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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Jeremy Corbyn challenged by Labour MPs to sack Ken Livingstone from defence review

Former mayor of London criticised at PLP meeting over comments on 7 July bombings. 

After Jeremy Corbyn's decision to give Labour MPs a free vote over air strikes in Syria, tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting was less fractious than it could have been. But one grandee was still moved to declare that the "ferocity" of the attacks on the leader made it the most "uplifting" he had attended.

Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, told the meeting: "We cannot unite the party if the leader's office is determined to divide us." Several MPs said afterwards that many of those who shared Corbyn's opposition to air strikes believed he had mishandled the process by appealing to MPs over the heads of the shadow cabinet and then to members. David Winnick declared that those who favoured military action faced a "shakedown" and deselection by Momentum activists. "It is completely unacceptable. They are a party within a party," he said of the Corbyn-aligned group. The "huge applause" for Hilary Benn, who favours intervention, far outweighed that for the leader, I'm told. 

There was also loud agreement when Jack Dromey condemned Ken Livingstone for blaming Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq for the 7 July 2005 bombings. Along with Angela Smith MP, Dromey demanded that Livingstone be sacked as the co-chair of Labour's defence review. Significantly, Benn said aftewards that he agreed with every word Dromey had said. Corbyn's office has previously said that it is up to the NEC, not the leader, whether the former London mayor holds the position. In reference to 7 July, an aide repeated Corbyn's statement that he preferred to "remember the brilliant words Ken used after 7/7". 

As on previous occasions, MPs complained that the leader failed to answer the questions that were put to him. A shadow minister told me that he "dodged" one on whether he believed the UK should end air strikes against Isis in Iraq. In reference to Syria, a Corbyn aide said afterwards that "There was significant support for the leader. There was a wide debate, with people speaking on both sides of the arguments." After David Cameron's decision to call a vote on air strikes for Wednesday, leaving only a day for debate, the number of Labour MPs backing intervention is likely to fall. One shadow minister told me that as few as 40-50 may back the government, though most expect the total to be closer to the original figure of 99. 

At the end of another remarkable day in Labour's history, a Corbyn aide concluded: "It was always going to be a bumpy ride when you have a leader who was elected by a large number outside parliament but whose support in the PLP is quite limited. There are a small number who find it hard to come to terms with that result."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.