People are seen relaxing in front of City Hall in London, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease

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Reuters

Today was supposed to be the first day of the new mayoral term. The coronavirus epidemic has pushed the election back a year, so we look at how each of the leading candidates spent what could have been their first full day in office.

On 7 May, voting was due to take place in the capital for the London mayor but to help restrict the spread of coronavirus the election will now not take place until May 2021.

The delay has already claimed its first casualty.

On Wednesday, former Conservative cabinet minister Rory Stewart dropped out of the race.

The former MP said it was impossible to keep a campaign going for another year as an independent candidate.

But just because the race has been delayed, it does not mean campaigning has stopped.

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Sadiq Khan

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Sadiq Khan continues his duties as mayor of London remotely from his Tooting home.

Sadiq Khan, Labour candidate and current mayor of London

From a back room of his Tooting home, Sadiq Khan runs a temporary version of the mayor’s office.

Instead of canvassing election day was spent “talking to colleagues via phone and video calls about how we’re responding to the COVID-19 crisis across London,” he told the BBC.

Coronavirus has turned the “daily rhythms of all our lives upside down,” he said.

“Under normal circumstances, I would have spent election day knocking on doors from sunrise until well into the evening, trying to persuade as many Londoners as possible to re-elect me mayor of London.

“The last few weeks have of course changed everything.”

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Sadiq Khan

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Sadiq Khan ended what would have been election day “clapping for our heroic carers”

“Each of the thousands of deaths from COVID-19 have been devastating for the families and communities affected.

“I ended the day joining millions of other Londoners clapping for our heroic carers. We all continue to owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”

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Shaun Bailey

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Shaun Bailey said he has seen his local community “become even stronger”.

Shaun Bailey, Conservative candidate

Ahead of VE Day, Shaun Bailey spent election day speaking to volunteers at the Royal British Legion.

“Their work is very close to my heart. I’m an honorary colonel in the fusiliers, and my grandfather fought in Italy in WW2,” he said.

Despite the difficulties of lockdown Mr Bailey said he had seen the local community “become even stronger”.

“My street’s WhatsApp group has lit up my phone most evenings and our neighbours have been looking out for each other with offers of grocery shopping and regular contact.

“My campaign team and I have been drawing up plans on how to mobilise this community spirit once London is open again.”

Much like in parliament, the Greater London Authority (GLA) is holding virtual committees or quizzing officials via Zoom for the first time.

Mr Bailey said: “Combining home-based arts and crafts with my job as a London Assembly Member, holding the mayor to account each day, has certainly kept me on my toes.

“And of course, once a week, my family and I join our neighbours outside to clap for the NHS.

“A great and regular reminder that we are not alone in this crisis.”

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Sian Berry

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Sian Berry spoke to the Vanessa Feltz show on BBC Radio London

Sian Berry, Green candidate

“In City Hall we’re getting back to holding the mayor to account,” Sian Berry told the BBC.

The Green Party co-Leader spent election day working on the GLA’s Oversight Committee, scrutinising the mayor’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

Last month she began a YouTube news show from her living room.

“I’ve been trying to connect with Londoners in new ways,” she said.

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YouTube

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Sian Berry has began a Youtube news show from her living room

Along with an interview on BBC Radio London, Ms Berry spent much of election day planning her next social media broadcast.

“We’re bringing in people who are working on the crisis,” Ms Berry said.

“We’re continuing to inform people about vital issues and to help buoy up people’s spirits a bit, in imaginative ways during lockdown.

“Instead of business as usual under the current mayor, this is all about showing how we can learn from this crisis and start to create a better world.”

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Siobhan Benita

Siobhan Benita, Liberal Democrat candidate

Finding herself with a political campaign team but no election, Siobhan Benita decided to put the money and resources towards a new initiative.

“We realised we can use the phone bank we have and phone numbers we have to touch base with vulnerable people across London who may find themselves isolated at the moment.

“Thursday was like most of my days at the moment, organising Call with Kindness scheme, which aims to identify people who might be struggling with lockdown.”

“They’re the nicest calls I’ve ever made,” Ms Benita said.

Ms Benita escaped the lockdown to help organise her local food bank.

“I’m a donation point and people can drop things off on my porch, and I go in to help pack.

“It’s been a great way to see how people are coping.”

Before the pandemic, Ms Benita admits she was not as high in the polls as she would have liked.

“But the delay is an opportunity to reset and rethink,” she said.

“With Rory dropping out there has been a change in dynamics. When campaigning starts again we will have an opportunity to provide a truly liberal voice for London.”

Other candidates who had announced they are running to be Mayor of London:

  • Count Binface, Independent
  • Drillminister, Independent
  • David Kurten, Independent
  • Winston McKenzie, Unity In Action
  • Charlie Mullins, Independent
  • Nims Obunge, Independent
  • Rosalind Readhead, Independent
  • Mandu Reid, Women’s Equality Party

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