The Tories are about to swiftboat Sadiq on terror. How he responds will determine the Mayoral result

by Atul Hatwal

The conventional Westminster wisdom is that this is Labour’s year in London. Labour thrashed the Tories in the capital at last year’s general election by 44% to 35% and in a recent poll, Sadiq led Goldsmith by seven points.

However, the conventional wisdom is about to be tested.

In the next few weeks, the Tories are going to roll out their main attack on Sadiq Khan: terror.

Lynton Crosby is running Zac Goldsmith’s campaign and he is nothing if not politically obvious.

The Mayoralty is not a role where conventional attacks over economic issues will resonate.

The public, and Crosby, know that the Mayor cannot crash the economy so the Tory line on what Corbyn’s Labour would do to jobs, growth and taxes, will not be effective.

Neither is the Mayor going to make a profound difference to the state of London transport – no-one can wave a wand and create the extra tube lines or rail services that the capital desperately needs.

Identity and personality not policy will determine voters’ choice.

The Mayoralty is overwhelmingly a symbolic and representative role. Who sits in City Hall says something about how Londoners’ see themselves.

As the son of a migrant, from a working class family, who rose to run a high profile legal firm, Sadiq Khan’s biography is London’s story told best.

Sadiq has also moved deftly to buttress the independence of his brand by pitching himself against Jeremy Corbyn with a range of centrist, business-friendly positions.

He is doing all that’s required to pass the Mayoral threshold in an increasingly Labour city.

The Tories need a game-changer. Something that irrevocably redefines Sadiq in the eyes of Londoners and casts him as Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate.

Cue the impending attack over terror.

Under normal circumstances, such a move could be dismissed as crude racism against one of Britain’s most prominent Muslim politicians.

But two factors change the calculus, shifting this attack from the realms of absurd, naked prejudice to an issue that is likely to gain traction.

First, there is Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Isil.

He doesn’t want to bomb them. He wouldn’t sanction drone strikes on their leaders. He avers from any notion of military response, regardless of the atrocities for which they are responsible.

Instead, Jeremy Corbyn’s response to Isil’s bombs and beheadings is to talk to them.

This makes Labour’s response to terror a live election issue.

Second, there is Sadiq Khan’s history with Babar Ahmad.

In 2014, Babar Ahmad pleaded guilty in the US to providing material support to the Taliban and Chechen jihadis by using websites to raise money, recruit fighters and provide equipment for their movements.

Ahmad’s US trial followed a failed, eight year campaign against extradition from the UK during which Sadiq Khan visited him in jail and spoke on platforms in his defence against being sent to America.

Sadiq’s position is made all the more tricky by his lack of clarity on the basis for his support of Ahmad. He has stated Ahmad was a childhood friend but then appeared to switch to explaining his visits to Ahmad as part of his work as the local MP.

Whatever the reasoning, no matter how justified Sadiq felt based on the facts available at the time, this constitutes a big problem.

Tory Ministers, MPs, GLA candidates will be lined up to cast Sadiq Khan’s relationship with Ahmad as evidence that he is soft on terror. That he is a representative of Jeremy Corbyn’s ideology. The sort of man who does not represent Londoners.

Think Michael Fallon, the general election and Ed Miliband stabbing his brother in the back. This year’s Mayoral election will star Babar Ahmad as a dead cat.

The Tory goal will be to put the words “Sadiq Khan” and “terror” together in as many stories as possible.

It’s not right, it’s not fair, but when the Tories attack, the extremity of the claim will dominate the headlines and Sadiq will need to respond.

He has three options, two of which give Lynton Crosby exactly what he wants.

The first is to dismiss the claims as racism.

Labour’s twittervists will be shouting about this. The sectarian overtones are impossible to avoid and undoubtedly there will be a voluble dog whistle with this attack.

But Sadiq’s support for a man who admitted that he had helped Jihadis and Corbyn’s equivocation on terror means the story will run. An airy, general dismissal of the claims as racism will allow the specific allegations to go unrebutted and Crosby will achieve his goal.

The second option is to take the legalistic route. To refer to the exigencies of the extradition process to the US and explain Sadiq’s defence of Ahmad as rooted in these issues.

Again, this would be disastrous.

The implicit message in the Tory attack will be that Sadiq is friends with a terrorist (their characterisation) and doesn’t have the judgement or temperament to represent London. To say Ahmad had a valid case to oppose extradition is no case at all to voters who will ask what was Sadiq doing being friends with and defending such a person.

Game, set and match Crosby.

The final option is the only viable option: Sadiq will need to unequivocally condemn Babar Ahmad, to condemn Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Isil and to say that while he might have known Ahmad when young, his interventions on the extradition were solely as an MP representing a constituent who, at that stage, hadn’t been tried.

There will still be a level of damage, but only by robustly condemning Ahmad and Corbyn can Sadiq avoid being defined by Crosby.

At the general election the entire Tory strategy was based on the Tartan scare: using fear of the SNP to squeeze wavering Ukip and Lib Dem voters into their column.

At the Mayoral election it will be fear of Corbyn’s ultra-left brand of politics and terror will be the tool they use to define Sadiq as Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate.

Sadiq Khan might be seven points ahead, but that same poll also found that 30% of Londoners were undecided.

How Sadiq deals with the Tory terror bomb will ultimately help make the minds up of this 30% and determine who wins the Mayoralty.

Atul Hatwal is the editor of Uncut

Tags: , , , , , ,

18 Responses to “The Tories are about to swiftboat Sadiq on terror. How he responds will determine the Mayoral result”

  1. Bobby says:

    Sadiq Khan was a supporter of the convicted al Qaeda recruiter Babar Ahmed. I believe he may also have had links with the Jihadi activist group Cage. The people of London deserve to know the truth about this. Will Sadiq roll out the red carpet for Islamists like Ken Livingstone did?

  2. The Tories don’t really need Crosby when they have Atul Hatwal. The desperation in Atul to defeat Corbyn and the left of the party is reaching a stage where his mental health is a worry. I would suggest a 6 month break. Maybe one of his friends could advise him.

  3. Henry says:

    The thing that is so nauseating about Sadiq Khan is not his links to Islamists – dubious as these may be – but his creepy opportunism. He is the epitome of say-anything-to-get-elected politician. He has flip-flopped on so many issues that Labour members could be forgiven for having no clue as to where he stands.

    I’m not a Corbynista but the way in which Khan sucked up to JC in order to get the votes of his supporters only to publicly crap on him literally the day after winning the nomination for Mayor. Goldsmith is a Tory toff but he also seems to have principles that he won’t ditch the moment they become inconvenient. Sadiq Khan is not a true Islamist, a true socialist, a true Arsenal fan or a true anything. He’s a pathetic careerist.

  4. Taylor says:

    Crosby’s attacks work because they are based on truth. The SNP scare was based on the truth that a) it would happen, if necessary and b) it would result in fiscal settlements even more skewed to England’s disadvantage. It will work with Sadiq Khan because, in truth, he was a personal friend of someone who turned out to be an Islamist terrorist and tried to help him evade the US justice system. It’s just true. The reality is the problem.

  5. Touchstone says:

    Hang on a minute…I thought the Tories were supposed to be keen to keep Corbyn in place until 2020? So surely they don’t want Goldsmith to win, because Khan winning London will allow Corbyn to keep his job however dire the other May results are for Labour?

  6. James says:

    I think even the Tories can’t control the uselessness of Corbyn. They’ve just given up and are taking to throwing dead cats down in the Commons.

    The switch has been clicked – Crosby has been hired. Even the Tories are fed up with the situation. They’re bored so want Goldsmith elected.

  7. Alan says:

    “It’s not right, it’s not fair”

    Actually it is right and it is fair, Londoners need to know whether Khan is a terrorist sympathiser like the Leader of his Party.

  8. Bob says:

    Goldsmith is a show in, the doughnut will ensure that. As described above a) he has enough money to help with that and b) has no desire for governmental office, therefore he is immune to pressure from the whips office be cause he has a) so is not dependent on his parliamentary sinecure.

    Khan on the other hand is desperate. Associating with and not distancing himself from a self confessed supporter of terrorism will not go down well with his non RoP friends.

  9. Madasafish says:

    > James
    I don’y know about the Tories but I am bored with Corbyn.. Watching the self flagellation on TV is bad for my soul.
    After all, he appears to attempt to fall into every trap..
    It’s not a sport , it’s more prolonged torture.

    I expect Khan to win, Goldsmith has all the allure and personality of a deceased goldfish.

  10. Ex Labour says:

    As Groucho Marx once said ” Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.” And so it is with Khan. The Tories quite rightly have the ammunition to derail Khan…..but Khan has only himself to blame.

  11. Dave Roberts says:

    Khan has problems and not just the terrorist connection. This speech was delivered at the offices of Operation Black Vote one of the groups that was linked by Andrew Gilligan to some of the monies, three and a half million, that disappeared from the London Development Agency through Lee Jasper who was present throughout the speech and who regularly writes, articles, strange and semi literate though they may be, for the site.

    Khan is in the same position as Corbyn in that he has said and done things when a backbencher that are now coming back to haunt him. It’s interesting that Atul has chose now to raise the issue of terrorist connections. Maybe he is already trying to explain away Labour’s defeat in May.

  12. Dave Roberts says:

    What should also be taken into account is the fact that the pollsters get it very wrong too often. That was how they called Labour winning the general election. The section of Londoners most likely to be the ones voting Labour are also the ones most likely to not be registered to vote, if they are most likely not to and the ones that constitute the huge shifting mass of Londoners going from one form of rented accommodation to another.

    Tory voters tend to be older, settled and much more likely to exercise their electoral rights. Livingstone was way ahead at this stage in 2007 until the Lee Jasper affair which effectively lost him the election the next year. As I have pointed out in my previous post Khan is now also tarred with that same Jasper brush because of his appearances with Operation Black Vote.

  13. leslie48 says:

    Its correct to say Labour did win 44% of voters while Tories had 35% but that was under a ‘more popular’ Labour Leader. This week’s IPSOS MORI poll putting the trust and confidence gap between the parties as wide as ever and indeed the highest recorded for the Conservative’s and lowest recorded for Labour suggests somethings have changed. Crosby will do his best and with media support Labour is going to suffer the Corbyn effect especially I think from young professional aspirational voters. In the end for many voters social background does not count as we see with the recent victory for the Tory public school boys. Boris was popular because he was personable and Cam like Tony Blair can communicate effectively,

  14. John P Reid says:

    Turnout and Second preferences will come into play,if it get nasty and Goldsmith isn’t seen as weak, then a high turnout could change things, second Prefs on the other hand? There’s still many Ukip voters who dislike the Tories, because they recall Fathca….

  15. Dave Roberts says:

    I can imagine the Tory slogan. ” Vote Khan, get Lee Jasper”.

  16. tim says:

    Bearing in mind the recent reports that the surge in new Labour party members is with young upwardly mobile city dwellers then it might not matter at all and Khan will be voted in. The attitude of these people is summed up by Danny Speight in his comments. There are legitimate questions that Khan needs to answer, but these are just ignored by those of a blinkered partisan mindset who ignore anything that does not agree with their opinion. Oh well, was it ever thus…

  17. Jimmy says:

    “Sadiq’s position is made all the more tricky by his lack of clarity on the basis for his support of Ahmad.”

    I was under the impression that he was standing up for the victim of a miscarriage of justice. I accept that this is just as unpopular for him now as it was for Chris Mullin in the 80s but his willingness to stick his neck out I found very impressive.

  18. Peter Kenny says:

    Atul’s general position is “we lost badly – now you should do the shitty things we would have happily done, except that willingness is one of the reasons we lost, so that we can still win, and by the way we are still the masters of all that is good and wise”

    Read some more about Babar Ahmed – look at the CPS position, look at the US judges comments at sentence, wonder why someone might come to a plea bargain after two years in solitary in a US Super max and think again.

    Except the political positions of the editors etc of this site are so convoluted, so lacking in just the basic decency of say backing the Birmingham 6 campaign, or recognising the possibility of injustice and sticking up for the underdog that they possibly don’t really care.

Leave a Reply