New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio's success should give hope to Miliband

The triumph of the radical Democrat proves that you can run from the left and win.

If you don't know the name Bill de Blasio yet, you soon will. With a remarkable 39-point lead (65-24) over his Republican rival Joe Lhota, he is set to be elected today as the first Democrat mayor of New York for more than 20 years on the most left-wing platform of any recent candidate.

From a British perspective, the similarities with Ed Miliband are striking. De Blasio has campaigned on the slogan "One New York, Rising Together" (an echo of Miliband's "One Nation"), speaking of "a tale of two cities" (Miliband warns of "two nations") as the rich pull away from the rest:

In so many ways, New York has become a Tale of Two Cities.

Nearly 400,000 millionaires call New York home, while nearly half of our neighbors live at or near the poverty line. Our middle class isn’t just shrinking; it’s in danger of vanishing altogether.

Addressing the crisis of income inequality isn’t a small task. But if we are to thrive as a city, it must be at the very center of our vision for the next four years.

In response, he has pledged to pass a new living wage law, to increases taxes on the top 1% of New Yorkers (those earning over $500,000) to fund universal childcare and after-school programmes, to build or preserve 200,000 affordable homes, and to charge rent to charter schools (the inspiration for Gove's "free schools") located within traditional state schools. Again, there is much common ground with Miliband. The Labour leader has promised to expand use of the living wage through "Make Work Pay" contracts, to build 200,000 homes a year by 2020, and to halt the expansion of free schools. He is also likely to pledge to reintroduce the 50p tax rate on the 1.5% earning more than £150,000.

De Blasio said: "During my time in public office, I've taken on unscrupulous landlords; protected children who were victims of neglect and abuse; battled the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics; fought to repair broken policing policies; and championed working family issues like paid sick leave and living wage laws.

"As mayor, I will spend every waking moment fighting to bring opportunity to every New Yorker — with a plan to create jobs in all five boroughs; a dramatic expansion of affordable housing and accessible health care; increas-ing taxes on the wealthy to fund early childhood and after-school programs; and building police-community relations that keep everyone safer.

"That’s not simply a plan for tackling the inequality crisis. It’s my solemn commitment to every resident of the city we all love so much."

Like Miliband, de Blasio has come under constant attack from the Murdoch press (see yesterday's New York Post cover), which rejoices in highlighting his family's left-wing background (sound familiar?), and has frequently been dubbed "too liberal" to win. But as his success shows, in this era of collapsing living standards, the old conservative assumptions no longer hold. 

 

New York City mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio speaks at a campaign rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall on November 1, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: What happened at Tom Watson's birthday party?

Finances, fair and foul – and why Keir Starmer is doing the time warp.

Keir Starmer’s comrades mutter that a London seat is an albatross around the neck of the ambitious shadow Brexit secretary. He has a decent political CV: he was named after Labour’s first MP, Keir Hardie; he has a working-class background; he was the legal champion of the McLibel Two; he had a stint as director of public prosecutions. The knighthood is trickier, which is presumably why he rarely uses the title.

The consensus is that Labour will seek a leader from the north or the Midlands when Islington’s Jeremy Corbyn jumps or is pushed under a bus. Starmer, a highly rated frontbencher, is phlegmatic as he navigates the treacherous Brexit waters. “I keep hoping we wake up and it’s January 2016,” he told a Westminster gathering, “and we can have another run. Don’t we all?” Perhaps not everybody. Labour Remoaners grumble that Corbyn and particularly John McDonnell sound increasingly Brexitastic.

To Tom Watson’s 50th birthday bash at the Rivoli Ballroom in south London, an intact 1950s barrel-vaulted hall generous with the velvet. Ed Balls choreographed the “Gangnam Style” moves, and the Brockley venue hadn’t welcomed so many politicos since Tony Blair’s final Clause IV rally 22 years ago. Corbyn was uninvited, as the boogying deputy leader put the “party” back into the Labour Party. The thirsty guests slurped the free bar, repaying Watson for 30 years of failing to buy a drink.

One of Westminster’s dining rooms was booked for a “Decent Chaps Lunch” by Labour’s Warley warrior, John Spellar. In another room, the Tory peer David Willetts hosted a Christmas reception on behalf of the National Centre for Universities and Business. In mid-January. That’s either very tardy or very, very early.

The Labour Party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, is a financial maestro, having cleared the £25m debt that the party inherited from the Blair-Brown era. Now I hear that he has squirrelled away a £6m war chest as insurance against Theresa May gambling on an early election. Wisely, the party isn’t relying on Momentum’s fractious footsloggers.

The word in Strangers’ Bar is that the Welsh MP Stephen Kinnock held his own £200-a-head fundraiser in London. Either the financial future of the Aberavon Labour Party is assured, or he fancies a tilt at the top job.

Dry January helped me recall a Labour frontbencher explaining why he never goes into the Commons chamber after a skinful: “I was sitting alongside a colleague clearly refreshed by a liquid lunch. He intervened and made a perfectly sensible point without slurring. Unfortunately, he stood up 20 minutes later and repeated the same point, word for word.”

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era