The candidates, mid-hust. Photo: Twitter/@AlvinCarpio
Show Hide image

Five things we learnt from the Labour London Mayoral hustings

Labour’s candidates for London mayor had their first hustings. What did they reveal?

Open season

It was open season on Ed Miliband, with one of the first topics being the mansion tax. In what ended up being a sort of top-down Two Minutes Hate about the divisive policy, the candidates revealed how they approach the Miliband era in general.

Diane Abbott emphasised that she had always been a critic, and independent-minded, adding: “The people at the top of the party who promoted it didn't really understand London”. Tessa Jowell subtly stuck the knife in, saying the tax was “in effect, a three bedroom terraced house tax”. In contrast, Sadiq Khan defended the principle of the “broadest shoulders carrying the heaviest burden”.

But it was later when the candidates were discussing airport expansion that the harshest condemnation of the former Labour leader sprang up. David Lammy, criticising Khan’s changing stance on the idea of a third Heathrow runway, bellowed: “Don’t play the same Ed Miliband politics that got us nowhere”.

 

You and whose powers?

One particular frustration with the mayoral selection is the temptation to propose policies that are not in the London mayor’s remit.

When asked if they would like City Hall powers broadened, all the panellists reeled off a wish list of the things they’d like to control – from income tax to school places. But they neglected to say how they would wrest these powers from the Tory government, or even campaign for them.

Jowell and political outsider Christian Wolmar were the most convincing in this area. Both repeatedly brought the debate back to what the London mayor can actually control. Jowell insisted on “realistic” housing targets, by starting off building on land owned by the mayor (which equals the size of Camden). And Wolmar directly referred to the role’s limitations on land value tax and rent capping – “we can bat for it but unfortunately we have a Tory government which won’t enable it” – and airport expansion (“oddly enough this isn’t a mayoral function!”).

 

Global race

Where Khan shone was on the global context of being a city mayor. He had clearly done his research on what powers mayors around the world have, and how they use them, from the New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s tech talent academy to the Stuttgart mayor’s business partnerships, with stop and frisk powers and everything else in between.

As London differs wildly from the rest of the country, couching it in an international context adds weight to calls for devolution to the capital. Devolution is at the heart of Gareth Thomas's pitch, but all candidates are passionate about London receiving more powers, with Jowell being particularly strong on the practical benefits of devolving power both to City Hall and out to the boroughs.

 

Election over selection

The Jowell camp sees her ultimate trump card as her ability to win the election against the Tory candidate next May. “This selection is about who can win,” a sympathiser puts it simply.

Indeed, a YouGov poll recently put Jowell +3 among Tory London voters.

Plus her record in leafy Dulwich & West Norwood, and focus throughout the general election campaign on having a broad appeal (she told me ahead of May “my best way to spend a Sunday afternoon is talking to Tories”), make her the candidate most likely to pick up non-Labour voters.

Wolmar did a bit of this, saying he had the policies to take on Zac Goldsmith (if not his “looks or his money”) – and as a non-politician, could reach non-Labour voters. Thomas too highlighted his record of consistently beating the Tories to his outer London seat of Harrow.

There are concerns that rhetoric about the election, not the selection, is uncomradely. For example, there's been some muttering among the Labour ranks over an email recently sent out by Jowell’s campaign team directly referring to Khan following the YouGov poll (“Tessa beats the Tories, but Sadiq doesn’t” is its subject line). “If you’re the frontrunner, you shouldn’t mention your opponent; just glide over it,” one Labour source says.

 

Fasten your greenbelts

In spite of the debate focusing on the need to build more housing, the only candidate in favour of building on the greenbelt is Lammy. This was popular with the audience, but is it impossible for the other candidates to inch anywhere near the greenbelt for fear of losing voters in boroughs further out?

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

0800 7318496