McDonnell pulls out of Labour leadership race

John McDonnell stands aside to give Diane Abbott a fighting chance of making the ballot.

Paul Waugh has the news that John McDonnell has withdrawn from the Labour leadership race after failing to secure enough nominations. It's a principled move by the Labour left-winger and, as I argued yesterday, it's Abbott who has the better chance of making the ballot.

Here's his statement:

I stood for the Labour leadership as the candidate of the left and trade union movement so that there could be a proper debate about Labour's future in which all the wings of the party were fully represented.

It is now clear that I am unlikely to secure enough nominations and so I am withdrawing in the hope that we can at least secure a woman on the ballot paper.

Yesterday I wrote to Harriet Harman to urge her to use her position as acting leader in association with the party's national officers to secure a reduction of the qualifying threshold for candidates to be allowed on to the ballot paper. Regrettably this has not occurred and so I have no other option but to withdraw in the interests of the party.

I know that many Labour activists and trade unionists will be disappointed that their candidate will not be on the ballot. I am urging them to continue the fight for democracy within the party so that in future leadership elections rank-and-file members will be represented by the candidate of their choice.

It's worth noting that he doesn't mention Diane Abbott by name (he's never been a fan), merely stating that Labour should have "a woman" on the ballot paper.

Abbott's chances of making the ballot have improved dramatically, and between them the pair have 27 nominations, just six short of the required 33. But, according to Waugh, only eight of McDonnell's 16 supporters will transfer their votes to Abbott.

That doesn't come as a surprise; many Labour MPs have never forgiven Abbott for her decision to send her son to private school and were unhappy that she entered the contest in the first place and split the left.

Still, with 36 Labour MPs yet to nominate a candidate (you can see a list of them here), it would be wrong to write off Abbott just yet.

Ed Balls has already urged his potential supporters to back an alternative candidate and others may follow.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The private renting sector enables racist landlords like Fergus Wilson

A Kent landlord tried to ban "coloured people" from his properties. 

Fergus Wilson, a landlord in Kent, has made headlines after The Sun published his email to a letting agent which included the line: "No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy."

When confronted, the 70-year-old property owner only responded with the claim "we're getting overloaded with coloured people". The letting agents said they would not carry out his orders, which were illegal. 

The combination of blatant racism, a tired stereotype and the outdated language may make Wilson seem suspiciously like a Time Landlord who has somehow slipped in from 1974. But unfortunately he is more modern than he seems.

Back in 2013, a BBC undercover investigation found 10 letting agent firms willing to discriminate against black tenants at the landlord's request. One manager was filmed saying: "99% of my landlords don't want Afro-Caribbeans."

Under the Equality Act 2010, this is illegal. But the conditions of the private renting sector allow discrimination to flourish like mould on a damp wall. 

First, discrimination is common in flat shares. While housemates or live-in landlords cannot turn away a prospective tenant because of their race, they can express preferences of gender and ethnicity. There can be logical reasons for this - but it also provides useful cover for bigots. When one flat hunter in London protested about being asked "where do your parents come from?", the landlord claimed he just wanted to know whether she was Christian.

Second, the private rental sector is about as transparent as a landlord's tax arrangements. A friend of mine, a young professional Indian immigrant, enthusiastically replied to house share ads in the hope of meeting people from other cultures. After a month of responding to three or four room ads a day, he'd had just six responses. He ended up sharing with other Indian immigrants.

My friend suspected he'd been discriminated against, but he had no way of proving it. There is no centrally held data on who flatshares with who (the closest proxy is SpareRoom, but its data is limited to room ads). 

Third, the current private renting trends suggest discrimination will increase, rather than decrease. Landlords hiked rents by 2.1 per cent in the 12 months to February 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics, an indication of high demand. SpareRoom has recorded as many as 22 flat hunters chasing a single room. In this frenzy, it only becomes harder for prospective tenants to question the assertion "it's already taken". 

Alongside this demand, the government has introduced legislation which requires landlords to check that tenants can legitimately stay in the UK. A report this year by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found that half of landlords were less likely to rent to foreign nationals as a result of the scheme. This also provides handy cover for the BTL bigot - when a black British tenant without a passport asked about a room, 58 per cent of landlords ignored the request or turned it down

Of course, plenty of landlords are open-minded, unbiased and unlikely to make a tabloid headline anytime soon. They most likely outnumber the Fergus Wilsons of this world. But without any way of monitoring discrimination in the private rental sector, it's impossible to know for sure. 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.