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Londoners ask ‘Susan who?’ just days away from Mayoral election



Londoners are going to the polls next week to decide if Sadiq Khan wins an unprecedented third term or if one of his 12 rivals will be given a chance to run the capital for the next four years.

A week ahead of the vote on Thursday 2 May, a new opinion poll showed Mr Khan is decidedly ahead, albeit with the narrowest lead in the race so far.

The Savanta survey for the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London put the Labour mayor on 46 per cent, with his Tory challenger Susan Hall on 33 per cent. But Mr Khan’s lead has nearly halved since campaigning began months ago, with home secretary James Cleverly this week accusing him of being “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to crime in the city.

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With polling day fast approaching, The Independent went to speak to Londoners on the issues that affect them and asked what they thought of the candidates.

Across the capital we found a voting public dissatisfied with the mayor on a range of issues, from the housing crisis that Mr Khan promised to fix when he was first elected eight years ago, to an epidemic of knife crime, Ulez expansion and regular transport strikes.

Sadiq Khan has been accused of failing to do enough on the big issues during his eight years as mayor (AFP via Getty Images)

Despite the frustration though, many struggled to consider – or even name – the alternatives.

Tevfik Ulusoy, 42, from Lewisham, who is a watercolour dealer at Covent Garden’s historic Apple Market, took Mr Khan to task on transport issues.

“The strikes are killing us small businesses,” he said. “Everybody is struggling – train, tube strikes. The buses don’t help as they go slowly too, in support, and reduce services. The strikes have to stop. It seems like every month. Come on a Monday and you can see nobody is around. It is empty.

“Sadiq needs to help find an agreement and stop them for good. I’m Turkish, and me and my partner, I always voted Labour, but in the last two years they f***ed it up.

“I’m thinking of voting for the Conservatives for the first time. I’m angry.”

Asked if he knew what Susan Hall stood for, he replied: “No, I don’t know who she is, but something needs to change. To be honest [the Conservatives] would do better.”

Tevfik Ulusoy, a watercolour dealer at Covent Garden’s historic Apple Market, says transport strikes are ‘killing us small businesses’ (Barney Davis)

Leslie White was visiting the West End with her friend Sue Hannon, from close to the Surrey border, to see The Mousetrap for their joint 70th birthday present.

“Sadiq is a power-hungry, land grabber who wants to expand London,” Ms White said, bluntly. “He really wants to expand Ulez, even though he said he doesn’t. London is becoming its own country in a way, and everyone else will be left behind.

“I don’t know who I would vote for – I would go in, close my eyes and write an ‘X’ randomly. I can’t see an alternative to Sadiq.”

Her friend Ms Hannon said she feared that small towns on the capital’s outskirts would lose their individuality if the bulging metropolis were to swallow them.

She said: “I understand wanting clean air but my thing is, instead of charging drivers to go through [central London], there should be more park and ride. So you bus everyone in for cheap.

“I think all politicians are corrupt, so I will probably go for [the] Greens.”

Leslie White said she could not see an alternative to Mr Khan, while friend Sue Hannon has little faith in politicians (Barney Davis)

We spoke to taxi driver Sam Jewell, 57, outside the Ritz hotel in Mayfair as he was waiting for a customer.

“I’ve lived here my whole life but the city has gone to pot ever since Sadiq got in,” he said. “Every time someone gets stabbed or shot he puts his face on the news to say it’s terrible, but nothing ever changes.

“He forgets he only has two jobs as mayor: to be in charge of Transport For London and the Metropolitan Police. He appoints the commissioner, so if anything is wrong with the police, it’s on his watch. He’s always passing the buck, he’s useless. But I guarantee he will get in again.”

Asked what the alternative was, he was unable to recall Ms Hall’s name but was full of praise for her predecessor Shaun Bailey.

Conservative candidate Susan Hall has narrowed the gap with Mr Khan in the latest opinion polls (REUTERS)

When reminded of who she was, he said: “Good luck to her. But the opposition isn’t making enough noise. Shaun Bailey was very good, he put forward a lot of arguments but couldn’t win under that system.

“Sadiq’s only achievement is Ulez, which he nicked off the congestion charge and expanded it. Now the traffic is annoying.

“I’ve never had anyone in the cab say anything good about Sadiq or say they will vote for him, but yet he’s still there. How does that work?

“Boris was great and achieved five of his six promises.”

Taxi driver Sam Jewell, who suggested Mr Khan is ‘always passing the buck’, in his cab outside The Ritz (Barney Davis)

Housing costs in the notoriously expensive city are the main concern for many Londoners, owners and renters alike.

At Clapham Common, 24-year-old architect Alicia Lartey said: “Affordable housing is the most important thing, especially because wages aren’t improving.

“He [Khan] hasn’t done a good job for renters, my friends are all really struggling. It’s so hard to get on the property ladder.

“I work in property inventory and most places in Chelsea and Knightsbridge have been bought by foreign buyers but remain completely unoccupied.

“It’s a real scandal, especially with so much homelessness on the streets. You have all these empty buildings being left rundown, not maintained. They just want them for a portfolio. No one is allowed in because they are owned and they just sit there while everyone else struggles.

“New-build homes only meet the minimum design requirements and use the cheapest materials. You have an excellent area but the flats are tiny with low ceilings so they can pack more in. They look nice but the quality is absolutely cr**.”

On Mr Khan, she added: “I haven’t decided who to vote for. I don’t think there is any alternative to him but I don’t know of anyone else – I guess I will have to do the research. I think it would be refreshing to see a younger person be mayor, someone who has struggled to get on the property ladder.”

Rents across the city continue to soar and getting on the property is an impossible dream for many (Victoria Jones/PA Wire)

In Clapham, school councillor Nathan Collins, 37, was more positive about Mr Khan, pointing to his free school meals initiative.

“Lambeth as a borough has a huge mix between private and state schools,” he said. “Maybe a change of government will see a flood more money come into our local schools. A lot of them are closing around here.

“For me it will probably be Labour – I don’t think they have done a bad job around here.

“Susan Hall is running on crime but I don’t think it is dangerous. There are challenges with low-level street crime but nothing that is too major in my opinion.

“This is a huge city, and I think the press overblow it and make it seem like it is really dangerous around here.

“Sadiq’s free school meals have totally changed how people interact with education. They have made such a big difference to the area and our demographic.

“You start to see kids mix together on Clapham Common basketball courts and that’s what London is all about.”

His partner added: “I think Sadiq has done a good job. I wouldn’t say there was anyone else to vote for.”

Knife crime campaigner Faron Paul says more needs to be done to tackle offending (@faronalexpaul)

But for others, soaring crime statistics tell a different story. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday showed knife and gun crime in the capital both increased by 20 per cent last year.

Knife crime campaigner Faron Paul, 38, who collects lethal weapons from young children and hands them over to authorities through his FazAmensty charity, said the first duty of the mayor was to keep Londoners safe.

On the same day as a woman was knifed in broad daylight in Kilburn High Street, he said: “Almost every area of policy that City Hall governs is currently being neglected.

“Our Metropolitan Police force is broken. There’s a massive, ever-widening gap between community and police, knife crime is at epidemic levels yet it is completely ignored. Our children are dying every other day in our streets.

“If Sadiq put as much focus and support of knife crime as he does TfL [Transport for London] and Ulez, then we would be able to address this epidemic more effectively.

“He’s had eight years to address this situation that has been brought to his door over and over again, but still hasn’t come forward with any type of realistic plans to combat knife crime.

“Unless Susan Hall is willing to make real changes and create meaningful policy, then no, it won’t be safer with Susan.”

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