LONDON: Millions set out for polling stations on ‘Super Thursday’ as England, Scotland and Wales cast a bumper set of votes that marked the biggest election outside a general election.
It also marked the first post-Brexit, post-Covid-19 election, with new coronavirus prevention protocols in place at polling booths amid fears of a low turnout.
Voters elected 129 members to the Scottish Parliament, 60 members to the Welsh Senedd, 143 local councils and 13 mayors in England.
Labour’s Sadiq Khan, who has been the mayor of London since May 2016, is expected to win the London mayoral vote, though it is likely he will secure victory through second preference votes. The mayor of London is traditionally elected using the Supplementary Vote system, which allows voters to make a first and second choice.
If no candidate secures more than 50 per cent of the first choice votes, all except the top two candidates are eliminated. If a voter’s first choice candidate is eliminated, and their second choice is for one of the top two, their second choice is counted.
The system encourages candidates to campaign aggressively in order to get a broader base of support.
Savanta ComRes, one of the UK’s best-known polling companies, earlier in the week put Khan at 41pc and Shaun Bailey of the Conservatives at 29pc.
Khan tweeted on Thursday: “London: reports show that voter turnout is low across our city. If you love London and what we stand for, please come out and vote for it. We had a Tory mayor just five years ago — if you don’t vote, they could win again.”
Khan, whose family migrated to the UK from Pakistan in the late 60s, spent the past few weeks campaigning across London with a promise to be tough on crime and deliver on jobs.
Khan’s main rival Bailey pledged to cut crime “in 100 days” if elected. A Labour spokesperson dismissed Mr Bailey’s claims as “fantasy figures”.
The Office for National Statistics last year found that knife crimes in England and Wales had risen to a record high, up 6pc from 2019.
In the Scottish Parliament elections where the SNP is on course to win a majority, British Pakistani Anas Sarwar, the head of the Scottish Labour Party, has boosted chances of Labour being Scotland’s biggest opposition party.
Sarwar is the son of Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, who was the UK’s first Muslim MP.
“We will not be doing any deals or coalitions with any political parties. I’m focused on delivering a national recovery. That should be our collective mission, not a referendum. I am building the alternative to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP,” Sarwar tweeted a day before polls opened.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021