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There are 13 candidates who are standing for the office of mayor of London
By Henry Zeffman, chief political correspondent, & Adriana Elgueta
BBC News, London

Counting has begun in the London mayoral election.

Not a single vote was counted on Friday – not that that stopped an intense flurry of rumours that the Conservative candidate, Susan Hall, could be about to defeat the two-term Labour incumbent, Sadiq Khan.

Speculation grew louder still when turnout figures were released in the evening suggesting there might have been stronger turnout in more Conservative-leaning parts of London.

Responding to those rumours, officials from both parties were seriously sceptical: not just because of the obvious reason that no votes had been counted, but also because victory for Ms Hall would be way out of line with public and private polling as well as canvass returns from door-knocking efforts during the campaign.

Yet both parties have always insisted that the contest was closer than many imagined.

‘Political brittleness’

There is a trite catchphrase in some parts that “London is a Labour city”.

At general elections that recently has been the case, though it still doesn’t really account for Conservative resilience in outer London.

At mayoral elections, of which there have only been six before this one, that’s not really true. Ken Livingstone won the first mayoral election in 2000 having quit Labour, with the Labour candidate beaten into third.

Ken Livingstone (left) and Boris Johnson stood against each other at previous London mayoral elections

In 2008, Mr Livingstone, now back in the Labour fold, was defeated on a far higher turnout by the Conservative, a certain Boris Johnson.

And most crucially, Mr Khan did not win by an especially convincing margin last time round, at least in the first round (the election system used has since changed).

Mr Khan’s vote was down a fair bit on his first contest in 2016. Some attributed this to the election taking place in a year of real Conservative strength, though it may also have shown political brittleness on his part.

One reason the rumours of a close campaign have surprised people is because of Ms Hall’s weakness as a candidate – few in the Conservative hierarchy ever expected or intended her to come out on top of their chaotic process for selecting a candidate.

But the frustrations in Conservative ranks about her selection were not just because of her own perceived weaknesses but also because of what they saw as Mr Khan’s: They thought he would be beatable.

The Labour leader said he was confident Sadiq Khan would win

Speaking at a rally in the East Midlands with newly-elected Labour mayor Claire Ward, Sir Keir Starmer was asked if Mr Khan could lose in London and whether he was the right candidate.

“Sadiq Khan was absolutely the right candidate,” he responded.

The Labour leader said Mr Khan had “two terms of delivery” behind him, adding: “I am confident he has another term of delivery in front of him.”

All that being said, not a single person I’ve spoken to in either party thinks Ms Hall will win today. If she does, they will be shocked.

Not long to wait now.

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