The Mayor, The Speaker, His Wife and The Bloggers

Across the web, not least at the <em>NS</em> online, the London Mayoral election is raising temperat

With just two months until the London mayoral election, the campaign trail is picking up pace in the blogosphere.

Earlier in the week, Mike Smithson at Political Betting called the election “by far and away the biggest political betting event in the UK this year is,” despite the lack of polls. But later that day Anthony Walls at UK Polling Report resists the bendy bus analogy to announce: “After waiting months for a proper poll on the London mayoral election, two come along at once.”

The first of the two polls Walls refers to shows Ken Livingstone 5% behind Boris Johnson, and Smithson senses a whiff of politicising with the release of the second. “My understanding is that Labour and Ken knew about the MORI poll almost as soon as it had been completed,” writes Smithson, “but it was deemed to be a deadly secret because of the closeness of the finding.”

The mayoral election also attracted a great deal of interest on these very pages, as NS political editor Martin Bright criticised prominent Lefties for signing a Compass letter in support of Livingstone. Anthony Barnett at Our Kingdom reveals the frank conversation he had with Bright over his decision to sign, while Oliver Kamm offers Bright his support.

Also this week, Commons speaker Michael Martin found himself the subject of the latest sleaze allegations. The Daily Pundit, with tongue firmly in cheek, asks: “What’s a working class Scot who didn’t go to Oxford and knows what a day’s work is when he sees it doing with friends? It’s a disgrace.”

While, The Remittance Man takes a different view: “Michael Martin’s working class origins are not the issue here. Both George Thomas and Betty Boothroyd have been from working class backgrounds and both served the Labour Party prior to election as speaker, yet both managed to perform their tasks with reasonable fairness and retain the respect of MPs of all parties and the public. Martin has singularly failed to do the same.”

It doesn’t make for great reading for Martin at Iain Dale’s blog. In a poll of 1,122 readers – of whom, somewhat tellingly, only 46% are Conservative supporters – 91% believe Martin should step down as speaker, and 82% rate his performance as either poor or dreadful. Betty Boothroyd comes out as the best speaker of the past 30 years, with 49% of votes; Martin comes in with just 1%.

David Osler also joins the debate: “It is unclear if Martin has technically done anything wrong in pocketing the money from such a generous scheme for a property on which there no mortgage; perhaps Peter Mandelson or Tessa Jowell - given their special expertise in the field of how to finance home purchase the New Labour way - could advise?

“But whatever the rulebook says, this action is morally equivalent to housing benefit fraud, without the ability to claim poverty as a mitigating circumstance.” So there.

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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Sadiq Khan to be elected mayor of London

The MP for Tooting will reclaim City Hall for Labour after eight years.

Sadiq Khan is to be elected mayor of London. Though results are still coming through, it is now mathematically impossible for anyone else to win. The Tooting MP has won City Hall back for Labour after eight years of Conservative rule.

At the time of writing, Khan is beating the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, at 45.5 per cent to 33.9 per cent, in what could be described as a landslide victory. The Green candidate Sian Berry is third with 6 per cent of the vote, followed by the Lib Dems (4.4 per cent) and Ukip (3.5 per cent). Turnout has been higher than expected, at 44.8 per cent – the highest turnout in a London mayoral election since Boris Johnson won in 2008, when it was 45 per cent (in 2012, it was 38 per cent).

The first MP of Islamic faith ever elected in London, Khan was also the first Asian and Muslim to attend cabinet meetings, after being appointed transport minister in Gordon Brown’s government in 2009. He has represented Tooting since 2005. There will be a by-election in the constituency as Khan stands down as MP.

Khan’s thumping victory is a boost for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership, after a night of disappointing local election results, and coming third in Holyrood. At the time of writing, Labour has kept the same share of seats in the London Assembly.

The result is a disaster for Goldsmith, whose campaign came under constant criticism for its scare tactics regarding Khan as a Muslim of Pakistani heritage. The Conservatives accused Khan of “pandering to extremists”.

Andrew Boff, the Conservative group leader on the Greater London assembly, called the campaign’s attempts to link Khan to Islamic extremism “outrageous” , and the outgoing Tory deputy mayor of London, Roger Evans, said it was a “foolish” campaign, which could “leave a negative legacy” for the Conservatives in London.

The result will come as a relief to pollsters, however, who were predicting at least a 12-point lead for Khan.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.