Sadiq Khan speaks at the Labour conference in Manchester in 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Sadiq Khan tops new Labour London mayoral poll - why he's the man to beat

The shadow London minister has several key advantages over his rivals.

Who will Labour's London mayoral candidate be? Some commentators have marked Diane Abbott down as the surprise favourite after she topped a YouGov poll of Labour supporters this week, but a better bet is Sadiq Khan. The shadow justice secretary and shadow London minister, who is almost certain to stand, has finished first in a new poll of LabourList readers (sample size: 772).

Since the candidate will be predominantly selected by Labour activits (with others paying a small fee to take part in the closed primary), the survey is likely a better guide to the result than the YouGov poll. It puts Khan on 22 per cent, with Tessa Jowell on 17 per cent, Abbott on 15 per cent, David Lammy on 7 per cent and Andrew Adonis (who most suspect is eyeing the post of transport commissioner) on 5 per cent.

As shadow London minister, Khan has the in-built advantage of being able to regularly meet activists and CLPs and was rightly praised for Labour's remarkable performance in London in the local elections (its best result since 1998). He has also stood out as one of the loudest champions in the shadow cabinet of radical action to reduce inequality, including the revival of collective bargaining. His recent Fabian pamphlet Our London was the first to float the idea of a cap on rent increases (since embraced by the party at large) and a ban on letting agent fees. As Ed Miliband's former campaign manager, Khan will also be the unofficial candidate of the Milibandites. Should the Labour leader become prime minister next May, he will be in an even stronger position to win the nomination.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Emily Thornberry heckled by Labour MPs as tensions over Trident erupt

Shadow defence secretary's performance at PLP meeting described as "risible" and "cringeworthy". 

"There's no point trying to shout me down" shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry declared midway through tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. Even by recent standards, the 70-minute gathering was remarkably fractious (with PLP chair John Cryer at one point threatening to halt it). Addressing MPs and peers for the first time since replacing Maria Eagle, Thornberry's performance did nothing to reassure Trident supporters. 

The Islington South MP, who voted against renewal in 2007, said that the defence review would be "wide-ranging" and did not take a position on the nuclear question (though she emphasised it was right to "question" renewal). She vowed to listen to colleagues as well as taking "expert advice" and promised to soon visit the Barrow construction site. But MPs' anger was remorseless. Former shadow defence minister Kevan Jones was one of the first to emerge from Committee Room 14. "Waffly and incoherent, cringeworthy" was his verdict. Another Labour MP told me: "Risible. Appalling. She compared Trident to patrolling the skies with spitfires ... It was embarrassing." A party source said afterwards that Thornberry's "spitfire" remark was merely an observation on changing technology. 

"She was talking originally in that whole section about drones. She'd been talking to some people about drones and it was apparent that it was absolutely possible, with improving technology, that large submarines could easily be tracked, detected and attacked by drones. She said it is a question of keeping your eye on new technology ... We don't have the spitfires of the 21st century but we do have some quite old planes, Tornadoes, but they've been updated with modern technology and modern weaponry." 

Former first sea lord and security minister Alan West complained, however, that she had failed to understand how nuclear submarines worked. "Physics, basic physics!" he cried as he left. Asked how the meeting went, Neil Kinnock, who as leader reversed Labour's unilateralist position in 1989, simply let out a belly laugh. Thornberry herself stoically insisted that it went "alright". But a shadow minister told me: "Emily just evidently hadn't put in the work required to be able to credibly address the PLP - totally humiliated. Not by the noise of the hecklers but by the silence of any defenders, no one speaking up for her." 

Labour has long awaited the Europe split currently unfolding among the Tories. But its divide on Trident is far worse. The majority of its MPs are opposed to unilateral disarmament and just seven of the shadow cabinet's 31 members share Jeremy Corbyn's position. While Labour MPs will be given a free vote when the Commons votes on Trident renewal later this year (a fait accompli), the real battle is to determine the party's manifesto stance. 

Thornberry will tomorrow address the shadow cabinet and, for the first time this year, Corbyn will attend the next PLP meeting on 22 February. Both will have to contend with a divide which appears unbridgeable. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.