Dave Hill: Lessons of Sadiq Khan’s 2024 election win

Dave Hill: Lessons of Sadiq Khan’s 2024 election win

And so, after all the scaremongering, jitters and speculation, Sadiq Khan has completed his hat trick of London Mayor election wins, and with a bit to spare. The insistence of right wing media bigmouths that a “common sense” Conservative would rouse the London masses to turf him out has been shown to be misplaced. The Labour incumbent, despite a small fall in turnout and years of Tory vilification, has triumphed with a swing in his favour.

Observers of elections in London have debated for some time when the capital will reach “peak Labour”. It did not occur last Thursday. Khan won because he is canny, because he has a decent record to defend and because the capital’s Conservatives seem unable or unwilling to understand what it is about their party that most Londoners dislike.

It remains astounding that, in Susan Hall, they chose a candidate who personified this so loudly, proudly and ineptly. It is even more astounding that she was kept in place after her dark and lurid social media back catalogue was hauled into the spotlight. She was an unacceptable selection from the start. Yet instead of replacing her with someone sounder and steadier with a positive message and one foot in the centre ground, her party’s leadership embraced her as a frontline weapon in their interminable national war on London.

Hall, her demeanour and her gut convictions further underlined the similarities between today’s Conservative Party and Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. Carried away by a belief that their passions and protestations are those of a sidelined and “silenced” majority, they have jettisoned judgement and embraced denial.

That applies resoundingly to Hall. There was a measured case to make against last summer’s expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), but she chose instead to make it a flagship issue in a city where over 40 per cent of households don’t have a car. A year ago at a Mayor’s Question Time session, Hall brandished figures she proclaimed revealed the terrible extent of the hardship the ULEZ was causing. In reality, they confirmed that quite a small minority of London households would be directly affected, limiting its electoral potential.

Come 2 May, for all the months of daily raging against the scheme, there was no suburban uprising against Khan. He actually gained support in almost all of outer London. Hall had convinced herself that the ULEZ was a winning ticket, much as she would later convince herself that she’d been a pickpocket’s victim. “Listening” Susan was not for compromising with the electorate. It was all terribly Jeremy. The negativity of her pitch was off-putting and dishonest, her videos and leaflets sometimes risible, sometimes laughable, sometimes both. This was especially true of policing and crime.

For all these reasons, Hall deserved to lose. And the Tories deserve to keep on losing in London until London Tories themselves do what they should have done long ago – distance themselves from their party’s national identity, which shifts further to the Right every day, and find a way to broaden their appeal in the capital.

At some point, perhaps the next mayoral election in 2028, London’s political landscape will be potentially more welcoming for them. There is a democratic need for constructive and imaginative opposition to Labour. The city’s Tories should put their minds to how best to provide it, starting now.

As for Khan and those around him, they now have an opportunity to look forward with confidence and creativity. Priorities should include continuing to work relentlessly with Sir Mark Rowley on reforming the Met, reviewing their mix of road transport policies, supporting boroughs and others with arresting the decline of London’s high streets and building the best possible relationship with a likely future Labour government.

Khan himself has earned his chance to be a Mayor who isn’t constantly impeded by the top-down game-playing of ministers upstream, and targeted and traduced by the radical Right. He is, in many ways, quite a traditional centre-left Labour politician, a moderate progressive whose most heartfelt policy concerns are with social housing, with public health and, as seen in his free school meals programme, with social solidarity nurtured through universalism. Yet he has to do his job under close police protection because violent extremists wish him harm.

Perhaps the very fact that he combines being a Muslim from an ethnic minority with being a moderate, successful liberal Londoner and Briton, as if doing so were the most natural thing in the world, is what provokes some of his nastier opponents. He undermines them just by being alive. It’s another reason to be glad he won.

Support OnLondon.co.uk and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Threads: DaveHillOnLondon. X/Twitter: On London and Dave Hill.

Categories: Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *