David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, and a candidate for Labour's Mayoral nomination. Photo: Getty Images
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Why I'm backing David Lammy to be Labour's candidate for London Mayor

The general election wasn't "good for Labour in London". It's perfectly possible we could lose, unless we pick the right candidate.

There are those who point to Labour’s performance in London as a rare success at the general election. It is an understandable reaction - looking for a glimmer of optimism in the context of a disastrous election result. Unfortunately, though, it is wrong. Yes, the tireless work of our activists meant we gained four new seats and four great new MPs. But we won fewer than half the seats we were expecting to gain from the Tories. Our vote share went up, but only to 44 per cent - well short of the margin needed to win next years’ mayoral election. Since 2005, we have made a net gain of just one seat in London. And, of course, we’ve lost the last two mayoral elections to the Conservatives.

Despite an incredible number of hard-working activists, the messages and policies coming out of party HQ just didn’t resonate with millions of Londoners in seats like Harrow East, Finchley & Golders Green, Croydon Central and Battersea. It is the support of exactly these voters that Labour needs if we are to win the mayoralty next year and deliver the London seats we need if we are to put a Labour Prime Minister in Downing Street in 2020. It is now more important than ever that we choose a mayoral candidate who can broaden our appeal. That candidate needs to be someone who will lead from the front, who has the ability to reach beyond party lines and inspire Londoners from all backgrounds.

That’s why I’ve decided to support David Lammy to be the Labour candidate for mayor. In fact, I’m very pleased to be chairing his campaign. The other candidates all have their strengths, but they represent an old style of politics that has proven to fail in London. The importance of winning in the capital means this isn’t the time for party insiders or tribal and divise figures. We need new leadership in London and David is best placed to provide that.

David gets London. He’s seen every side of the city, from growing up in the shadows of a council estate in Tottenham and working in KFC to help support his single mum, to becoming a barrister and a government minister.

But a good back story isn’t enough – Londoners want to look forward, not back. The next Mayor needs to have a vision for London. With his campaigns and policy proposals, David has made clear that he has that vision. He’s published by far the most bold, sensible and far-reaching proposals on housing of any mayoral candidate. He says what he thinks, stands up to vested interests and is a tireless campaigner on a range of issues, from fighting the spread of betting shops to being the first to call for rent controls to standing up for fathers. He’s got Labour values at his core but is also an independent thinker and an authoritative voice. He speaks with authenticity on the issues that matter to Londoners in a way that no other candidate is able to do.

To win over the swing voters who, because of the voting system, are needed to win the mayoralty, our candidate has to be someone who can reach beyond narrow party lines to deliver the capital for Labour. They need to be able to stand up for vested interests rather than being in their pockets. David is forward-looking and inclusive. He’s not a tribal figure – I’ve seen him in action with constituents in Tottenham and speaking to business leaders, and he was able to connect equally impressively with both.

David is a normal Londoner, whose story exemplifies all that is good about our city. He’s passionate about the challenges the city faces about but optimistic and determined about our ability to overcome them. He’s a proven leader who always stands up for those who need it. While other candidates boast of their experience fighting marginal seats, David has had far bigger challenges to deal with: who could have failed to be impressed by the passion and leadership he showed after the 2011 riots in Tottenham? He was out on the streets reducing tensions while castigating rioters for destroying their own neighbourhoods. At the same time, he brilliantly articulated the alienation that so many young Londoners feel in a language that resonated across the city. That’s what I believe he would do as Mayor - leading from the front and bringing people together instead of practicing the old-style, divisive politics that drives people apart. 

Just as in the leadership contest, in London we need a fresh candidate who has broad appeal across the electorate. David is that candidate, and he’s building support across the party and across the city.

That’s why we’ve brought together a team of prominent figures and ordinary Londoners from across our city to advise David on his campaign. It includes leading figures in the London Labour Party like Catherine West, the former leader of Islington Council and now MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, and Stephen Timms, one of the biggest unifiers in the Labour Party, as Vice-Chairs. But this isn’t going to be a board full of political insiders. It’s going to be representative of the city David wants to lead – not just small segments of it. It also includes senior figures from the business world, cultural leaders and ordinary Londoners. It’s part of David’s determination not to appeal just to a narrow base but to reach across London as a whole. He is the only candidate who can do that to win us the mayoralty next year, and I’m delighted to be supporting him in delivering new leadership for a new London.

Photo: Getty
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No, the battle in Momentum isn't about young against old

Jon Lansman and his allies' narrative doesn't add up, argues Rida Vaquas.

If you examined the recent coverage around Momentum, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was headed towards an acrimonious split, judging by the vitriol, paranoia and lurid accusations that have appeared online in the last couple days. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that this divide was between a Trotskyist old guard who can’t countenance new ways of working, and hip youngsters who are filled with idealism and better at memes. You might then be incredibly bemused as to how the Trotskyists Momentum was keen to deny existed over the summer have suddenly come to the brink of launching a ‘takeover bid’.

However these accounts, whatever intentions or frustrations that they are driven by, largely misrepresent the dispute within Momentum and what transpired at the now infamous National Committee meeting last Saturday.

In the first instance, ‘young people’ are by no means universally on the side of e-democracy as embodied by the MxV online platform, nor did all young people at the National Committee vote for Jon Lansman’s proposal which would make this platform the essential method of deciding Momentum policy.

Being on National Committee as the representative from Red Labour, I spoke in favour of a conference with delegates from local groups, believing this is the best way to ensure local groups are at the forefront of what we do as an organisation.

I was nineteen years old then. Unfortunately speaking and voting in favour of a delegates based conference has morphed me into a Trotskyist sectarian from the 1970s, aging me by over thirty years.

Moreover I was by no means the only young person in favour of this, Josie Runswick (LGBT+ representative) and the Scottish delegates Martyn Cook and Lauren Gilmour are all under thirty and all voted for a delegates based national conference. I say this to highlight that the caricature of an intergenerational war between the old and the new is precisely that: a caricature bearing little relation to a much more nuanced reality.

Furthermore, I believe that many people who voted for a delegates-based conference would be rather astounded to find themselves described as Trotskyists. I do not deny that there are Trotskyists on National Committee, nor do I deny that Trotskyists supported a delegates-based conference – that is an open position of theirs. What I do object is a characterisation of the 32 delegates who voted for a delegates-based conference as Trotskyists, or at best, gullible fools who’ve been taken in.  Many regional delegates were mandated by the people to whom they are accountable to support a national conference based on this democratic model, following broad and free political discussion within their regions. As thrilling as it might be to fantasise about a sinister plot driven by the shadow emperors of the hard Left against all that it is sensible and moderate in Momentum, the truth is rather more mundane. Jon Lansman and his supporters failed to convince people in local groups of the merits of his e-democracy proposal, and as a result lost the vote.

I do not think that Momentum is doomed to fail on account of the particular details of our internal structures, providing that there is democracy, accountability and grassroots participation embedded into it. I do not think Momentum is doomed to fail the moment Jon Lansman, however much respect I have for him, loses a vote. I do not even think Momentum is doomed to fail if Trotskyists are involved, or even win sometimes, if they make their case openly and convince others of their ideas in the structures available.

The existential threat that Momentum faces is none of these things, it is the propagation of a toxic and polarised political culture based on cliques and personal loyalties as opposed to genuine political discussion on how we can transform labour movement and transform society. It is a political culture in which those opposed to you in the organisation are treated as alien invaders hell-bent on destroying it, even when we’ve worked together to build it up, and we worked together before the Corbyn moment even happened. It is a political culture where members drag others through the mud, using the rhetoric of the Right that’s been used to attack all of us, on social and national media and lend their tacit support to witch hunts that saw thousands of Labour members and supporters barred from voting in the summer. It is ultimately a political culture in which our trust in each other and capacity to work together on is irreparably eroded.

We have a tremendous task facing us: to fight for a socialist alternative in a global context where far right populism is rapidly accruing victories; to fight for the Labour Party to win governmental power; to fight for a world in which working class people have the power to collectively change their lives and change the societies we live in. In short: there is an urgent need to get our act together. This will not be accomplished by sniping about ‘saboteurs’ but by debating the kind of politics we want clearly and openly, and then coming together to campaign from a grassroots level upwards.

Rida Vaquas is Red Labour Representative on Momentum National Committee.