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Conservative London Mayoral Candidate Susan Hall Suggests Sadiq Khan Will Win in ‘Desperate’ Leaflet Accused of Voter Suppression

The Conservative campaign in London has been accused of more ‘underhand’ campaign tactics

Conservative Party candidate Susan Hall during the LBC London Mayoral Debate ahead of the election for Mayor of London on 2 May 2024. Photo: PA/Alamy

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In an election replete with questionable campaign tactics – from data harvesting to campaign leaflets posing as local newspapers – a new tactic by Conservative London mayoral candidate Susan Hall has come to light.

A leaflet circulated to some Londoners suggests to voters that Labour’s Sadiq Khan is inevitably going to win – in a move some election observers suspect is designed to split or de-motivate his voter base.

A letter written by Steve Tuckwell, Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip aimed at postal voters, claims that “the Mayor thinks he is going to win this election easily. This means we have the chance to make a difference because if Sadiq wins by a smaller margin than he is expecting, he will be forced to sit up and listen”.

Susan Hall Voted to Raise Council Tax Despite Condemning Sadiq Khan for Doing the Same

The Conservative candidate for London Mayor has been very vocal about council tax hikes – but in 2023 she voted to raise Harrow’s by more than 5%

The campaign leaflet only mentions Susan Hall and the Conservative Party in the legally-required small print at the bottom of the leaflet. Tuckwell signs off the letter as simply ‘MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip’, without mentioning which party he represents.

Tom Brake, a former Liberal Democrat MP and the director of campaigning group Unlock Democracy, said: “Candidates should always be upfront in their letters and leaflets about who the literature they are circulating is actually from, with their name and party prominent.  As well as the content being factually correct, this is the least voters should expect from those seeking to represent them.”

The leaflet attacks Khan over building tower blocks “instead of building the family homes that Londoners need”, police station closures, and the ULEZ tax – opposition to which has been a key plank of Hall’s campaign for mayor.

Rather than encouraging postal voters to vote for the Conservative Party, the leaflet tells people to vote for “someone else”.

Only the URL mentions the name of the Conservative Party
Part two of the offending leaflet, first shared by Local Democracy Reporter Noah Vickers

Campaigners for democratic reform told Byline Times that this kind of campaign tactic was encouraged by the changes to the voting system for London mayor.

Alberto Smith, of electoral reform campaign group Make Votes Matter, said: “This sort of tactic is a direct consequence of the change to the voting system for mayoral elections
Steve Tuckwell’s party introduced. Deliberately or not, it acknowledges the reality that, under First Past the Post, a majority of Londoners’ votes will potentially count for nothing.

“If you don’t want politicians to take votes for granted, don’t introduce a system that denies voters real choice.”

London mayoral elections previously used a supplementary vote system, which allowed voters to pick a second-preference candidate in case their first choice did not make it into the top two.

EXCLUSIVE

Sadiq Khan Accuses Conservatives of Manipulating Mayoral Election as he Pushes Starmer to Repeal Voting Changes

The re-standing London Mayor has pledged to lobby for the reversal of the Conservative’s controversial election changes he claims are designed to benefit PM Sunak’s party.

In 2022, the Government changed the voting system to the ‘winner takes all’ First Past the Post system, after Khan beat Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey in 2021 comfortably with second-choice votes, but only narrowly on first choice votes.

Neal Lawson, director of Compass, a think tank which promotes electoral reform, told Byline Times: “This is a last-ditch desperate tactic from the Tories to push progressives apart and win power by the back door. Conservatives know they can win on a minority share of the vote not on their own merits, but by sowing division amongst their opponents. When we divide, they conquer.

“This is partly because of the switch from SV to FPTP for mayoral elections, which represents a real backwards step for our democracy and only serves to deny voters choice.”

For political marketing expert Bendict Pringle, the leaflet was “an interesting example of voter suppression by Susan Hall”.

“Distributed in Lambeth, a Labour stronghold, it asks voters to help prevent Sadiq from winning by a big margin,” he said. “[There’s] no suggestion of voting Conservative or of the Conservative Party.

“The Susan Hall campaign know the chances of getting someone in Lambeth to vote Tory is low, so instead focuses on getting them to vote for anyone but Sadiq. If it’s successful it will help her close the gap.”

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Ashok Viswanathan, co-founder and former director of Operation Black Vote and CEO of
PeoplePower, said “the Electoral Commission too must watch this campaign like hawks for the development of these seemingly benign underhand tactics, for they are anything but benign”.

He argued that Hall’s campaign was reminiscent of American electioneering and was “a sign of the slow creep into UK politics of the toxicity of American SuperPACS – those faceless wonders of US electioneering”.

“These tactics only increase division, spread misinformation, and cause confusion – and are a threat to modern democracy,” he added. “We must ensure balance and transparency are at the heart of democratic elections and all election campaign funding.”

During last year’s local elections in Norwich, a Conservative Party leaflet was reportedly delivered to a “strongly Labour voting area”, telling people “you don’t need to take any ID in order to vote” – which was factually incorrect and risked disenfranchising voters.

Conservative London Assembly Member Susan Hall and Conservative MP Steve Tuckwell did not respond to a request for comment.

It is unclear where and how widely the leaflets were distributed.

Additional reporting by Josiah Mortimer

This is part of our VoteWatch election investigation series. Got a story tip? Contact votewatch24@bylinetimes.com

Byline Times needs your help to investigate disinformation and electoral exclusion as we head towards the 2024 General Election.

We’re asking for your help to keep track of dodgy campaigning this election, so if you spot anything that bears investigation, please email us at votewatch24@bylinetimes.com.


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