Labour is dangerously complacent about winning back London post-Boris

by Samuel Dale

It was the worst kept secret in Westminster but Boris is finally on his way back.

After years burnishing his profile as Mayor of London, he is looking for a Commons seat next year.

Inevitably the focus has been on the implications for Cameron, Osborne and the battle for the Tory leadership.

But it also confirms – almost certainly – that Johnson will not run again as Mayor of London in 2016.

This is leading to a dangerous complacency from Labour.

The theory goes like this: London is a Labour voting city that has been twice charmed by the charismatic Boris but when he goes the mayoralty will slip back to its rightful owners, Labour.

This belief is fuelled by electoral successes.

Labour did surprisingly well in London in the 2010 general election, costing the Tories a majority.

In the intervening years, it has also won back control of councils and had record breaking results in areas such as Camden in May.

But the mayoralty is different. In their own ways Ken Livingstone and Boris have made the Mayor Of London a big job.

Labour big hitters are said to be interested in being the next candidate from Tessa Jowell to Sadiq Khan and even, god forbid, Eddie Izzard.

With Boris out of the way, these potential candidates are expecting a stroll to victory.

This is wrong. The lesson here is that the Mayoral elections are decided primarily on individuals not party.

It all comes down to the choice of candidates.

In 2012 it was not just that Boris was popular but that Ken was devastatingly unpopular.

If Labour choose another bad candidate then it could easily suppress their vote again.

Just as importantly the Tories could opt for another maverick candidate, boosting their vote share.

Perhaps Zac Goldsmith: detached from the leadership, environmentalist and moderate.

Yes, he’s another white Old Etonian but this has hardly proven a handicap in British politics.

Or how about Lord Sebastian Coe; hero of the Olympics, hungry for power and everyone has now forgotten he once worked for William Hague.

And there is another risk to Labour: the introduction of an independent.

This could be a Sir Richard Branson or Michael Bloomberg type billionaire who funds and runs his or her campaign.

An independent has already won the mayoralty so it’s not unthinkable.

The real lessons from Boris and Ken is that London mayoral elections can throw up surprises.

That is how these two characters have defined the role and it is likely to continue.

Labour should not be fooled into thinking a colourless party apparatchik will walk into City Hall in 2016. They won’t.

Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist

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3 Responses to “Labour is dangerously complacent about winning back London post-Boris”

  1. John Reid says:

    Boris won in 2012 with 1,020,000 votes, the same amount Ken lost in 2008 ,when Boris won with nearly 1.5 m, to Ken getting 992,000 in 2012 and labour did a lot better in the assembly in 2012 than before, Boris record wasn’t that good in 2012′ but he won in 2008 due to a string anti Ken vote, not that ken hadn’t done a lot of good with transport,housing and policing, but nepotism, and vanity projects like buying Chavez oil, did it for him

  2. swatantra says:

    First get your candidate. Diane Abbott.

  3. If Labour wants to win the next contest it would be advisable not to have Jowell as the candidate. She carries so much bad baggage that almost any Tory candidate would be a shoe in. If the Blairites need a candidate they should persuade Alan Johnson to stand as he would be close to unbeatable.

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