by Jonathan Todd
Keir Hardie in Merthyr Tydfil and Richard Bell in Derby were Labour’s first MPs. The Jarrow March arrived in London 36 years later. Another 45 years on and the first People’s March for Jobs arrived in the capital from Liverpool.
Historically, London has been the epicentre of the forces that frustrate Labour. Now, however, London is Labour’s citadel.
Third place in Scotland. Losing to Plaid in Rhondda. Far short of the gains of 400 council seats that the likes of Chris Leslie put down as a benchmark. But Labour is set to return to City Hall in London.
This is Sadiq Khan’s triumph. Elections are x-rays. Zac Goldsmith’s revealed that his heart wasn’t really in it and he was prepared to acquiesce with demeaning nastiness. He might be as posh as Boris Johnson but he lacks his restless hunger to seize power by imposing his personality on events.
Khan does not. His x-ray found all political functionalities in full working order. He wasn’t expected to beat Tessa Jowell to the Labour nomination. He has seen Jeremy Corbyn as sufficiently unhelpful that he distanced himself from the leader during the campaign. None of this stopped Khan, a whirl of dynamic energy.
You might have heard that he is a Muslim. If you’ve really been paying attention, you’ll know that his dad was a bus driver. The back story is now ubiquitous. We should not, though, become glib about its significance.
Khan’s win – and it does feel to me a gain in which the seal of the candidate is particularly sharply embossed – is a victory for London’s openness, tolerance and decency. Bravo.
But Labour must be more than this. We need a 650 seat strategy. To deliver openness, tolerance and decency across the UK.
Brexit would knock all this spectacularly backwards. The EU referendum provides an opportunity for Labour to unite and campaign with the verve that Khan has personified.
I’m confident that London will vote Remain. But Labour must make ourselves heard beyond London. Our membership and campaigning capacity is skewed toward the capital, and while these have helped secure Khan’s success, Labour must be more than the London party.
Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut