London’s popular Labour mayor is vital to his party’s hopes of stopping around ten marginal constituencies in the capital being lost at the 8 June general election, according to local activists struggling to overcome voters’ doubts about their leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“A plan across the capital will be getting Sadiq out there as much as possible, so he can be used as a life raft in the marginals,” according to one experienced Labour campaigner, who says support for the party appears to be down by around 10% since 2015 in an Outer London seat where Labour is defending a slim majority: “Jeremy wouldn’t be much help to us here.”
Labour candidates defending other marginals echoed this view, with one telling On London, “You would be mad not to look to Sadiq for help,” and another saying his help would be essential on local issues such as cuts to the police service, with “feelings running high about a lack of visible police presence”. A third described Khan as a “talisman”.
Their comments come as Labour MP Jim Dowd, who will not defend his Lewisham West and Penge seat having been in parliament for 25 years, told the Mirror Online that “selling Jeremy Corbyn on the doorstep is not a simple task. It’s a very uphill struggle for the Labour Party”. An activist in the north of the capital echoed this view, saying that, in contrast to the sitting local MP, “Corbyn is very unpopular on the doorstep”.
Khan has said he will be “fighting hard for every Labour vote” at the election, describing it as a chance for voters to oppose “a hard Brexit” and government policies he said are “entrenching inequality”.
A recent opinion poll found that Labour’s lead over the Conservatives in London has fallen from 16 points to just three in the past year and now stands at 37% (compared with a 44% vote share in the 2015 general election), while backing for the Liberal Democrats has doubled to 14%. The survey also produced a net satisfaction rating of +35 for Khan among London voters compared with one of -44 for Corbyn.
Labour limited its losses in London in 2010, the last time it entered a general election behind in the national polls, leaving the Conservatives making fewer gains at its expense than they had hoped for.
However, the Tories need swings of just 5% or less in six of its Labour target seats and Conservative Home reports that the Tory campaign could pour resources into seats with Labour majorities of 8,000 or more, which could mean up to five more Labour seats being added to Theresa May’s London hit list.
Labour will also face a determined challenge from the Liberal Democrats in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, where Simon Hughes hopes to make a comeback against Corbyn critic Neil Coyle who took the seat by 4489 in 2015, and possibly in Hornsey and Wood Green, although the 11,058 majority secured by Catherine West two years ago looks formidable.