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What does Sadiq Khan’s victory mean for the Remain campaign?

It is the forces of Brexit that have suffered in the local elections, argues Will Straw.

By Will Straw

Sadiq Khan’s victory last night in the London Mayoral contest was hard fought and well deserved. Although I’m running the cross-party campaign to keep Britain in the EU, I can’t pretend not to be delighted as a lifelong Labour supporter. 

But when I voted for Sadiq, I wasn’t just voting for him because he is the man that London needs to sort out our transport, housing and security. I also voted for him because he backs remaining in Europe, and spoke out repeatedly against Zac Goldsmith’s desire to leave the EU and pull away from our closest neighbours which would do London’s economy untold damage.

With the most important decision this country will face in a generation just 47 days away it’s impossible not to look at these results and reflect on what they say about the state of both sides in the upcoming referendum. And the results are clear: the British people have, by huge majorities, come down on the side of parties that want to stay in Europe.

London illustrates this perfectly, and not only in the sizeable margin which the remain campaigner Sadiq beat leave-backing Zac Goldsmith. Ukip made leaving Europe a centrepiece of their mayoral campaign, yet have ended up languishing in fifth place. After coming third in vote-share in London seats last year they’re now finding themselves behind the Liberal Democrats and Greens, who want Britain to stay in the EU.

George Galloway fared even worse. Don’t forget this man was proudly paraded by the Leave campaign and share a stage with Nigel Farage earlier this year in an attempt to show they had cross-party support. But he’s ended up level-pegging in vote-share with Britain First.

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And what we’ve seen in London has been replicated across Scotland, Wales, and the English councils too. Remain backing parties took over 60 per cent of the vote in both Wales’ constituency and regional seats; over 70 per cent in Scotland; and 65 per cent of the English council seats declared so far have been won by remain supporting parties.

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Those numbers alone are impressive, but taking a close look at Ukip’s results – as the only major party backing Leave – is revealing as well. For all the noise they’ve made about the seats they have gained in Wales, yesterday’s results have, in truth, been hugely disappointing for them.

With Europe at the top of the agenda, Ukip should have been performing at the level they were in the 2014 European elections. Back then they got 27 per cent of the vote. But the results today are well below this. In Wales they went backwards, with a vote share of 13 per cent – less than they managed at the general election. In Scotland they didn’t even bother standing candidates in the constituencies, and in the regional seats got a paltry 2 per cent. And in the council votes they have picked up just 26 new seats so far compared to 1,674 from parties backing remain.

While these results are undeniably good for those on the Remain side of the debate, we need to be careful not to read too much into them and there is absolutely no time for complacency. There was, of course, a great deal more to these votes than the jobs, security, and lower prices we get as part of Europe. By no means do these results tell us which way the referendum will go. And in the 47 days we have left until the referendum I’ll be fighting hard for every single vote, working in every part of the country, across all parties to make the case that we are stronger, safer and better off in Europe. 

But, while they can’t tell us what the result will be, they do undermine the leave campaigns’ claims that they are speaking up for the British people. In fact, it’s increasingly clear that they are doing the bidding of people like Putin, Le Pen, and Trump who do not have Britain’s best interests at heart.