pledge to expand the Night Tube to the Hammersmith & City Line and recruit 1,500 more Met Police while Mr Khan promised a TFL fare freeze until “at least 2025” and to end rough sleeping in the capital by 2030.

A polling station (Getty Images)
A polling station (Getty Images)
Susan Hall and Sadiq Khan clashed on LBC’s London mayoral hustings (LBC)
Susan Hall and Sadiq Khan clashed on LBC’s London mayoral hustings (LBC)

London is not the only electoral battleground being fought over. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was braced on Thursday night for a bruising set of results with forecasts suggesting the Tories could lose up to half the council seats they are defending, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt saying the party expects to suffer “significant losses”.

The first results in the local elections are due overnight with further results on Friday.

Number 10 will be hoping two prominent Conservative mayors, Andy Street in the West Midlands and Tees Valley’s Ben Houchen, can hang on with polls suggesting narrow contests with their Labour opponents.

Labour has talked down its chances of winning both saying the mayoral system favours incumbents, though Sir Keir Starmer said he is “hopeful” it will win the West Midlands contest in an interview with Sky News.

Rishi Sunak canvassing in Chelsea with his wife (Edward Massey / CCHQ)
Rishi Sunak canvassing in Chelsea with his wife (Edward Massey / CCHQ)

Wins for both Mr Street and Mr Houchen would offer the Tories a ray of light in what forecasts suggest could be a dismal set of results, but experts warned the metro mayor races would be the “least reliable indicator” of what could happen at a general election.

Those results are expected sometime on Friday afternoon but before then a series of local councils from Southend-On-Sea and Thurrock up to Bolton and Hartlepool should have declared with an overnight result also expected in the Blackpool South by-election which Labour is tipped to win after its sitting Conservative MP Scott Benton resigned in the wake of a lobbying scandal.

These all take place against a background of dreadful polling results for the government and reports suggest some backbench Tories could challenge the Prime Minister’s leadership if a bad night tips into disaster with the West Midlands and Tees Valley contests seen as potentially crucial to Mr Sunak’s future.

Current polling puts the Conservatives lower than they were even under his predecessor Liz Truss.

A recent YouGov/Times voting intention poll put the Tories on 18%, down two points in the last month which is the lowest Conservative vote share of this Parliament – lower than under Ms Truss when it sank to 19%.

In contrast Labour is on 44%, though some of Mr Sunak’s senior ministers including Kemi Badenoch and Penny Mordaunt – both talked about as likely leadership candidates should the job become vacant – have backed him in public.