London mayoral election: Capital awaits result amid signs of close race between Sadiq Khan and Susan Hall

The battle to become the next London mayor could be far closer than predicted after turnout fell in all of Sadiq Khan’s key battlegrounds – and rose in some of Susan Hall’s Tory heartlands.

No votes will be counted until Saturday morning- with the final result not expected until late on Saturday - but turnout figures released on Friday night showed fewer voters cast a ballot in traditional Labour areas than in the 2021 mayoral elections.

Figures showed turnout was down in Thursday’s election in all seven constituencies in which Labour mayor Mr Khan polled more first preference votes than his Tory rival Mr Bailey in 2021, as he bids for re-election against Conservative candidate Ms Hall for a historic third term.

This included the key constituencies of North East and City and East, where Mr Khan amassed more than 100,000 votes in each three years ago on his way to defeating Tory rival Shaun Bailey.The statistics also showed that in the seven constituencies where MrBailey was ahead in 2021, turnout was up in three: Bexley and Bromley, Havering and Redbridge and Croydon and Sutton, a good sign for Ms Hall.

A path to victory for Ms Hall - who was thought to be a significant distance behind Mr Khan - could depend on turnout being lower in the inner city, compared with the more Tory suburbs.

On Friday evening it was revealed 2,495,621 votes were cast in the election with turnout Londonwide at 40.5 per cent, down from 42 per cent in 2021.

Before the election Mr Khan said that a low turnout would favour Ms Hall.

Asked on Sky News about the London election, on Friday shadow health secretary Wes Streeting - MP for Ilford North - said: “We’ve always feared this race will be close.”

Amid the flurry of speculation that higher turnout in outer London may pave the way for a surprise victory for Ms Hall, a Labour source said that the fundamentals were still good for Mr Khan but that no one could know the outcome of the vote at this stage.

Tory MP Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, said on Sky News on Friday evening: “We have to wait for the results. There are indeed suggestions that it might be tighter than one would imagine,

“So let’s wait and see what happens,” he added. “We don’t quite know...what I do know is, Sadiq’ve got knife crime going up, you’ve got Ulez in the outer boroughs, you’ve got the war on motorists.”

Both Labour and Tory MPs have predicted in the run up to the election that the final result would be closer than polls during the contest have suggested, that have given Mr Khan a healthy lead.

But the mayoral race was electrified in its last 48 hours by a final poll showing Mr Khan’s lead over Ms Hall closing to the smallest since their campaigns started.

And signs of a lower turnout in many Labour heartlands further fueled speculation of a closer result than the polls predicted.

In the North East London constituency - a London Assembly seat comprising Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest - turnout has gone down from 42 per cent in 2021 to about 40 per cent.

In the City and East seat - made up of the City of London, Barking and Dagenham, Newham, and Tower Hamlets - turnout has decreased from 35 per cent to 31 per cent.

Another Labour stronghold, Lambeth and Southwark, has seen turnout decline from 41 per cent in 2021 to 39 per cent this year.

Counting will begin at 9am on Saturday. Votes will be counted alongside the election for the London Assembly.

The first results on the mayoralty may come in around midday on Saturday, with speculation that by around 1.30pm it might be clear who will emerge as the winner.

Voting figures for each of the 14 London Assembly constituencies will be announced as soon as each count is completed, with the first declaration expected on Saturday afternoon.

The mayoral votes for that constituency will be announced at the same time – effectively giving a “rolling” indication of each of the 13 candidate’s total votes captured.

The “official” declaration time is 1.30pm but many expect the announcement to come later than that, and it could stretch into Saturday evening.