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OPINION - Sadiq Khan may be heading for third term but voters are anxious about crime and housing

Sadiq Khan (REUTERS)
Sadiq Khan (REUTERS)

The Mile End Institute poll indicates Sadiq Khan is set to achieve an unprecedented third term as Mayor. The race could narrow in the coming weeks. In 2021, low turnout meant the result was closer than the polls anticipated. Time around, the election is being fought under first-past-the-post.

Although few would bet on Mr Khan’s defeat, it is worth remembering the Mayor’s trump card is the popularity of his party in London — where Labour currently has a 35 point lead over the Conservatives — rather than voters’ approval of his performance. 45 per cent are “dissatisfied” with Mr Khan’s accomplishments.

Older, white Londoners and those living in the outer suburbs are especially unimpressed. The extension of Ulez has angered many.

Heading into the campaign’s final phase, the Mayor needs to set out a compelling prospectus that convinces a coalition of voters he deserves another term. Mr Khan, in recent days under Islamophobic attack, has been a figurehead for the capital’s diverse population.

Yet while high-profile initiatives such as universal free school meals might be sound retail politics, they risk distracting from pressing challenges.

Voters are anxious about rising crime following a spate of knife-related incidents. Lack of affordable housing is a major worry for young families, still deserting the capital in droves.

Last year, the Mayor’s team announced up to 11,000 fewer affordable homes after cuts in funding. Many have felt the impact of the cost of living squeeze, and are employed in a precarious labour market. Transport for London is mired in financial problems.

It lacks the capital budget required to initiate a further round of infrastructure development.

The pre-eminent issue is the state of London’s economy in the wake of Brexit where growth and productivity have stalled, alongside a robust plan to spur the green transition and net zero.

The capital needs to secure its future, exploiting advantages in high-value services while spreading prosperity more successfully to deprived communities. That requires a far closer alignment between City Hall and the boroughs.

Moreover, Mr Khan desperately needs a more constructive relationship with central government. The Mayor must negotiate a new devolution settlement with Whitehall to attain the powers and budget necessary to deliver London’s long-term prosperity.

Professor Patrick Diamond is director of the Mile End Institute, Queen Mary University of London