The candidates, mid-hust. Photo: Twitter/@AlvinCarpio
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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 deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Want to send a positive Brexit message to Europe? Back Arsene Wenger for England manager

Boris Johnson could make a gesture of goodwill. 

It is hard not to feel some sympathy for Sam Allardyce, who coveted the England job for so many years, before losing it after playing just a single match. Yet Allardyce has only himself to blame and the Football Association were right to move quickly to end his tenure.

There are many candidates for the job. The experience of Alan Pardew and the potential of Eddie Howe make them strong contenders. The FA's reported interest in Ralf Rangner sent most of us scurrying to Google to find out who the little known Leipzig manager is. But the standout contender is Arsenal's French boss Arsene Wenger, 

Would England fans accept a foreign manager? The experience of Sven Goran-Eriksson suggests so, especially when the results are good. Nobody complained about having a Swede in charge the night that England won 5-1 in Munich, though Sven's sides never won the glittering prizes, the Swede proving perhaps too rigidly English in his commitment to the 4-4-2 formation.

Fabio Capello's brief stint was less successful. He never seemed happy in the English game, preferring to give interviews in Italian. That perhaps contributed to his abrupt departure, falling out with his FA bosses after he seemed unable to understand why allegations of racial abuse by the England captain had to be taken seriously by the governing body.

Arsene Wenger could not be more different. Almost unknown when he arrived to "Arsene Who?" headlines two decades ago, he became as much part of North London folklore as all-time great Arsenal and Spurs bosses, Herbert Chapman or Bill Nicholson, his own Invicibles once dominating the premier league without losing a game all season. There has been more frustration since the move from Highbury to the Emirates, but Wenger's track record means he ranks among the greatest managers of the last hundred years - and he could surely do a job for England.

Arsene is a European Anglophile. While the media debate whether or not the FA Cup has lost its place in our hearts, Wenger has no doubt that its magic still matters, which may be why his Arsenal sides have kept on winning it so often. Wenger manages a multinational team but England's football traditions have certainly got under his skin. The Arsenal boss has changed his mind about emulating the continental innovation of a winter break. "I would cry if you changed that", he has said, citing his love of Boxing Day football as part of the popular tradition of English football.

Obviously, the FA must make this decision on football grounds. It is an important one to get right. Fifty years of hurt still haven't stopped us dreaming, but losing to Iceland this summer while watching Wales march to the semi-finals certainly tested any lingering optimism. Wenger was as gutted as anybody. "This is my second country. I was absolutely on my knees when we lost to Iceland. I couldn't believe it" he said.

The man to turn things around must clearly be chosen on merit. But I wonder if our new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - albeit more of a rugger man himself - might be tempted to quietly  suggest in the corridors of footballing power that the appointment could play an unlikely role in helping to get the mood music in place which would help to secure the best Brexit deal for Britain, and for Europe too.

Johnson does have one serious bit of unfinished business from the referendum campaign: to persuade his new boss Theresa May that the commitments made to European nationals in Britain must be honoured in full.  The government should speed up its response and put that guarantee in place. 

Nor should that commitment to 3m of our neighbours and friends be made grudgingly.

So Boris should also come out and back Arsene for the England job, as a very good symbolic way to show that we will continue to celebrate the Europeans here who contribute so much to our society.

British negotiators will be watching the twists and turns of the battle for the Elysee Palace, to see whether Alain Juppe, Nicolas Sarkozy end up as President. It is a reminder that other countries face domestic pressures over the negotiations to come too. So the political negotiations will be tough - but we should make sure our social and cultural relations with Europe remain warm.

More than half of Britons voted to leave the political structures of the European Union in June. Most voters on both sides of the referendum had little love of the Brussels institutions, or indeed any understanding of what they do.

But how can we ensure that our European neighbours and friends understand and hear that this was no rejection of them - and that so many of the ways that we engage with our fellow Europeans rom family ties to foreign holidays, the European contributions to making our society that bit better - the baguettes and cappuccinos, cultural links and sporting heroes remain as much loved as ever.

We will see that this weekend when nobody in the golf clubs will be asking who voted Remain and who voted Leave as we cheer on our European team - seven Brits playing in the twelve-strong side, alongside their Spanish, Belgian, German, Irish and Swedish team-mates.

And now another important opportunity to get that message across suddenly presents itself.

Wenger for England. What better post-Brexit commitment to a new Entente Cordiale could we possibly make?

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.