Sadiq Khan on the campaign trail in Battersea. Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

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.
 

Getty
Show Hide image

The decline of the north's sporting powerhouse

Yorkshire historically acted as a counterweight to the dominance of southern elites, in sport as in politics and culture. Now, things are different.

On a drive between Sheffield and Barnsley, I spotted a striking painting of the Kes poster. Billy Casper’s two-fingered salute covered the wall of a once-popular pub that is now boarded up.

It is almost 50 years since the late Barry Hines wrote A Kestrel for a Knave, the novel that inspired Ken Loach’s 1969 film, and it seems that the defiant, us-against-the-world, stick-it-to-the-man Yorkshireness he commemorated still resonates here. Almost two-thirds of the people of south Yorkshire voted to leave the EU, flicking two fingers up at what they saw as a London-based establishment, detached from life beyond the capital.

But whatever happened to Billy the unlikely lad, and the myriad other northern characters who were once the stars of stage and screen? Like the pitheads that dominated Casper’s tightly knit neighbourhood, they have disappeared from the landscape. The rot set in during the 1980s, when industries were destroyed and communities collapsed, a point eloquently made in Melvyn Bragg’s excellent radio series The Matter of the North.

Yorkshire historically acted as a counterweight to the dominance of southern elites, in sport as in politics and culture. Yet today, we rarely get to hear the voices of Barnsley, Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham. And the Yorkshire sporting powerhouse is no more – at least, not as we once knew it.

This should be a matter of national concern. The White Rose county is, after all, the home of the world’s oldest registered football club – Sheffield FC, formed in 1857 – and the first English team to win three successive League titles, Huddersfield Town, in the mid-1920s. Hull City are now Yorkshire’s lone representative in the Premier League.

Howard Wilkinson, the manager of Leeds United when they were crowned champions in 1992, the season before the Premier League was founded, lamented the passing of a less money-obsessed era. “My dad worked at Orgreave,” he said, “the scene of Mrs Thatcher’s greatest hour, bless her. You paid for putting an axe through what is a very strong culture of community and joint responsibility.”

The best-known scene in Loach’s film shows a football match in which Mr Sugden, the PE teacher, played by Brian Glover, comically assumes the role of Bobby Charlton. It was played out on the muddy school fields of Barnsley’s run-down Athersley estate. On a visit to his alma mater a few years ago, David Bradley, who played the scrawny 15-year-old Billy, showed me the goalposts that he had swung from as a reluctant goalkeeper. “You can still see the dint in the crossbar,” he said. When I spoke to him recently, Bradley enthused about his lifelong support for Barnsley FC. “But I’ve not been to the ground over the last season and a half,” he said. “I can’t afford it.”

Bradley is not alone. Many long-standing fans have been priced out. Barnsley is only a Championship side, but for their home encounter with Newcastle last October, their fans had to pay £30 for a ticket.

The English game is rooted in the northern, working-class communities that have borne the brunt of austerity over the past six years. The top leagues – like the EU – are perceived to be out of touch and skewed in favour of the moneyed elites.

Bradley, an ardent Remainer, despaired after the Brexit vote. “They did not know what they were doing. But I can understand why. There’s still a lot of neglect, a lot of deprivation in parts of Barnsley. They feel left behind because they have been left behind.”

It is true that there has been a feel-good factor in Yorkshire following the Rio Olympics; if the county were a country, it would have finished 17th in the international medals table. Yet while millions have been invested in “podium-level athletes”, in the team games that are most relevant to the lives of most Yorkshire folk – football, cricket and rugby league – there is a clear division between sport’s elites and its grass roots. While lucrative TV deals have enriched ruling bodies and top clubs, there has been a large decrease in the number of adults playing any sport in the four years since London staged the Games.

According to figures from Sport England, there are now 67,000 fewer people in Yorkshire involved in sport than there were in 2012. In Doncaster, to take a typical post-industrial White Rose town, there has been a 13 per cent drop in participation – compared with a 0.4 per cent decline nationally.

Attendances at rugby league, the region’s “national sport”, are falling. But cricket, in theory, is thriving, with Yorkshire winning the County Championship in 2014 and 2015. Yet Joe Root, the batsman and poster boy for this renaissance, plays far more games for his country than for his county and was rested from Yorkshire’s 2016 title decider against Middlesex.

“Root’s almost not a Yorkshire player nowadays,” said Stuart Rayner, whose book The War of the White Roses chronicles the club’s fortunes between 1968 and 1986. As a fan back then, I frequently watched Geoffrey Boycott and other local stars at Headingley. My favourite was the England bowler Chris Old, a gritty, defiant, unsung anti-hero in the Billy Casper mould.

When Old made his debut, 13 of the 17-strong Yorkshire squad were registered as working-class professionals. Half a century later, three of the five Yorkshiremen selec­ted for the last Ashes series – Root, Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance – were privately educated. “The game of cricket now is played in public schools,” Old told me. “Top players are getting huge amounts of money, but the grass-roots game doesn’t seem to have benefited in any way.”

“In ten years’ time you won’t get a Joe Root,” Rayner said. “If you haven’t seen these top Yorkshire cricketers playing in your backyard and you haven’t got Sky, it will be difficult to get the whole cricket bug. So where is the next generation of Roots going to come from?” Or the next generation of Jessica Ennis-Hills? Three years ago, the Sheffield stadium where she trained and first discovered athletics was closed after cuts to local services.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era