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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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.