David Lammy has declared his interest in being Labour's London mayoral candidate. Photo: Getty
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David Lammy launches his mayoral bid: what does this mean for his rivals?

Labour backbencher and Tottenham MP David Lammy is the first politician to declare his wish to be Labour's London mayoral candidate.

The Evening Standard is reporting that David Lammy has launched his campaign for the London mayoralty. In an interview with the newspaper’s editor, he said, “the kind of mayoralty that I want is one that extends opportunity to all Londoners . . . At its best this is a city of opportunity, as it was for my parents. But I worry whether that prosperity is now available to everyone.”

It has long been expected that the Labour backbencher and Tottenham MP would run to be a candidate for the mayoralty. However, this is the first formal bid for the role among the Labour politicians thought to be lining themselves up for the job. As my colleague George Eaton reported last month, Lammy has been gearing up to break the “unwritten agreement” between Labour hopefuls “to postpone their bids until after the general election”.

With that truce broken by Lammy today, a very early declaration ahead of the party’s conference in a fortnight, what does this move mean for the other hopefuls?

Lammy – who knows he is not the favourite for the post, being less of a high-profile, senior figure than others reportedly in the running – now has a big head-start. He is a backbencher, and therefore simply has less to do in parliament ahead of 2015 than some of his rivals. For example, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan – who often polls as the favourite – has his frontbench duties to concentrate on, which is partly behind him waiting to announce his bid, though it is widely known he is likely to stand. He also must focus his efforts on Labour's election campaign, as a senior figure in the party, and someone close to its leadership.

Then there’s Margaret Hodge – chair of the Public Accounts Committee – who may be waiting to see whether or not Labour wins the general election. If it does, she could be in line for a ministerial post, considering how much of a positive profile she’s gained from her committee chairmanship. Although she said to my colleague Caroline Crampton this time last year, “I’m not trying to climb any greasy pole any more”, she did admit, “I’ve got lots of ambition”.

Tessa Jowell, the veteran Labour frontbencher who resigned from the frontbench in 2012, is the frontrunner. Perhaps her popularity in the polls and position as a heavyweight political figure mean she can afford to wait to announce her bid.

One hopeful who is likely to follow Lammy’s lead and make an early declaration is Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney who was reshuffled from the frontbench last year. She surprisingly topped a poll as Labour’s favourite for London mayor this summer and may want to work fast to keep that momentum going.

But now the battle to succeed Boris is officially underway, it may be difficult for all these hopefuls to hold their nerve up until May 2015.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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