Tottenham MP David Lammy may launch his bid to become mayor of London at Labour's conference next month. Photograph: Getty Images.
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As Boris heads for Westminster, the truce between Labour’s mayoral rivals is about to end

With Johnson departing, City Hall is the opposition's for the taking. But which contender will move first?

The age of Boris and Ken is at an end. For the first time since the post of mayor of London was created in 2000, neither of these titans will be on the ballot paper in May 2016. Following Johnson’s deceptively humble announcement that he will “try to find somewhere to stand in 2015” (his search, one suspects, will not be in vain), the path is clear for a new figure to secure one of the most coveted jobs in British politics.

The mayor of London combines control of a £17bn budget with executive powers over housing, planning and transport – and the largest personal mandate of any European politician bar the president of France. Whichever party wins the general election, further responsibilities are likely to be awarded in recognition of the capital’s increasingly distinct status.

It is on the Labour side that interest in the role is greatest. After the party achieved its best result in London since 1998 in the May local elections, the contest is the opposition’s to lose. There is officially only one declared candidate – the transport buff Christian Wolmar – but Tessa Jowell, Sadiq Khan and David Lammy are regarded as certain to stand, with Diane Abbott, Andrew Adonis and Margaret Hodge also considering it.

To date, they have respected an unwritten agreement to postpone their bids until after the general election (when Labour’s closed primary will be held). But this truce could be about to end. Lammy, who turned down a shadow ministerial post in 2010, is considering launching his campaign at the Labour conference next month. The Tottenham MP has recruited Labour’s Tower Hamlets election co-ordinator, Matthew Bethell, and Teddy Goff, Barack Obama’s head of digital strategy in 2012. He has also undergone a pre-campaign makeover. “He’s ditched the glasses, he’s wearing sharper suits and he’s lost some weight,” notes one observer.

Not everyone is impressed, however. “Labour members in London will find it difficult to forgive time, effort and money being spent on mayoral campaigns rather than in the target seats we need to win in London,” a party source told me.

Lammy’s desire to gain momentum is in part recognition that he is not the front-runner. That status is held by Jowell. The former culture secretary leads in the opinion polls and is admired across party lines for her stewardship of the Olympics bid. As  a devoted ally of Tony Blair (once declaring that she would “jump in front of a bus to save him”), she will benefit from the political and financial muscle of the New Labour establishment.

If Jowell’s past is a virtue, it is also a liability. She voted for and continues to defend policies such as the Iraq war, top-up fees and 90-day detention and her association with Blair is regarded by party figures as “toxic”. Among a Labour “selectorate” that lies to the left of the national party, all of this will count against her. Jowell would also face personal scrutiny over her husband, David Mills, who was prosecuted in Italy in 2006 for allegedly accepting a bribe from Silvio Berlusconi, and with whom she reunited after six years apart.

For these reasons, some regard the true favourite as Sadiq Khan. As shadow London minister, he is assiduously building the networks and relationships required to win the nomination. On the night of Labour’s local elections triumph in the capital, he darted from count to count to congratulate party candidates on their victories. Like Ed Miliband, whose leadership campaign he managed, the Tooting MP would run to the left of the favourite and seek to win trade union endorsements through a radical manifesto.

Among those likely to support Khan’s candidacy is Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen, who was recently made a Labour peer. The pair first met through anti-racism campaigns and sat together on a Home Office committee on stop-and-search during his time as a human rights lawyer. Lawrence would be a natural choice for the post of deputy mayor for equality, a new role recently proposed by Khan.

Yet in a city with a penchant for mavericks, Khan’s close association with the Labour leadership may hinder him. “Cities don’t vote for party hacks,” one MP said. An early declaration by Lammy would make it far harder for Khan to maintain his studied ambiguity over his intentions.

Of the remaining contenders, Hodge is said to fear attacks over her “loony left” past (she was recently forced to apologise for failing to investigate allegations of paedophilia as leader of Islington Council) and is being wooed by Jowell, while Adonis is eyeing the post of transport commissioner. Abbott is the closest to a Livingstone-style insurgent, but the question, one Labour MP says, is: “Can she run anything?”

Among the Conservatives, Sebastian Coe, Karren Brady and Zac Goldsmith are most frequently cited as potential candidates. Yet to varying degrees all three have already ruled themselves out. In the absence of a political superstar in the model of Johnson (who remains by far the country’s most popular politician), the party may be forced to settle for a second-tier candidate such as the deputy mayor Kit Malthouse or the London Assembly member James Cleverly.

For some Tories, their unpromising position is testimony to Johnson’s failure to move the centre ground during his time in office. George Osborne, in particular, seems to regard the mayor not as a serious politician but as a crude populist whose one abiding principle is self-advancement. Yet, for others, the struggle the party will face to retain City Hall is merely confirmation of Johnson’s unrivalled lustre.

The mayor is what the Conservative Party has traditionally loved most of all: a winner. “There is a great and glorious future for Britain,” he declared this month. For Britain, read Boris. 

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Now listen to George discussing Boris’s parliamentary ambitions with Helen Lewis and Anoosh Chakelian on the NS podcast:

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 06 August 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Inside Gaza

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The Tinder dating app isn't just about sex – it's about friendship, too. And sex

The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, as I found out quickly while using the app.

The first time I met someone using Tinder, the free dating app that requires users to swipe left for “no” and right for “yes” before enabling new “matches” to chat, it was an unqualified success. I should probably qualify that. I was newly single after five years in a committed relationship and wasn’t looking for anything more than fun, friendship and, well, who knows. A few weeks earlier I had tried to give my number to a girl in a cinema café in Brixton. I wrote it on a postcard I’d been using as a bookmark. She said she had a boyfriend, but wanted to keep the postcard. I had no date and I lost my page.

My Tinder date was a master’s student from Valencia called Anna (her name wasn’t really Anna, of course, I’m not a sociopath). When I arrived at the appointed meeting place, she told me I was far more handsome IRL (“in real life”) than my pictures suggested. I was flattered and full of praise for the directness of continental Europeans but also thought sadly to myself: “If only the same could be said about you.”

Anna and I became friends, at least for a while. The date wasn’t a success in the traditional sense of leading us into a contract based on exclusivity, an accumulating cache of resentments and a mortgage, but it had put me back in the game (an appropriate metaphor – people speak regularly of “playing” with the app).

According to Sean Rad, the co-founder who launched Tinder in late 2012, the service was invented for people like me. “It was really a way to overcome my own problems,” he told the editor of Cosmopolitan at an event in London last month. “It was weird to me, to start a conversation [with a stranger]. Once I had an introduction I was fine, but it’s that first step. It’s difficult for a lot of people.” After just one outing, I’d learned two fundamental lessons about the world of online dating: pretty much everyone has at least one decent picture of themselves, and meeting women using a so-called hook-up app is seldom straightforwardly about sex.

Although sometimes it is. My second Tinder date took place in Vienna. I met Louisa (ditto, name) outside some notable church or other one evening while visiting on holiday (Tinder tourism being, in my view, a far more compelling way to get to know a place than a cumbersome Lonely Planet guide). We drank cocktails by the Danube and rambled across the city before making the romantic decision to stay awake all night, as she had to leave early the next day to go hiking with friends. It was just like the Richard Linklater movie Before Sunrise – something I said out loud more than a few times as the Aperol Spritzes took their toll.

When we met up in London a few months later, Louisa and I decided to skip the second part of Linklater’s beautiful triptych and fast-track our relationship straight to the third, Before Midnight, which takes place 18 years after the protagonists’ first meet in Vienna, and have begun to discover that they hate each others’ guts.

Which is one of the many hazards of the swiping life: unlike with older, web-based platforms such as Match.com or OkCupid, which require a substantial written profile, Tinder users know relatively little about their prospective mates. All that’s necessary is a Facebook account and a single photograph. University, occupation, a short bio and mutual Facebook “likes” are optional (my bio is made up entirely of emojis: the pizza slice, the dancing lady, the stack of books).

Worse still, you will see people you know on Tinder – that includes colleagues, neighbours and exes – and they will see you. Far more people swipe out of boredom or curiosity than are ever likely to want to meet up, in part because swiping is so brain-corrosively addictive.

While the company is cagey about its user data, we know that Tinder has been downloaded over 100 million times and has produced upwards of 11 billion matches – though the number of people who have made contact will be far lower. It may sound like a lot but the Tinder user-base remains stuck at around the 50 million mark: a self-selecting coterie of mainly urban, reasonably affluent, generally white men and women, mostly aged between 18 and 34.

A new generation of apps – such as Hey! Vina and Skout – is seeking to capitalise on Tinder’s reputation as a portal for sleaze, a charge Sean Rad was keen to deny at the London event. Tinder is working on a new iteration, Tinder Social, for groups of friends who want to hang out with other groups on a night out, rather than dating. This makes sense for a relatively fresh business determined to keep on growing: more people are in relationships than out of them, after all.

After two years of using Tinder, off and on, last weekend I deleted the app. I had been visiting a friend in Sweden, and took it pretty badly when a Tinder date invited me to a terrible nightclub, only to take a few looks at me and bolt without even bothering to fabricate an excuse. But on the plane back to London the next day, a strange thing happened. Before takeoff, the woman sitting beside me started crying. I assumed something bad had happened but she explained that she was terrified of flying. Almost as terrified, it turned out, as I am. We wound up holding hands through a horrific patch of mid-air turbulence, exchanged anecdotes to distract ourselves and even, when we were safely in sight of the ground, a kiss.

She’s in my phone, but as a contact on Facebook rather than an avatar on a dating app. I’ll probably never see her again but who knows. People connect in strange new ways all the time. The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, but you can be sure that if you look closely at the lines, you’ll almost certainly notice the pixels.

Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad