The Evening Standard is reporting that David Lammy has launched his campaign for the London mayoralty. In an interview with the newspaper’s editor, he said, “the kind of mayoralty that I want is one that extends opportunity to all Londoners . . . At its best this is a city of opportunity, as it was for my parents. But I worry whether that prosperity is now available to everyone.”
It has long been expected that the Labour backbencher and Tottenham MP would run to be a candidate for the mayoralty. However, this is the first formal bid for the role among the Labour politicians thought to be lining themselves up for the job. As my colleague George Eaton reported last month, Lammy has been gearing up to break the “unwritten agreement” between Labour hopefuls “to postpone their bids until after the general election”.
With that truce broken by Lammy today, a very early declaration ahead of the party’s conference in a fortnight, what does this move mean for the other hopefuls?
Lammy – who knows he is not the favourite for the post, being less of a high-profile, senior figure than others reportedly in the running – now has a big head-start. He is a backbencher, and therefore simply has less to do in parliament ahead of 2015 than some of his rivals. For example, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan – who often polls as the favourite – has his frontbench duties to concentrate on, which is partly behind him waiting to announce his bid, though it is widely known he is likely to stand. He also must focus his efforts on Labour’s election campaign, as a senior figure in the party, and someone close to its leadership.
Then there’s Margaret Hodge – chair of the Public Accounts Committee – who may be waiting to see whether or not Labour wins the general election. If it does, she could be in line for a ministerial post, considering how much of a positive profile she’s gained from her committee chairmanship. Although she said to my colleague Caroline Crampton this time last year, “I’m not trying to climb any greasy pole any more”, she did admit, “I’ve got lots of ambition”.
Tessa Jowell, the veteran Labour frontbencher who resigned from the frontbench in 2012, is the frontrunner. Perhaps her popularity in the polls and position as a heavyweight political figure mean she can afford to wait to announce her bid.
One hopeful who is likely to follow Lammy’s lead and make an early declaration is Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney who was reshuffled from the frontbench last year. She surprisingly topped a poll as Labour’s favourite for London mayor this summer and may want to work fast to keep that momentum going.
But now the battle to succeed Boris is officially underway, it may be difficult for all these hopefuls to hold their nerve up until May 2015.