Sadiq Khan on the campaign trail in Battersea. Photo: Getty Images
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Why we're backing Sadiq Khan to win for London

Margaret Hodge and Oona King explain why they're backing Sadiq Khan for Labour's mayoral nomination

In order to change our country for the better, Labour needs to win elections. That applies to every election we fight – whether for local government seats, devolved Parliaments, city Mayors or general elections. The first opportunity we have to show that we have learnt the lessons of the past five years is next May, in elections to Scottish parliament, the Welsh Assembly and of course for London Mayor. We firmly believe that the candidate best placed to win in London for Labour is Sadiq Khan.

London is changing. Our city is becoming younger and more diverse. Nearly half of all Londoners are now minority ethnic and the average age of Londoners is 34. If we are to win over these voters, we need to hand over to the next generation. We need a candidate who can win over all Londoners – regardless of age, income or ethnicity. Just this week Sadiq showed his intentions to win over voters who have left Labour, reaching out to Jewish voters in London, who abandoned us in 2012 and 2015.

And he understands that insecurity is something that reaches right up the income scale: middle class professionals worry not only about jobs, housing and school places, but the cost of childcare and transport, and the safety of the city where so many raise their children.

Sadiq is the only candidate for Labour’s nomination who has fought and won a marginal seat. Winning tough seats like Tooting requires candidates to reach out and win support from people not naturally inclined to vote Labour. Tooting is a microcosm of London – with some areas of urban poverty with a large ethnic minority population, but much of the constituency is leafy, suburban and affluent. Sadiq has now won Tooting three times, including in 2010 when he was the top Tory target seat in London and faced a flood of activists money. We need a candidate for Mayor who knows what it takes to win.

Sadiq is the only candidate who has run a successful London-wide campaign.  He led the 2014 Borough and European election campaign in the capital, where Labour achieved our best results in a generation. We won control of an additional five Boroughs, mostly in outer London, in places like Croydon, Redbridge and Harrow. And we won half of London’s eight MEPs for the first time ever. 

Sadiq also led Labour’s general election campaign in London. London was the only region of the UK in which Labour made a net gain of seats. We held all 38 Labour seats and made seven additional gains, winning back seats lost in 1983, 2003, 2005 and 2010. We won 44% of the vote – our best result since 2001. And all this against a backdrop of failure and losses across the rest of the UK. The campaign even won plaudits from Tories and LibDems.

That’s why we’re backing Sadiq for Mayor. Because he is the candidate best placed to win the Mayoralty for Labour and take the first step on the long road back to power.

Photo: Getty
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How the row over Jackie Walker triggered a full-blown war in Momentum

Jon Lansman, the organisation's founder, is coming under attack. 

The battle for control within Momentum, which has been brewing for some time, has begun in earnest.

In a sign of the growing unrest within the organisation – established as the continuation of Jeremy Corbyn’s first successful leadership bid, and instrumental in delivering in his re-election -  a critical pamphlet by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL), a Trotskyite grouping, has made its way into the pages of the Times, with the “unelected” chiefs of Momentum slated for turning the organisation into a “bland blur”.

The issue of contention: between those who see Momentum as an organisation to engage new members of the Labour party, who have been motivated by Jeremy Corbyn but are not yet Corbynites.

One trade unionist from that tendency described what they see the problem as like this: “you have people who have joined to vote for Jeremy, they’re going to meetings, but they’re voting for the Progress candidates in selections, they’re voting for Eddie Izzard [who stood as an independent but Corbynsceptic candidate] in the NEC”.  

On the other are those who see a fightback by Labour’s right and centre as inevitable, and who are trying to actively create a party within a party for what they see as an inevitable purge. One activist of that opinion wryly described Momentum as “Noah’s Ark”.

For both sides, Momentum, now financially stable thanks to its membership, which now stands at over 20,000, is a great prize. And in the firing line for those who want to turn Momentum into a parallel line is Jon Lansman, the organisation’s founder.

Lansman, who came into politics as an aide to Tony Benn, is a figure of suspicion on parts of the broad left due to his decades-long commitment to the Labour party. His major opposition within Momentum and on its ruling executive comes from the AWL.

The removal of Jackie Walker as a vice-chair of Momentum after she said that Holocaust Memorial Day belittled victims of other genocides has boosted the AWL, although the AWL's Jill Mountford, who sits on Momentum's ruling executive, voted to remove Walker as vice-chair. (Walker remains on the NEC, as she has been elected by members). But despite that, the AWL, who have been critical of the process whereby Walker lost her post, have felt the benefit across the country.

Why? Because that battle has triggered a series of serious splits, not only in Momentum’s executive but its grassroots. A raft of local groups have thrown out the local leadership, mostly veterans of Corbyn’s campaign for the leadership, for what the friend of one defeated representative described as “people who believe the Canary [a pro-Corbyn politics website that is regularly accused of indulging and promoting conspiracy theories]”.

In a further series of reverses for the Lansmanite caucus, the North West, a Momentum stronghold since the organisation was founded just under a year ago, is slipping away from old allies of Lansman and towards the “new” left. As one insider put it, the transition is from longstanding members towards people who had been kicked out in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Neil Kinnock. The constituency party of Wallasey in particular is giving senior figures in Momentum headaches just as it is their opponents on the right of the party, with one lamenting that they have “lost control” of the group.

It now means that planned changes to Momentum’s structure, which the leadership had hoped to be rubberstamped by members, now face a fraught path to passage.

Adding to the organisation’s difficulties is the expected capture of James Schneider by the leader’s office. Schneider, who appears widely on television and radio as the public face of Momentum and is well-liked by journalists, has an offer on the table to join Jeremy Corbyn’s team at Westminster as a junior to Seumas Milne.

The move, while a coup for Corbyn, is one that Momentum – and some of Corbyn’s allies in the trade union movement – are keen to resist. Taking a job in the leader’s office would reduce still further the numbers of TV-friendly loyalists who can go on the airwaves and defend the leadership. There is frustration among the leader’s office that as well as Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, who are both considered to be both polished media performers and loyalists, TV bookers turn to Ken Livingstone, who is retired and unreliable, and Paul Mason, about whom opinions are divided within Momentum. Some regard Mason as a box office performer who needs a bigger role, others as a liability.

But all are agreed that Schneider’s expected departure will weaken the media presence of Corbyn loyalists and also damage Momentum. Schneider has spent much of his time not wrangling journalists but mediating in local branches and is regarded as instrumental in the places “where Momentum is working well” in the words of one trade unionist. (Cornwall is regarded as a particular example of what the organisation should be aiming towards)

It comes at a time when Momentum’s leadership is keen to focus both on its external campaigns but the struggle for control in the Labour party. Although Corbyn has never been stronger within the party, no Corbynite candidate has yet prevailed in a by-election, with the lack of available candidates at a council level regarded as part of the problem. Councilors face mandatory reselection as a matter of course, and the hope is that a bumper crop of pro-Corbyn local politicians will go on to form the bulk of the talent pool for vacant seats in future by-elections and in marginal seats at the general election.

But at present, a draining internal battle is sapping Momentum of much of its vitality. But Lansman retains two trump cards. The first is that as well as being the founder of the organisation, he is its de facto owner: the data from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaigns, without which much of the organisation could not properly run, is owned by a limited company of which he is sole director. But “rolling it up and starting again” is very much the nuclear option, that would further delay the left’s hopes of consolidating its power base in the party.

The second trump card, however, is the tribalism of many of the key players at a local level, who will resist infiltration by groups to Labour’s left just as fiercely as many on the right. As one veteran of both Corbyn’s campaigns reflected: “If those who have spent 20 years attacking our party think they have waiting allies in the left of Labour, they are woefully mistaken”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.