Former Lib Dem mayoral candidate gives backing to Sadiq Khan

Siobhan Benita says re-electing the Labour mayor is “only way” to “safeguard everything that makes London so special”, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Siobhan Benita (left, credit Henry Compson) and Sadiq Khan (right, credit Noah Vickers/LDRS)
Siobhan Benita (left, credit Henry Compson) and Sadiq Khan (right, credit Noah Vickers/LDRS)

A former Liberal Democrat opponent of Sadiq Khan has endorsed him in the mayoral election, urging Londoners to back him in what she called a “close, two-horse race” against Tory candidate Susan Hall.

In a letter distributed to households across the Lib Dem heartland of Kingston and Richmond, former candidate Siobhan Benita said re-electing the Labour mayor for a third term was the “only way” to “safeguard everything that makes London so special”.

The Lib Dems said opinion polls show the Conservatives do not have “any chance of winning” in London and suggested voters could back their candidate, Rob Blackie, without fear of Hall being elected.

In her letter, Benita said: “The Tories have changed the voting system in London to make it easier for them to win. Londoners will now only get one vote for mayor – which means there’s no insurance policy of a second preference.

“The election this time is a two-horse race […] and the choice couldn’t be starker. It’s either Sadiq, who has a positive vision to build a fairer, greener and safer London for everyone, or the hard-right Tory candidate.”

Hall’s team has said she “is proud to celebrate London’s diverse communities” and that as mayor “she will fix the bread-and-butter issues that people care about – making our streets safer and putting money back in your pocket”.

According to the polls, Khan has a lead of around 20 or more points over Hall, with the other candidates trailing by a further gap of at least 15 points.

But Benita said the polling reminds her “of what they said about Donald Trump before he was elected, and about Brexit before the EU referendum”, adding: “We can’t make that mistake again.”

She also said the new requirement for photo ID in order to vote could disproportionately affect those likeliest to support Khan.

A London Liberal Democrat spokesperson responded: “Far from being a ‘close two-horse race’, the Conservatives are in freefall nationally, and are doing even worse in London because of their extreme policies.

“No-one seriously thinks they have any chance of winning. Just look at any opinion poll.”

Benita spent 18 months campaigning against Khan ahead of the last mayoral election, originally scheduled for 2020.

But after the pandemic delayed the contest by one year, she withdrew from the race, saying she could not remain in the unpaid role for a further twelve months. Her departure forced the Lib Dems to select a new candidate in the form of ex-MEP Luisa Porritt.

Benita later announced she had resigned from the Lib Dems, and said Rejoin EU candidate Richard Hewison was her first choice in 2021’s election.

She previously stood as an independent against Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone in the 2012 mayoral race, and now describes herself on her Twitter/X account as “politically homeless”.

The London mayoral election is on 2nd May, along with elections to the London Assembly.

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