With little fanfare and amid no conspicuous calls for change, the London Labour Party and its affiliated organisations have begun going through the process of deciding whether or not Sadiq Khan should be automatically reselected as their candidate for the next mayoral election, with a decision to be announced at the tail end of next month. It’s looking like an easy ride for the Mayor.
Pretty much all indications, from London Labour sources to the media platforms of Jeremy Corbyn supporters, suggest a comfortable affirmation of Khan from the required “trigger ballot”, notwithstanding months of gossip about mildly nervy groundwork by the Mayor’s political managers to ensure a smooth ride towards a very likely second term.
Momentum and trade unions have been among possible doubters wooed, and it has not escaped the knowing notice of Corbyn sceptics in the party that Khan has been happily photographed with both the Momentumite leader of Haringey’s “Corbyn Council” Joseph Ejiofor and, at Merton bus garage, with Unite general secretary Len McCluskey. From beneficiary of Corbynmania, to outspoken Corbyn critic, to Corbyn accommodator, Khan has been round the block in his relationship with his party leader and managed to avoid politically harmful accidents so far.
Meanwhile, the Conservative candidate selection contest has been going on throughout the summer, with Shaun Bailey, Andrew Boff and Joy Morrissey speaking at a series of hustings, giving the odd interview, securing the odd headline and promoting themselves through social media. Party members have been Tweeting enthusiastic reviews, though some seasoned insiders have found what is on offer uninspiring. “You haven’t missed much,” observed one, when asked for a post-holiday catch-up.
It is difficult to glean how competitive the contest is, though a common assumption is that Bailey is a strong frontrunner. That is partly because his is probably the highest public profile, partly because Boff has sought the nomination several times before without coming close to winning, and partly because Morrissey is the least well-known. London Tories might, though, want to reflect on why exactly Bailey fell so short of winning the Hammersmith constituency in the 2010 general election, despite high expectations and a great deal of positive pre-publicity.
The Tory predicament would certainly not be helped if former Ukip leader Nigel Farage decides to run, as the Financial Times has reported he might. Farage’s claim that the Tories “are very actively aware that if I did stand they would probably come third,” should be treated with considerable caution at this stage, but it is easy to see how he might make a dent in their right flank, even though all three Tory hopefuls voted to Leave the EU.
That said, Farage would be somewhat open to the charge of seeking to lead a city he doesn’t actually like. The Brexit vote can be read as a subliminal expression of anti-London sentiment – a revolt against metropolitanism and all those immigrants. It should not be forgotten that the 40% of Londoners who voted Leave is a substantial minority, but Farage’s past remark that he “felt awkward” on a train he caught at Charing Cross because of all the foreign voices might make things awkward him if he decides take a tilt at City Hall.
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