A supporter in Redbridge listens at the launch of Labour's Euro campaign. Photo: Getty
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Sadiq Khan: how Labour triumphed in London

During the campaign, London Labour spoke to a million voters – an amazing achievement and one that was possible only because vast effort went into building volunteer capacity.

A fortnight ago, Labour achieved its best election result in London in more than 40 years. Despite starting from a high-water mark, Labour gained 203 new councillors, taking control of five extra councils – Merton, Harrow, Redbridge, Croydon and, most astonishingly, Hammersmith and Fulham. In the European elections Labour won 37 per cent of the vote and doubled its number of MEPs. Half of London’s MEPs are now Labour.

The family is large and at times disparate, in London even more than elsewhere. It ranges from councillors, council leaders, mayors, MPs, assembly members and MEPs to the shadow cabinet, party members, volunteers and trade unions. Without all these groups working together, the May results wouldn’t have been possible.

In London, Ed Miliband’s bold policy announcements were at the heart of the campaign. Policies on making renting more affordable, raising the minimum wage and ending the exploitation of zero-hours contracts were pushed at every opportunity. The city is crying out for change and Labour is offering radical solutions. Yet one of the biggest challenges it faces is communicating what it has to offer: with the decline of old media (including local newspapers), an increasingly hostile press and growing apathy, it is harder than ever to get heard.

By fully co-ordinating messaging long in advance of the short campaign, Labour ensured that Londoners heard its themes not only through the national press but also in the Evening Standard, on regional TV, in local papers and in the party’s literature – all at the same time. More than in any other recent campaign, candidates adopted policy announcements as part of their local campaigning and repeated them through every medium at their disposal. The London Labour Party worked with the local media in the battleground boroughs with stories and even op-eds holding incumbent councils to account.

Local parties organised campaigns with the London-wide message without having the finer details dictated to them. For every London issue – from housing to childcare – branches were provided with the data for their area to use as they saw fit. They could include London-wide campaigns in their local literature, rather than having centrally produced, impersonal leaflets imposed from the top down. The result was a great mix of hyper-localised messaging, feeding into a strong overall narrative across the city.

But the heroes of the campaign were the organisers. In total, 17 of them were employed across London – more than at the last general election. They proved again (as if that were needed) that having organisers in place early makes all the difference on polling day. During the campaign, London Labour spoke to one million voters – an amazing achievement by our supporters and activists, and one that was possible only because vast effort went into building volunteer capacity.

The same few activists will never be able to speak to an entire borough. But if each of them recruits one extra person to volunteer, and they do the same, you can build a campaign team that can speak to more people than ever before. This is what London Labour’s organisers and candidates achieved, developing strong relationships with community groups and local opinion-formers along the way.

In London, Labour has 13 target seats for the general election. London holds the keys to Downing Street for Ed Miliband. Everyone should be proud of last month’s result – but it is just a staging post. The general election campaign starts now.

Sadiq Khan MP is the shadow minister for London

Sadiq Khan is MP for Tooting, shadow justice secretary and shadow minister for London.

This article first appeared in the 04 June 2014 issue of the New Statesman, 100 days to save Great Britain

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The UK is dangerously close to breaking apart - there's one way to fix it

We must rethink our whole constitutional settlement. 

When the then-Labour leader John Smith set up a report on social justice for what would be the incoming government in 1997, he said we must stop wasting our most precious resource – "the extraordinary skills and talents of ordinary people".

It is one of our party’s greatest tragedies that he never had the chance to see that vision put into practice. 

At the time, it was clear that while our values of equality, solidarity and tolerance endured, the solutions we needed were not the same as those when Labour was last in power in the 1970s, and neither were they to be found in the policies of opposition from the 1980s. 

The Commission on Social Justice described a UK transformed by three revolutions:

  • an economic revolution brought about by increasing globalisation, innovation and a changing labour market
  • a social revolution that had seen the role of women in society transformed, the traditional family model change, inequality ingrained and relationships between people in our communities strained
  • a political revolution that challenged the centralisation of power, demanded more individual control and accepted a different role for government in society.

Two decades on, these three revolutions could equally be applied to the UK, and Scotland, today. 

Our economy, society and our politics have been transformed even further, but there is absolutely no consensus – no agreement – about the direction our country should take. 

What that has led to, in my view, is a society more dangerously divided than at any point in our recent history. 

The public reject the status quo but there is no settled will about the direction we should take. 

And instead of grappling with the complex messages that people are sending us, and trying to find the solutions in the shades of grey, politicians of all parties are attached to solutions that are black or white, dividing us further. 

Anyone in Labour, or any party, who claims that we can sit on the margins and wait for politics to “settle down” will rightly be consigned to history. 

The future shape of the UK, how we govern ourselves and how our economy and society should develop, is now the single biggest political question we face. 

Politics driven by nationalism and identity, which were for so long mostly confined to Scotland, have now taken their place firmly in the mainstream of all UK politics. 

Continuing to pull our country in these directions risks breaking the United Kingdom once and for all. 

I believe we need to reaffirm our belief in the UK for the 21st century. 

Over time, political power has become concentrated in too few hands. Power and wealth hoarded in one corner of our United Kingdom has not worked for the vast majority of people. 

That is why the time has come for the rest of the UK to follow where Scotland led in the 1980s and 1990s and establish a People’s Constitutional Convention to re-establish the UK for a new age. 

The convention should bring together groups to deliberate on the future of our country and propose a way forward that strengthens the UK and establishes a new political settlement for the whole of our country. 

After more than 300 years, it is time for a new Act of Union to safeguard our family of nations for generations to come.

This would mean a radical reshaping of our country along federal lines where every component part of the United Kingdom – Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions – take more responsibility for what happens in their own communities, but where we still maintain the protection of being part of a greater whole as the UK. 

The United Kingdom provides the redistribution of wealth that defines our entire Labour movement, and it provides the protection for public finance in Scotland that comes from being part of something larger, something good, and something worth fighting for. 

Kezia Dugdale is the leader of the Scottish Labour party.