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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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.