Sadiq Khan Vows More Climate Action After London Mayor Win

(Bloomberg) -- London Mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to press ahead with “world-leading green action” after comfortably winning a historic third term, a result that will bolster expectations for a Labour Party victory in a general election later this year.

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Khan got 43.8% of the vote, compared with 32.7% for his Conservative opponent, Susan Hall, according to figures released by City Hall on Saturday. The Labour mayor increased his vote share over his previous victory in 2021 by 3.8 percentage points, gaining support even in some outer borough areas where Hall had sought to exploit opposition to Khan’s expansion of a daily road toll on the most polluting vehicles.

The result was one of a string of Labour wins across the country in local elections this week that put opposition leader Keir Starmer on track to return to power in a general election expected later this year. The party has so far secured a bellwether parliamentary seat, at least nine of 11 available mayoral posts and at least 185 council seats at the expense of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives.

The only outstanding mayor’s race was in the West Midlands, where Conservative incumbent Andy Street had requested a recount in his close race against Labour candidate Richard Parker. A loss of that seat would be especially alarming to the Tories, since it would show that even candidates with a strong personal brand would struggle to overcome anti-Conservative sentiment in marginal seats.

In his victory speech, Khan vowed to continue enacting policies meant to limit carbon emissions and reduce crime. Khan hit back at what he described as negative campaigning by Hall, as his chief rival along with other defeated contenders, including perennial British spoof candidate Count Binface, looked on.

“It’s been a difficult few months,” Khan said. “We faced a campaign of non-stop negativity. But I couldn’t be more proud that we answered fear-mongering with facts, hate with hope, and attempts to divide with efforts to unite.”

While Khan, 53, had been seen as easily winning a third term — leading some public opinion polls by double digits — turnout numbers released after Thursday’s vote fueled speculation that Hall had closed the gap. Some Conservatives were hoping for a surprise result that could create momentum ahead of a general election due later this year.

Sunak had already seized on discontent over the expansion of London’s daily £12.50 ($15.70) Ultra-Low Emission Zone charge to roll back his government’s own green targets.

When Khan announced he was seeking another term, critics including some in his Labour Party predicted he would be vulnerable if the Conservatives mounted a credible challenge. His reelection margin in 2021 was much narrower than expected, with the mayor acknowledging then that the city of about 9 million people was “deeply divided” and scarred by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Khan has at times found himself caught in the middle of an intense debate over the war in Gaza, in danger of losing votes among Jewish people angry at the regular pro-Palestinian marches in London, as well as Muslims who accuse the Labour leadership under Starmer of not taking a robust enough stance on the Israeli response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Tensions have at times emerged between Khan and Starmer over whether to call for a ceasefire in Israeli’s war against Hamas and the impact of London’s ULEZ expansion. Earlier Saturday, Starmer affirmed that Khan “was absolutely the right candidate” expressing confidence that the mayor would win.

Hall, for her part, waged a controversial campaign built on opposition to ULEZ. Londoners were blanketed with leaflets issued on her behalf accusing Khan of planning to introduce a pay-per-mile charging program for vehicles, which the mayor repeatedly denied. She also accused Khan of pursuing a “woke” agenda and diverting resources from tackling crime.

Khan called Hall “the most dangerous candidate I’ve fought against.”

In her own speech Saturday, Hall accused Khan of “patronizing people like me” and urged him to do more to improve policing and reduce knife crime. She pledged to “continue to hold Sadiq to account” on issues affecting hardworking families, motorists, and women.

Khan said he would focus on issues such as the rising cost of living, street crime, homelessness and affordable housing. Still, he vowed to continue with an environmental agenda that includes increasing the availability of electric vehicle chargers and cleaning up the River Thames.

“My determination to ensure London leads from the front with world-leading climate action remains as strong as ever,” Khan said.

--With assistance from Alex Wickham, Alex Morales and Stuart Biggs.

(Updates with vote share in second paragraph.)

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