Home Estate Planning Piers Corbyn is going to run for London mayor: here’s why that could be a problem for Sadiq Khan

Piers Corbyn is going to run for London mayor: here’s why that could be a problem for Sadiq Khan

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We’re still weeks away from nominations – officially – opening for the elections for the new London mayor in May, which will be the first such race held under the first past the post electoral system.

But with all the major parties having selected their candidate, and Labour’s Sadiq Khan pursuing a record third term, the race for City Hall is beginning to warm up.

Notorious anti-lockdown, anti-World Health Organisation, climate change denier Piers Corbyn has confirmed his plans to run to City A.M., vowing he would “unnarrow” all the junctions, “oppose all lockdowns” and have Google and Facebook “removed from London”.

Rumours have abounded for months that his brother, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, could be preparing his own run, after being ejected from his old party by Sir Keir Starmer.

The independent MP for Islington North told LBC last year:  “I’m ruling nothing in and nothing out at the moment. Let’s cross one bridge at a time, shall we?”

But speaking to the Standard last week, Corbyn senior said he thought it “extremely unlikely” his younger brother would run for City Hall and would instead focus on his constituency.

Reports have also emerged George Galloway – former Labour MP, ex-Celebrity Big Brother contestant – currently on the ballot in Rochdale for the Workers Party – is mulling a bid.

Galloway told the Sunday Times last year that he was considering running, adding: “My contest would be against Starmer. Khan is a miserable cypher for Starmer.”

And while the outcome in Rochdale, widely seen as the most unpredictable by-election for quite some time, could change things for him, or not, the presence of candidates like Galloway, or former actor-turned-activist Laurence Fox has an impact.

British elections wouldn’t be the same without the delightfully crank candidates such as Count Binface and the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Far be it from us to argue against the whimsical spectacle of a cabinet minister lining up on a drafty sports hall stage to hear their constituency results alongside Lord Buckethead.

But mayoral elections are – or used to be – a different beast. Personality plays a bigger part than in general elections; just ask Ken Livingstone, or even zip-wire dangler Boris Johnson.

And crucially, with millions of us across the capital going to the polls, in London mayor candidates from outside the mainstream get the chance to stack up tens of thousands of votes in a way that simply doesn’t happen at the constituency level.

Take Piers Corbyn, who ran in the Uxbridge by-election last summer, scoring himself a measly 101 votes. Compare that to his record at the previous mayoral contest, where he came in with 20,000 – and you begin to get the picture.

And it’s a picture Corbyn and his coterie are aware of. “[Last time, in] first and second preferences I got 55,000 votes which is reasonable given I had zero publicity and was blocked from everything,” he told me.

“But I think yes I’ll get far more votes this time because there’s huge distrust of the major parties and the other ones, Reform and Reclaim are, well, pro-genocide in Palestine so people aren’t going to vote for them either.” [Reform and Reclaim, I assume I don’t need to tell you, would dispute this characterisation.]

“So I should get a very nice number of votes – could I win? Well, anything could happen in this day and age.”

Quite. But aside from the prospect of a Piers win, under the new system – with no option for first and second round voting – those thousands of votes become a whole lot more important.

Minor London mayor candidates stacking up 10,000, 20,000 – even 50,000 votes – on fringe issues represent a major slice of what could be the difference between a win or a loss for Khan or Tory rival Susan Hall. If I were London Labour or CCHQ, I’d be worried.

So whether it be a political stunt, an effort inspired by ego, or even an attempt at revenge, fringe candidates in this race are set to matter more than ever.

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