David Lammy’s decision to formally launch his bid to become London mayor (as tipped in my column last month), making him the first Labour MP to do so, has prompted commentators to ask whether his likely rivals, Sadiq Khan, Tessa Jowell and Diane Abbott, will follow his lead.
In response, a source close to Khan told me:
Sadiq is working his socks off to get Ed Miliband elected Prime Minister. He will continue to focus all his effort on winning 12 extra seats in London as shadow London minister and articulating Labour’s radical alternative to the government’s prison crisis as shadow justice secretary.
As shadow London minister, Khan of course enjoys the advantage of being able to woo the Labour selectorate and to win credit for what will likely be a strong general election peformance (Labour’s local election results in the capital were its best since 1998).
Last year, after withdrawing from a Progress debate on the future of London, which featured Lammy, Jowell, Andrew Adonis and Abbott (making it the first hustings in all but name), he told me: “I was told it was going to be a forum to discuss ideas about London and it was quite clear to me that it was actually turned into a beauty parade. I’ve got no interest in being involved in a beauty parade, or playing ego politics. It’s about me making sure that I do the job I’ve been given as shadow minister for London with the seriousness it deserves. I’m a member of team Labour.”
Jowell, who has led in the early opinion polls, made no comment on Lammy’s decision. Last month, in response to Boris Johnson’s announcement that he would stand for parliament, she said: “There will be much speculation about candidates; Labour, Tory and other parties. I will certainly be taking this time to prepare my potential offer to Londoners, but this is not a time for formal decision or declaration.
“There are many uncertainties between now and 2016, and Labour in London must not be distracted from the crucial task of representing Londoners and winning in those marginal seats which will contribute to a Labour victory next year. A victory which will enormously improve Londoners’ lives by building homes, helping young people get the skills they need to get jobs, supporting London’s growing and divergent economy and acting to tackle the driving causes of the inequalities that continue to scar our city.”
Having previously warned that Labour “must not be distracted” from the general election, the former Olympics minister will now have to decide whether to revise her position in response to Lammy. Abbott, who has also publicly expressed interest in the role, has not yet replied to a request for comment.
How she and others play it may well depend on how much momentum Lammy gains from his early entry.