Morning Call: pick of the comment:

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. There's real hope from Haiti and it's not what you expect (Independent)

Johann Hari writes that the good news from Haiti is that the IMF backed down and agreed to work to cancel the country's entire debt. This is the first sign that exposing and opposing the body's agenda works.

2. Between the bomb and the barricades (Financial Times)

It's a relief that Iran's uranium centrifuges keep breaking down, says Philip Stephens. No one in the west knows how to punish Iran for its nuclear programme without playing into the hands of the regime.

3. My heart refuses to race to this cross-Channel love-in (Guardian)

Martin Kettle argues that while logic supports an Anglo-French defence partnership, a combination of cultural mistrust and divergent national interests means it isn't going to happen.

4. 1997 revisited (Economist)

The Economist's Bagehot writes that Gordon Brown's deathbed conversion to electoral reform reflects his nostalgia for 1997. It is an attempt to turn back the clock -- to a time when Labour seemed capable of being a force for change

5. The smell from Westminster hasn't gone away (Times)

Martin Bell writes that although most of the worst offenders of the expenses scandal will be gone after the next election, it is vital that voters watch the class of 2010 with an eagle eye.

6. The public sector could save the economy -- if only politicians let it (Daily Telegraph)

Andrew Haldenby claims that public-sector managers know that spending can be cut by 20 per cent without harming actual services; it's just the government that is holding them back.

7. The market has failed over bankers' pay (Times)

The City minister, Paul Myners, argues that it's time for fund managers to come out of the shadows. They have invited public scrutiny of their failures.

8. Scientists, you are fallible. Get off the pedestal and join the common herd (Guardian)

Simon Jenkins says that climate scientists need to rediscover the virtue of self-criticism -- or others will continue to question their evidence.

9. Stench that will linger long after stables are swept (Independent)

Andrew Grice predicts that the expenses scandal will play a prominent role at the general election, not least because candidates are bound to milk it at local level.

10. Britain has been hit harder than you think (Financial Times)

Samuel Brittan argues that anyone who bases their vote on the latest GDP figures should be disenfranchised. These initial estimates are not exact enough even to say where in a range of plus or minus 1 per cent the change occurred.

 

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

Getty
Show Hide image

Sadiq Khan is probably London's new mayor - what will happen in a Tooting by-election?

There will be a by-election in the new mayor's south London seat.

At the time of writing, Sadiq Khan appears to have a fairly comfortable lead over Zac Goldsmith in the London mayoral election. Which means (at least) two (quite) interesting things are likely to happen: 1) Sadiq Khan is going to be mayor, and 2) there is going to be a by-election in Tooting.

Unlike the two parliamentary by-elections in Ogmore and Sheffield that Labour won at a canter last night, the south London seat of Tooting is a genuine marginal. The Conservatives have had designs on the seat since at least 2010, when the infamous ‘Tatler Tory’, Mark Clarke, was the party’s candidate. Last May, Khan narrowly increased his majority over the Tories, winning by almost 3,000 votes with a majority of 5.3 per cent. With high house prices pushing London professionals further out towards the suburbs, the seat is gentrifying, making Conservatives more positive about the prospect of taking the seat off Labour. No government has won a by-election from an opposition party since the Conservative Angela Rumbold won Mitcham and Morden from a Labour-SDP defector in June 1982. In a nice parallel, that seat borders Tooting.

Of course, the notion of a Tooting by-election will not come as a shock to local Conservatives, however much hope they invested in a Goldsmith mayoral victory. Unusually, the party’s candidate from the general election, Dan Watkins, an entrepreneur who has lived in the area for 15 years, has continued to campaign in the seat since his defeat, styling himself as the party’s “parliamentary spokesman for Tooting”. It would be a big surprise if Watkins is not re-anointed as the candidate for the by-election.

What of the Labour side? For some months, those on the party’s centre-left have worried with varying degrees of sincerity that Ken Livingstone may see the by-election as a route back into Parliament. Having spent the past two weeks muttering conspiratorially about the relationship between early 20th-Century German Jews and Adolf Hitler before having his Labour membership suspended, that possibility no longer exists.

Other names talked about include: Rex Osborn, leader of the Labour group on Wandsworth Council; Simon Hogg, who is Osborn’s deputy; Rosena Allin-Khan, an emergency medicine doctor who also deputises for Osborn; Will Martindale, who was Labour’s defeated candidate in Battersea last year; and Jayne Lim, who was shortlisted earlier in the year for the Sheffield Brightside selection and used to practise as a doctor at St George’s hospital in Tooting.

One thing that any new Labour MP would have to contend with is the boundary review reporting in 2018, which will reduce the number of London constituencies by 5. This means that a new Tooting MP could quickly find themselves pitched in a selection fight for a new constituency with their neighbours Siobhan McDonagh, who currently holds Mitcham and Morden, and/or Chuka Umunna, who is the MP for Streatham. 

According to the Sunday Times, Labour is planning to hold the by-election as quickly as possible, perhaps even before the EU referendum on June 23rd.

It's also worth noting that, as my colleague Anoosh Chakelian reported in March, George Galloway plans to stand as well.

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.