Sadiq Khan was on track to be re-elected mayor of London on Friday evening after opening a lead of nearly 25,000 over Shaun Bailey.
But the competition turned out to be much tighter than expected, with the oft-maligned Conservative candidate performing well, especially in the suburbs.
At 9:30 p.m. on Friday, seven of Town Hall’s 14 constituencies had declared themselves, with Mr Khan receiving 487,104 first preference votes against 462,837 for Mr Bailey.
This is an advance of 24,267 for the incumbent Labor Party, with counting set to resume at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
A final result is expected on Saturday evening, although there remains a possibility that the winner will not be declared until Sunday morning if the tally continues to be delayed by covid precautions.
The seven constituencies that declared themselves on Saturday are likely to be more favorable to Mr Khan, as five of them returned a Labor majority in the 2016 London Mayoral and Assembly elections.
It is also almost certain that second preference votes will come into play, as neither Mr Khan nor Mr Bailey appear likely to get 50% of the vote on the first preferences alone, despite pollsters’ predictions at the start of the campaign. according to which Mr. Khan was defined. for a landslide.
It is also likely to favor Mr Khan, with many Green and Lib Democrat voters likely to have given him their second preferential vote.
Tonight’s early results plunged social media into collapse as it suggested Mr Bailey might have a chance at arguably the most dramatic result seen since the post was created in 2000.
The results of the first four constituencies give him 5,307 votes ahead of Mr. Khan.
Mr Bailey secured a 56,280 vote lead in the conservative suburb strongholds of Bexley and Bromley, with a vote of 100,630 to 44,350 for Mr Khan.
He also took a surprise lead at Brent and Harrow, with 65,566 votes to 61,778, a gap of 3,788.
And he was leading in the Midwest region, which covers key Tory areas such as Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, including the Ladbroke Grove area where Mr Bailey grew up. Here he had a lead of 2,205, between 53,713 and 51,508 for Mr. Khan.
But Mr Khan won an overwhelming majority of 56,966 first preference votes in the Labor stronghold of Lambeth and Southwark.
They showed that Mr. Bailey exceeded expectations by some distance. In Bexley and Bromley, he polled over 100,000 votes – over 3,000 more than what Zac Goldsmith managed for the Tories in 2016.
In Brent and Harrow, the assembly seat was retained by Labor with a majority of over 20,000 votes – but Mr Bailey outclassed his party’s assembly candidate by around 9,000 votes.
He also outperformed Mr Khan by 5,009 votes in Ealing and Hillingdon, with 79,863 votes to 74,854. This was despite the Labor seat in the London Assembly.
Mr Bailey racked up 82,361 votes in Havering and Redbridge, the constituency he and his family now call home, against 49,818 for Mr Khan – a net win of 32,543.
But Mr Khan performed well in the North East constituency, garnering 67,126 more votes than his rival, 111,359 to 44,233.
In those two constituencies in east London, Mr Bailey topped the Tory vote won by Zac, now Lord Goldsmith, in 2016 by several thousand votes – despite a drop in the overall turnout.
The results also showed the Greens were performing strongly, claiming second place in the Assembly constituency of Lambeth and Southwark and putting them on track for a record three or four members.
The Lib Democrats have said results will improve tomorrow when seats such as Richmond and Kingston are declared.