London mayoral election: Independent candidate Rayhan Haque becomes first contender to drop out of race

Rayhan Haque, independent candidate for Mayor of London, has dropped out of the race (Handout)
Rayhan Haque, independent candidate for Mayor of London, has dropped out of the race (Handout)

An independent contender for London mayor who proposed monthly car-free Sundays in the city centre has become the first candidate to drop out of the contest.

Rayhan Haque, a policy advisor for social justice campaigns, entered the London mayoral election in December last year, saying that he was the “wildcard” candidate who would offer voters “a real opportunity for change” from “the failed status quo”.

But on Monday, the candidate revealed he was dropping out of the race, with just a couple of weeks before nominations close.

He said this was due to his failure to break through in the polls, and a desire not to “splinter the progressive vote” - though he stopped short of explicitly endorsing Labour’s Sadiq Khan, who is running for an historic third term as mayor.

Mr Haque said: “I entered this race as London is in crisis and the status quo isn’t working. This contest has only reinforced my strong belief that the capital needs real change, new ideas, and fresh leadership.

“In the space of just over a couple of months, we announced more policy ideas than any other campaign, held the mayor to account on his record, and generated a significant level of support across the capital for our mission to build a new London.

“Our goal was always to win this. Nothing less. As a political newcomer and running as an independent, that was going to be a Herculean challenge. Perhaps even mission impossible.

“To succeed, at this stage of the race, we needed to be at a certain point in the polling. Sadly, I don’t think we are there. And if we can’t win this time, to stay in the contest only risks splintering the progressive vote.”

He added: “We needed to be at around 5-10 per cent in the polling by about now, and I just don’t think we’re there. I think at best, we’re probably 2-3 per cent.”

According to the most recent poll, conducted by YouGov on 12-19 February, a total of just four per cent of voters plan to give their votes to candidates from outside the five main parties.

Asked whether he was endorsing Sadiq Khan, by expressing concern about the “progressive vote”, Mr Haque said: “It’s up to London who they want as their next mayor. I’ll go so far as to say I just think we don’t want the progressive vote to be splintered, and I’ve been on record to say that I think [Tory candidate] Susan Hall would be a disaster for London.”

In addition to his promise of monthly car-free Sundays in central London, Mr Haque had also pledged to make the capital “AI-ready” and to make London a “four-day week city” by 2030.