Introducing the eccentric field of candidates running to be London's next mayor

Sunday, May 2, 2021

LONDON -- An American businessman with a penchant for loud suits. The actor with an "anti-woke" agenda. YouTubers with ironic campaigns. An intergalactic "space politician" who wears a trash can on his head. The incumbent Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is seeking re-election against 19 other candidates in a vote on May 6, and it is fair to say the field of prospective mayors is the weirdest, as well as the largest, the U.K. capital has ever seen.

Khan, representing the Labour Party, which is in opposition to Boris Johnson's Conservatives in the central government, is well known for his clashes with former President Trump and marshalling the city through a number of devastating terrorist attacks. He is set to be comfortably re-elected -- if recent polling is to be believed -- with Khan promising to "renew, rebuild and refresh London" in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic should he win another term.

His main rival, the Conservative Shaun Bailey, is polling only 28%, compared to Khan's 41%, according to the most recent polls. Bailey has attacked Khan's record on housing and combatting crime but has consistently lagged behind the incumbent mayor in opinion polls and has a record of making controversial statements compared to Khan's more conciliatory public messaging.

Elsewhere, however, the field of candidates from outside Britain's mainstream political parties looks increasingly bizarre.

The most successful of those is the YouTuber Nico Omilana, who boasts 3.3 million subscribers and 1.7 million Instagram followers. Standing as an Independent candidate with no party affiliation, Omilana told the BBC he has "more knowledge, strength and integrity than any other candidate" and that the "system was broken for young people."

Polling at 5%, according to ITV, Omilana may just meet the threshold of enough votes to get his 10,000 ($13,900) deposit back, which candidates are required to put down in order to stand.

He is joined by fellow YouTuber Max Fosh, with 419,000 subscribers, who is running to "just to get more votes" than Laurence Fox, an actor running on an anti-lockdown, "anti-woke" ticket.

Fox made headlines in the U.K. in January 2020 when he denied that the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, had been a victim of racism in the media and regaled against being called a "white privileged male" in a controversial appearance on the current affairs program Question Time.

Since then he has formed his own political party, lamented social distancing restrictions and is campaigning on promises to never return the capital to lockdown and "reclaim your freedom to speak." Like Fosh, he is at 1% in the opinion polls.

Also standing is "Count Binface" -- a satirical candidate who has been a fixture of the last few election cycles, having stood against Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the 2019 general election. Prior to that, he stood against former Prime Minister Theresa May as "Lord Buckhethead," but was forced to rebrand due to copyright issues.

"I am standing in the 2021 Elections in the Earth Capital, London, to bring voters a touch of intergalactic class and some ingenious policies that will PUT LONDON ON THE MAP," according to his website. One of his manifesto commitments is for "loud snacks to be banned in theaters."

Then, there is representation originating from across the Atlantic in the form of Brian Rose, an American businessman who has lived in London for the past 21 years. He claims to have put "seven figures" of his own cash into his campaign, and has placed several bets on himself to win the mayoralty.

"The first thing you need is awareness, if they don't know who you are, then they can't engage with your policy," Rose told ABC News in a recent interview. "So I always joke they come for the suit, they stay for the policies, and then they show up on May 6."

"I think we're going to shock a lot of people with the amount of support we have from Londoners," he added.

The eccentricities of U.K. politics are in full swing as Khan looks favorite to win the vote and London's Mayor for the next three years, even if Count Binface believes he is "more qualified" than the other candidates.

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