London Mayoral elections 2021 and the road to Downing Street

14th April 2021

In 1998, a referendum was held in Greater London asking the people “are you in favour of the Government’s proposals for a Greater London Authority, made up of an elected Mayor and a separately elected assembly?”. The referendum, promised in Labour’s 1997 election manifesto and held under the provisions of the Greater London Authority (Referendum) Act 1998 saw only a 34.6% turn out, 72% of whom voted yes.

Ken Livingston became the first Mayor of London in May 2000, serving two terms. Livingston was on the hard left of the Labour party. During his political career, he described himself as being a democratic socialist. In his first term as Mayor, Livingston introduced the congestion charge, Oyster card and the “bendy bus”. In 2018, Livingston resigned from the Labour party two years after he was suspended over his comments about the relationship between Adolf Hitler and Zionism.1

Boris Johnson became Mayor of London in May 2008. There is a long history of politics within the Johnson family: his father Stanley was an MEP and his brother Jo was a Conservative MP. Mr Johnson is a distant cousin of David Cameron, and both men are linked via royal blood to King George II.2

Johnson and Cameron both held powerful positions in British politics, in parallel, and both representing the Conservative party. Johnson served as London Mayor for eight years from 2008, while Cameron served as Prime Minister for six years from 2010. Both men studied at Eton and then Oxford with two academic years between them. In 2014 Johnson announced his decision to stand as an MP in the 2015 General Election, taking a position in Theresa May’s cabinet as Foreign Secretary in 2016 and becoming Prime Minister in 2019.

In the recently released memoirs of former Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan, Mr Cameron blamed Mr Johnson for ruining his career. Both men had opposing views on the UK’s position in Europe.3

In 2016, Sadiq Khan became the Mayor of London, winning 56.8% of the vote. Mr Khan, former Labour MP for Tooting, became London’s first Muslim and ethnic minority Mayor. Mr Khan was born in Tooting to working class Muslim parents; he is third generation British of Pakistani origin. His grandparents migrated to the UK following the partition of India.

This year’s Mayoral election takes place on 6th May and there are 20 candidates standing. Of the major UK political parties, Sadiq Khan is representing Labour, Shaun Bailey is representing the Conservatives, Sian Berry is representing the Green Party and Luisa Porritt is representing the Liberal Democrats. A YouGov opinion poll predicts Sadiq Khan to win with 51% of the vote, followed by Shaun Bailey with 30% of the vote.4

Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey was born in North Kensington in 1971 and raised mainly by his mother and extended family, as his father was a long distance lorry driver. His family came to the UK as part of the Windrush generation in 1947. Bailey entered his career in politics standing as the Conservative candidate for Hammersmith in 2007, a seat he did not win. In 2012, he became special advisor to David Cameron on youth and crime, before being moved to a part-time role in the Cabinet Office in 2013.

London has evolved over the last 21 years as a direct result of having its own Mayor, with much of the city’s development potentially otherwise not occurring. Without a London Mayor, many of the London Overground transformations and the Olympics in London would never have happened.5

Review more information on this year’s candidates and their manifestos, at: