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 deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn challenged by Labour MPs to sack Ken Livingstone from defence review

Former mayor of London criticised at PLP meeting over comments on 7 July bombings. 

After Jeremy Corbyn's decision to give Labour MPs a free vote over air strikes in Syria, tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting was less fractious than it could have been. But one grandee was still moved to declare that the "ferocity" of the attacks on the leader made it the most "uplifting" he had attended.

Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, told the meeting: "We cannot unite the party if the leader's office is determined to divide us." Several MPs said afterwards that many of those who shared Corbyn's opposition to air strikes believed he had mishandled the process by appealing to MPs over the heads of the shadow cabinet and then to members. David Winnick declared that those who favoured military action faced a "shakedown" and deselection by Momentum activists. "It is completely unacceptable. They are a party within a party," he said of the Corbyn-aligned group. The "huge applause" for Hilary Benn, who favours intervention, far outweighed that for the leader, I'm told. 

There was also loud agreement when Jack Dromey condemned Ken Livingstone for blaming Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq for the 7 July 2005 bombings. Along with Angela Smith MP, Dromey demanded that Livingstone be sacked as the co-chair of Labour's defence review. Significantly, Benn said aftewards that he agreed with every word Dromey had said. Corbyn's office has previously said that it is up to the NEC, not the leader, whether the former London mayor holds the position. In reference to 7 July, an aide repeated Corbyn's statement that he preferred to "remember the brilliant words Ken used after 7/7". 

As on previous occasions, MPs complained that the leader failed to answer the questions that were put to him. A shadow minister told me that he "dodged" one on whether he believed the UK should end air strikes against Isis in Iraq. In reference to Syria, a Corbyn aide said afterwards that "There was significant support for the leader. There was a wide debate, with people speaking on both sides of the arguments." After David Cameron's decision to call a vote on air strikes for Wednesday, leaving only a day for debate, the number of Labour MPs backing intervention is likely to fall. One shadow minister told me that as few as 40-50 may back the government, though most expect the total to be closer to the original figure of 99. 

At the end of another remarkable day in Labour's history, a Corbyn aide concluded: "It was always going to be a bumpy ride when you have a leader who was elected by a large number outside parliament but whose support in the PLP is quite limited. There are a small number who find it hard to come to terms with that result."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.