New York mayor Bill de Blasio meets with shadow London minister Sadiq Khan before addressing the Labour conference in Manchester.
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Exclusive: Bill de Blasio and Sadiq Khan meet to discuss fight against inequality

New York mayor met the shadow London minister for 45 minutes before he addressed the Labour conference. 

Bill de Blasio, New York's first Democratic mayor since 1993, was the star turn on the final day of the Labour conference, delivering a well-received speech on the global fight against inequality.

Before addressing the conference, I can reveal that de Blasio met for 45 minutes with shadow London minister and shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan. A source told me that the pair discussed plans to tackle rising inequality in London and New York and how to make politics more relevant to people's lives. De Blasio invited Khan, who is often spoken of as a potential future London mayor, to visit him and see the progress his administration has made. 

Khan has long described inequality as the biggest challenge facing London, making it one of the central issues of Labour's election campaign in the capital last May (where it enjoyed its best results since 1998). In a speech at the GMB conference in June, he said: "Growing inequality is a global problem seen across the world. And the forces of conservatism will fight tooth and nail to protect their vested interests. We will need everyone who believes that inequality is a problem working alongside us."

But while Khan has publicly expressed interest in becoming de Blasio's equivalent in London ("If the ball came loose at the edge of the box and I thought I had the best chance of scoring a goal I'd probably shoot," he has said), he is not planning to follow David Lammy in declaring his candidacy before the general election. A source recently told me: "Sadiq is working his socks off to get Ed Miliband elected Prime Minister. He will continue to focus all his effort on winning 12 extra seats in London as shadow London minister and articulating Labour's radical alternative to the government's prison crisis as shadow justice secretary."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Labour's purge: how it works, and what it means

The total number of people removed will be small - but the rancour will linger. 

Labour has just kicked off its first big wave of expulsions, purging many voters from the party’s leadership rolls. Twitter is ablaze with activists who believe they have been kicked out because they are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. There are, I'm told, more expulsions to come - what's going on?  Is Labour purging its rolls of Corbyn supporters?

The short answer is “No”.

If that opener feels familiar, it should: I wrote it last year, when the last set of purges kicked off, and may end up using it again next year. Labour has stringent rules about expressing support for other candidates and membership of other parties, which account for the bulk of the expulsions. It also has a code of conduct on abusive language which is also thinning the rolls, with supporters of both candidates being kicked off. 

Although the party is in significantly better financial shape than last year, it still is running a skeleton staff and is recovering from an expensive contest (in this case, to keep Britain in the European Union). The compliance unit itself remains small, so once again people from across the party staff have been dragooned in.

The process this year is pretty much the same: Labour party headquarters doesn’t have any bespoke software to match its voters against a long list of candidates in local elections, compiled last year and added to the list of candidates that stood against Labour in the 2016 local and devolved elections, plus a large backlog of complaints from activists.

It’s that backlog that is behind many of the highest-profile and most controversial examples. Last year, in one complaint that was not upheld, a local member was reported to the Compliance Unit for their failure to attend their local party’s annual barbecue. The mood in Labour, in the country and at Westminster, is significantly more bitter this summer than last and the complaints more personal. Ronnie Draper, the general secretary of the Bfawu, the bakers’ union, one of Corbyn’s biggest supporters in the trade union movement, has been expelled, reported for tweets which included the use of the word “traitors” to refer to Labour opponents of Corbyn.  Jon Will Chambers, former bag carrier to Stella Creasy, and a vocal Corbyn critic on Twitter, has been kicked out for using a “Theresa May” twibbon to indicate his preference for May over Andrea Leadsom, in contravention of the party’s rules.

Both activities breach the letter of the party’s rules although you can (and people will) make good arguments against empowering other people to comb through the social media profiles of their opponents for reasons to dob them in.  (In both cases, I wouldn’t be shocked if both complaints were struck down on appeal)

I would be frankly astonished if Corbyn’s margin of victory – or defeat, as unlikely as that remains in my view – isn’t significantly bigger than the number of people who are barred from voting, which will include supporters of both candidates, as well as a number of duplicates (some people who paid £25 were in fact members before the freeze date, others are affliated trade unionists, and so on). 

What is unarguably more significant, as one party staffer reflected is, “the complaints are nastier now [than last year]”. More and more of the messages to compliance are firmly in what you might call “the barbecue category” – they are obviously groundless and based on personal animosity. That doesn’t feel like the basis of a party that is ready to unite at any level. Publicly and privately, most people are still talking down the chances of a split. It may prove impossible to avoid.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.