Mayor of London

What is the Mayor of London?

The role of the Mayor of London was created under the Greater London Authority Act 1999 as part of the Labour government's commitment to restore a city-wide government for London.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) comprises a directly elected Mayor and a separately elected London Assembly consisting of 25 members. The Mayor and Assembly are elected for a fixed term of four years. The first elections were held in May 2000 and the GLA began work in July of that year.

Former Labour MP Ken Livingstone was elected Mayor on May 4th 2000. Having been rejected as the Labour party's candidate, he ran as an independent and was subsequently expelled from the party.

He was re-elected for a second term on June 10th 2004, this time as the official Labour candidate having been re-admitted to the party shortly before the election. He stood again as the official Labour candidate in the May 2008 elections, but was pipped to the post by the Conservative candidate Boris Johnson, the current Mayor, who was re-elected to serve for a second term in May 2012.

The role of the Mayor of London is not to be confused with that of the Lord Mayor of the City of London.

The Lord Mayor serves for a one-year term of office and is apolitical. He presides over the City of London's governing bodies – the Court of Aldermen and the Court of Common Council – and is head of the City of London Corporation. He plays a key role in promoting UK-based financial services and related business services both nationally and internationally.

The Mayor of London, together with the London Assembly members, is accountable for the strategic government of Greater London. This includes responsibility for transport, police, civil defence and fire services, planning, economic development and wealth creation, social development and the improvement of the environment. The Mayor also has a number of duties in relation to culture and tourism including responsibility for Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square.

The Greater London Authority Act 1999 has been supplemented and updated by the Greater London Authority Act 2007 which grants the Mayor and the London Assembly further key powers in the areas of planning, housing, health and the environment. The new Act also strengthens the Assembly's scrutiny powers and improves other aspects of GLA governance.

The Mayor of London will be elected using the First Past the Post system if there are only two candidates.  However, if there are three or more candidates, as has been the case so far, then the Supplementary Vote system is used under which voters can cast a first and a second choice vote.

If a candidate receives more than half of all the first choice votes, they are elected.  If not, the two candidates with the most first choice votes go through to the second round and the one with the highest total of first and second choice votes wins.  In the event of a tie, the Greater London Returning Officer will draw lots.


The abolition of the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1986 brought to an end 97 years of local rule in London.

London's first government, the London County Council (LCC), was a directly-elected authority set up in 1889 by the Conservatives. In 1963 the LCC was replaced by the GLC in response to the continued growth in both the size and population of the capital; its first members were elected in 1965.

Labour regained control of the GLC in 1981 headed by Ken Livingstone whose policies at that time led to him being accused of running a 'loony left' administration and earned him the soubriquet 'Red Ken'.

The Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was determined to abolish the GLC and in 1986 succeeded in doing so.

When Labour was re-elected to power in 1997 one of its main manifesto pledges was to hold a referendum on the restoration of a democratically-elected strategic authority for London with a directly elected mayor and Assembly.

A referendum was duly held in May 1998 and on a turnout of 34 per cent of Londoners, 72 per cent voted in favour of the proposal. The Greater London Authority Act received Royal Assent in October 1999.


Ken Livingstone attracted controversy long before he became Mayor of London and has continued to do so ever since.

His outspoken comments have frequently made the headlines. He referred to US president George Bush as "the most corrupt American president since Harding in the 20s" and in 2004 stated "I just long for the day I wake up and find that the Saudi royal family are swinging from lamp-posts". His remarks comparing an Evening Standard reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard earned him a four-week suspension in 2006, later overturned on appeal.

Mr Livingstone's actions have been equally controversial. He was widely criticised in 1982 when he invited Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to County Hall and again in 2004 when he extended a similar invitation to the Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, reported to be anti-Semitic and a defender of suicide bombers.

On the other hand many of the policies pursued by Ken Livingstone when he became Mayor were welcomed, in particular his anti-racist stance. The congestion charge, while not without its critics, has been praised by environmentalists and is generally acknowledged to have been a success.

His election as Mayor in 2000 was also highly controversial. The Labour Party led by Tony Blair was determined that the left-wing Livingstone would not be Labour's official candidate. A shortlist of three was drawn up; Health Secretary Frank Dobson, Transport Secretary Glenda Jackson, and Ken Livingstone, at that time Labour MP for Brent East.

The complex electoral college used, rather than a one-member, one-vote system, was seen by many as the reason why victory was secured for Labour's favoured candidate, Frank Dobson. As a result Ken Livingstone stood as an independent and was elected as London's first Mayor, with Dobson coming in fourth behind the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates.

In the 2008 mayoral election Ken Livingstone, standing as the official Labour candidate and hoping to be elected for a third term, faced opposition from Boris Johnson standing for the Conservatives, Brian Paddick for the Liberal Democrats, and candidates from the BNP, UKIP, Green party, Christian Peoples' Alliance and Christian Party, Left List, English Democrats and an independent.

In the event Ken Livingstone was beaten into second place by Boris Johnson who gained a total of 1,168,738 first and second choice votes, compared to Ken Livingstone's 1,028,966 votes. History repeated itself in 2012 when Boris Johnson was re-elected with a total of 1,054,811 votes, leaving Ken Livingstone again in second place with 992,273 votes.

The present Mayor has proved to be just as controversial and colourful as his predecessor, though in very different ways. An old Etonian, Boris Johnson worked in journalism before becoming a Conservative MP in 2001, going on to hold shadow government posts. He resigned as an MP on being elected Mayor.

By the time of his election he was already a well-known figure, having appeared in various television programmes including 'Have I Got News For You', and having attracted considerable media coverage over the years for his frequent and widely-reported inappropriate comments.

But although Boris Johnson is often portrayed as a gaff-prone bumbling buffoon, this image is said to belie a shrewd, political operator.  He succeeded in winning the 2012 Mayoral election at a time when his own Conservative party was trounced in the local elections.  This, together with polls showing the reflected glory from the London 2012 Olympics has increased his popularity with the public, has led to much speculation about Boris Johnson becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party – something Mr. Johnson has dismissed (in his usual fashion) as being less likely than "waking up on Mars to discover Elvis Presley sitting next to me."


Current Mayor – Boris Johnson.
Born – New York 1964.
Elected – 6th May 2012.
Salary – £143,911

Source: Mayor of London website – 2012

Mayor of London 2012 election results:

Boris Johnson –  Conservative Party:  first choice votes 971,931; second choice votes 82,880; final total 1,054,811

Ken Livingstone – Labour Party:  first choice votes 889,918; second choice votes 102,355; final total 992,273

Jenny Jones – Green Party: first choice votes 98,913
Brian Paddick – Liberal Democrats: first choice votes 91,774
Siobhan Benita –  Independent:  first choice votes 83,914
Lawrence Webb – UK Independence Party: first choice votes 43,274
Carlos Cortglia –  British National Party: first choice votes 28,751

Source: London Elects – 2012


"I want to clear up some myths about the recent elections. They were not decided on the basis of who said what to whom in the lift. It wasn’t a question of tax returns or Cornish pasties or bus advertisements. The reality is that the people of London would not have given me a second term if they had not looked at the record of the GLA over the last four years and decided that it was respectable.
"In fact it was more than respectable.
"It was excellent."

From the Mayor's speech, City Hall – May 2012