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From Two YouTubers to Count Binface: who are the candidates running for Mayor of London?

From Two YouTubers to Count Binface: who are the candidates running for Mayor of London?

In the 2021 local elections, there is no race bigger than that for the Mayor of London. The election, originally scheduled for 2020 but postponed due to the pandemic, will see incumbent Mayor Sadiq Khan face-off against a record 19 other candidates.

When originally scheduled for May 2020, the election was set to be a straight shoot out before Labour’s Khan, and the Conservative candidate, Shaun Bailey. This was before Rory Stewart, fresh out of leaving parliament at the 2019 general election, threw his name into the race as an independent.

Stewart was expected to disrupt the race and at least come in second, likely proving a formidable opponent to Sadiq Khan, with Stewart proving a popular centre-ground figure when running for the Conservative leadership shortly before leaving parliament.

However, the pandemic saw him end his race and he won’t be on the ballot at the election; instead, there will be 4 other independent candidates, including two YouTubers, and several other candidates who have set up parties to facilitate their run. This race may be one of the clearest wins for any candidate, but it has the most interesting list of candidates seen for years.

 

Sadiq Khan – Labour Party

The incumbent Mayor, Sadiq Khan has a significant lead in the polls and is expected to be comfortably returned to City Hall this May. He has proved a popular Mayor amongst many voters, particularly throughout the pandemic, where he has urged for tighter restrictions prior to government action and has lobbied to be part of COBRA meetings. His tenure though, has not been without controversy, with TFL, the London-run company who operate London’s transport, going 'bankrupt' during his tenure and several proposed emissions taxes proving unpopular with small businesses and residents. He also received criticism for a decision to ban Uber from London, and has been accused by his opponents of focusing on image rather than action.

 

Shaun Bailey – Conservative Party

Shaun Bailey, despite sitting significantly behind Khan in the polls, is the closest challenger in this race, and has been campaigning for almost three years, having become the Conservative Party candidate in June 2018. Bailey is currently a member of the London Assembly and has focused his campaign on knife crime and taxes, heavily criticising Sadiq Khan’s management of the police and specifically knife crime. Bailey was a former youth worker and advisor to David Cameron, but has come under significant criticism for comments about working-class people and sexual activity amongst young people.

 

Sian Berry – Green Party

The co-leader of the Green Party since 2018, Sian Berry has twice been the party candidate for Mayor, coming fourth in 2008 and third in 2016. She has been a member of the London Assembly since 2016 and is also running for that position again in 2021, alongside her Mayoral campaign. The Green Party support significant environmental reform and it is expected that Sian Berry will likely increase from the 5.8% she received in 2016 and come in a comfortable third place.

 

Luisa Porritt – Liberal Democrats

Originally, the Liberal Democrats had selected Siobhan Benita as their candidate; however, she withdrew in June 2020 after the elections were pushed back. Instead, the Liberal Democrats selected Camden-based Councillor and MEP between 2019 and 2020, Luisa Porritt. The Liberal Democrats have long been the U.K.’s ‘third party’ but have struggled in recent years with the Green Party often taking some of their vote. They do have a strong voter base in London however, and their opposition to vaccine passports has gained them popularity in recent national polling.

 

Kam Balayev – Renew Party

Balayev is probably the United Kingdom’s answer to Andrew Yang; the former U.S. presidential candidate who is now favourite to become the next Mayor of New York. Balayev, like Yang, is a fierce proponent of Universal Basic Income, an economic policy that sees everyone guaranteed a minimum income, regardless of whether they are in work. Unlike Yang, who made his name in tech, Balayev has worked in international law and in business and is campaigning for cheaper transport and more support for small businesses.

 

Count Binface - Count Binface Party

In 2019, he was Boris Johnson’s most feared opponent in the consistency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Whilst Ali Milani, the young Labour candidate, may have come second, Count Binface stole the show, with their rivalry with Lord Buckethead gaining nationwide acclaim. Unfortunately for Binface, Buckethead received 125 votes to Binface’s 69. Maybe the Mayoral election will be the chance to save face.

 

 

Valerie Brown – Burning Pink Party

Perhaps, in political terms, the most radical candidate in the race, Valerie Brown is standing on a platform to abolish the office she is running for, and indeed abolish all government. Instead, the Burning Pink Party advocates for citizens’ assemblies, which are typically large groups of people drawn by ballot to make political decisions for a set period – rather like jury service for government. Brown was arrested for vandalising a number of charity buildings with pink paint over climate change inaction, whilst the party are perhaps best known for their launch in June 2020, where they shoplifted a trolley of food from a Sainsbury’s in Camden, North London.

 

Mandu Reid – Women’s Equality Party

The Women’s Equality Party are less a single-issue party, but more of a social movement seeking to put feminism, and particularly intersectional feminism, at the top of the political agenda in London. Their candidate, Mandu Reid, has worked for all three of the previous Mayors of London – Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan – and the party are also running in the London Assembly elections. We interviewed Mandu about her campaign.

 

Brian Rose – London Real Party

Whilst there are many interesting and controversial candidates in this election, the biggest enigma of them all is probably Brian Rose; an American former New York banker founded London Real, a podcast and YouTube channel. His campaign mostly sees Rose travel around various London boroughs on a large battle bus in a pinstripe suit and overly broad tie. His campaign was fined for breaching lockdown rules whilst filming for the election. Rose has been criticised for spreading misinformation about Coronavirus and has produced a number of bizarre videos throughout the campaign.

 

 

Farah London – Independent

If you could win election on name alone, Farah London is perhaps the perfect candidate for the city she wishes to represent. A former Conservative Party affiliate, her campaign is focused on the cost of living for Londoners. Whilst many of the independent campaigns in this election are somewhat niche, London seems to represent a more traditional approach to being an independent candidate, an individual with a passion to help her community, seeking to build the coalition to do it.

 

Piers Corbyn – Let London Live

Piers Corbyn is the most controversial candidate on the list, with a long history of supporting conspiracy theories. The brother of former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been known to spout anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and was arrested in early-2021 for handing out leaflets that compared the coronavirus restrictions to Auschwitz. He has also been a long-established anti-vaxxer, long before the coronavirus pandemic, and unsurprisingly, much of his campaign is focused around ending lockdown.

 

Laurence Fox – Reclaim Party

Piers Corbyn is not the only anti-lockdown candidate on the list. Former actor Laurence Fox (former, because a controversial Question Time appearance in 2020 saw him ostracised by his profession), has built his campaign on opposing lockdown - spreading misinformation and conspiracies about the government's motivations. He first started engaging in politics in 2019, when he said he was radicalised by YouTube videos on ‘woke’ culture and has since been a regular political commentator, criticising Black Lives Matter and saying that Meghan Markle was not a victim of racism. He offered little evidence of these claims and his ‘culture war’ politics saw him found the Reclaim Party in 2020, which has been dubbed the ‘UKIP of culture’.

 

Peter Gammons – UKIP

On the subject of UKIP; they have turned themselves into an anti-woke party of sorts since Nigel Farage left the helm following the EU referendum in 2016. The party have since gone through a plethora of leaders – 10 in just four years – with their most recent elected leader being suspended from the party. Throughout this time, UKIP have become more of an outright national populist party, meaning they have extremely anti-immigration views and their former leader, Pat Mountain, accidentally called her party racist during an interview in 2019. Their candidate for the election is Peter Gammons, a former Brexit Party member who styles himself as Dr Gammons, despite his United States doctorate coming from a non-accredited university.

 

Max Fosh – Independent

Back to Laurence Fox, YouTuber Max Fosh decided to run in the London Mayoral election simply to get more votes than Fox. With Fox’s controversial ‘anti-woke’ politics being often being a not-so-subtle dog whistle to Brits reacting against diversity in the media, Fosh is seeking to make a mockery of Fox by getting young Londoners to back him in bigger numbers. Unfortunately for Fosh, Fox’s Reclaim Party is polling at around 4%, whilst Fosh is within the margin of error of 0%.

 

 

Richard Hewison – Rejoin EU

This campaign pretty much does what it says on the tin; Richard Hewison wants to re-join the European Union. He accepts that this is a tough ask, and Hewison is also focusing on bringing the United Kingdom back into the Erasmus programme that allows young people to study abroad. He is supported by Volt Europa, a European wide political movement seeking to forge a closer relationship between European states, with some even advocating for a United States of Europe.

 

Vanessa Hudson – Animal Welfare Party

Another campaign whose party name pretty much tells you everything they are about. They are a very pro-environmental party whose environmental policies are focused on animal welfare as much as anything else. Vertical farms (yes, farms that grow in layers, usually in high rises) are a priority for the party and they wish to clean up the river Thames. Their platform is all about promoting a plant-based lifestyle and opposing genetically manipulated crops; they are not anti-meat consumption, but they are focused on improving farming practices and animal welfare.

 

Steve Kelleher – Social Democratic Party

Steve Kelleher has had a fast turnaround in his political career. In the 2019 general election he was the Brexit Party candidate for Eltham, and now he is the Social Democratic Party candidate for London Mayor. The Brexit Party may have been a broad coalition and the SDP a long-standing Euro-sceptic party (they voted against the idea of a United States of Europe at their 1989 party conference) but it is still perhaps surprising that he is flying the SDP flag in the Mayoral election.

 

David Kurten – Heritage Party

David Kurten is one of the more well-known candidates representing fringe parties. He is a current member of the London Assembly, having been elected as a UKIP member in 2016 – subsequently leaving UKIP in 2020 and founding the Heritage Party. He characterises himself as a social conservative and his party are carrying a similar flag to Laurence Fox, with his attacks against the ‘gender ideology’ and rejection of the Covid-19 vaccine both being criticised as irresponsible and wrong by his critics. Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, a colleague of Kurten in the London Assembly, has been a particularly vocal critic of his vaccine scepticism, whilst he has been attacked for his anti-LGBTQ+ views by campaigners.

 

Niko Omilana – Independent

There is not just one, but two YouTubers running to be the next Mayor of London (perhaps there is a collab video planned). Niko Omilana, like Fosh, is primarily known for their prank videos in public, although does not have quite as specific an agenda as Fosh and the reasons for his candidacy are less clear. He is the youngest candidate in this race and has said that he is fighting for young Londoners - the more cynical would probably suggest it is publicity for his hugely popular social media channels. 

 

Nims Obunge – Independent

The final candidate in the race is Pastor and chief executive of The Peace Alliance, a knife crime awareness organisation, Nims Obunge. The reason for his candidacy is perhaps quote obvious, to tackle the violence on the streets of London that has seemed to escalate in recent years. The campaign is as much about raising awareness for an important issue as it is about Obunge’s plan for London.

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