The new London Mayor wants to be ‘inclusive’ – so why is Sadiq Khan so divisive about his own party?

Sadiq Khan leaves Southwark cathedral after being sworn in as London’s mayor on Saturday [Image: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images].

Sadiq Khan leaves Southwark cathedral after being sworn in as London’s mayor on Saturday [Image: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images].

Sadiq Khan is to be congratulated – not just for becoming the new Mayor of London, but for the enormity of his victory.

With more than one-and-a-half million votes, this son of a Pakistani bus driver has secured the strongest personal mandate in British political history.

He set out some of the reasons for his success in a much-discussed Guardian article, and makes some excellent points:

There are two lessons in particular: first, Labour only wins when we face outwards and focus on the issues that people care about; second, we will never be trusted to govern unless we reach out and engage with all voters – regardless of their background, where they live or where they work.

Throughout my campaign, we focused on the issues that Londoners care about most – the lack of affordable housing, transport infrastructure and fares, the NHS, the need for real neighbourhood policing and pro-business policies.

So-called natural Labour voters alone will never be enough to win a general election.

We must be able to persuade people who previously voted Conservative that Labour can be trusted with the economy and security, as well as improving public services and creating a fairer society.

The only part of the above that This Writer would question is “we will never be trusted to govern unless”. Labour does reach out to all voters in the way Mr Khan describes – more so since Jeremy Corbyn took over as party leader. Previously, Labour had been concentrating on a middle-class vote that was dwindling away and ignoring much of its natural constituency.

But, again, Mr Khan is right that so-called “natural” Labour voters won’t win a general election – at least, not at the moment. This is because the people currently labelled “natural” Labour voters only represent a fraction of that constituency. Many more members of the electorate are natural Labour voters but don’t recognise this because the rhetoric of other political parties has led them to believe otherwise. And tactical voting comes into this, too…

Some have taken issue with the next part, but I see it as a strong endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn:

Squabbles over internal structures might be important for some in the party, but it is clear they mean little or nothing to the huge majority of voters. As tempting as it might be, we must always resist focusing in on ourselves and ignoring what people really want.

Damn straight. It is hugely welcome that the new Mayor of London rejects the many attempted internal rebellions mounted by self-publicising MPs such as Simon Danczuk, John Mann, Dan Jarvis and the rest (those are simply the names that occur most readily today). Additionally, of course, the right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party is determined to ignore what its own members want – Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader with an overwhelming majority and his ascent has resulted in an enormous influx of new members into the party. Logically, the continued dissent by these individuals is exactly the kind of “focusing in on ourselves” that Mr Khan deplores.

But he doesn’t really mean it that way, does he?

Khan himself is a Corbyn critic. When accusations of anti-Semitism in the party landed last week, in what can only be seen as a carefully-orchestrated attack from Conservative-supporting critics, he distanced himself from the Labour leadership and criticised its actions. This may have been politically-adroit manoeuvring at a time when he needed the support of as many voters as possible, including Jewish critics of Naz Shah, Ken Livingstone and others, but is it really necessary, now that the accusations have mostly been dismissed as smoke and mirrors?

(Incidentally, you can expect this particular scandal to fade away, now that the elections are over).

But look at what Khan has to say:

That’s one reason why the concerns about antisemitism within the Labour party have been so damaging. By not acting quickly enough, the party gave the impression that we didn’t care about the concerns of the Jewish community and that we were not taking accusations of racism seriously.

Jeremy Corbyn acted extremely quickly. After taking advice, he launched an inquiry and suspended the party members who had been accused.

In addition, Khan’s allegation about giving an impression that “we didn’t care about the concerns of the Jewish community” is inaccurate. The Jewish community is split on this issue, with many saying they see no anti-Semitism at all in the claims that have been made. In such circumstances, it is wise to gather as much information as possible and not to make snap decisions that may prove mistaken later.

And we have the terrible example of David Cameron’s Conservative Party with which to contrast Labour’s decisiveness. Zac Goldsmith’s campaign was offensively Islamophobic, yet the Tory leader has done nothing about it and the chancellor has dismissed it as political “rough and tumble”.

Khan acknowledges this:

David Cameron and Zac Goldsmith chose to set out to divide London’s communities in an attempt to win votes in some areas and suppress voters in other parts of the city. They used fear and innuendo to try to turn different ethnic and religious groups against each other – something straight out of the Donald Trump playbook. Londoners deserved better and I hope it’s something the Conservative party will never try to repeat.

… but ignores the crucial connection between Cameron’s inaction and Corbyn’s decisiveness.

Finally, there’s this:

It’s crucial for the whole country that the Labour party becomes a credible government-in-waiting.

Who says Labour isn’t credible at the moment? Khan, and people like him within the party. Perhaps if he supported his leader a little more, he’d find the public getting behind Labour – as they helped him on Thursday.

And just for balance, take a look at how local election results have been described in the past, compared with last week’s:

160508election results
Cognitive dissonance?
Source: What Labour can learn from my victory: we can’t ignore the things most voters want | Sadiq Khan | Politics | The Guardian

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15 thoughts on “The new London Mayor wants to be ‘inclusive’ – so why is Sadiq Khan so divisive about his own party?

  1. Christine Cullen

    Mike, I struggle to see much difference between what you’re saying and what Khan is saying. We must get the voters who have gone to UKIP and the Tories back again. The way to do it is to maintain contact , talk, talk, talk to them. All of them, including those who just stopped voting and convince them that voting Labour is in their interest!

    Of course we all know that Corbyn acted quickly in the face of the anti semitism row, but those disaffected voters don’t know that, because of the slanted media reporting.
    The Blairites have the malicious media on their side so Khan’s attitude of publically underlining the fact that Labour is for everyone is to be commended. If he needs keeping on track that he should be publically supporting Corbyn more, then we can do that too. But we don’t need open warfare in the party that will simply lose us more voters

    The hysterics of John Mann and the rumblings of discontent amongst Blairites will die down as time passes and as they realise they have bet on the wrong horse. We need constant talk to each other and opening up the party to those who think we are finished. For votes, keeping on top of the public perception is as important as making the dissenters irrelevant, so ongoing public rows are fruitless.

    When I look at descriptions of Attlee I am very much reminded of Corbyn. Attlee managed the opposition towards him within the party without the public rows we see in the current PLP. Corbyn must find a way of keeping on top of it while the rest of the party works with the general electorate, spreading truth and dissipating the bad publicity espoused by the Tory press.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Khan reckons Labour under Corbyn isn’t trusted to govern – despite the fact that Labour under Corbyn is currently the most popular political party in the UK.
      Khan reckons Labour under Corbyn is too inward-looking, and blames the leader, despite the fact that others are responsible.
      Khan wants you to believe that Corbyn acted too slowly over the anti-Semitism claims. Corbyn acted commendably quickly.
      Khan reckons Labour isn’t a credible government-in-waiting.
      Those are BIG differences!

    1. Mark Davis

      Was Corbyn actually named – he isn’t in the quotes or clips I’ve seen…

      Khan was one of the 35 who nominated Corbyn let’s not forget.

      His criticism (if you delete say even The Mirror’s implication) of a Party needing to focus on the important issues actually sits perfectly with the Labour leadership.

      The focus off the issues has been from the right wing press and a very small section of the party still surprised by the result of last years leadership election.

      At worst Khan has fallen into the trap of assuming Corbyn has driven his more left-field ideas to the top of the agenda, but I see no evidence of that in quotes used here.

      Is there a transcript?

  2. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    I am now getting worried about this divide and rule. I back Jeremy Corbyn not divisive comments.

    I felt in his inaugural speech Sadiq Khan made all the right comments but I am not so happy with his inference that Jeremy Corby is not winning votes by omitting to woo the middle class voters.

    Labour has done pretty well considering all the intrigues and dirty comments made by the majority of the Press and the last thing we need right now is for this divisiveness to re-emerge.

    I am sure that Jeremy is all for encouraging private enterprise, after all we can’t run the country without decent entrepreneurs and successful businessmen but they must be encouraged fully without allowing them to do so at the expense of the less fortunate. As for getting a Tory to vote Labour I have grave doubts that will be a frequent occurrence and I certainly do not want to become a Tory myself.

    1. Hopefulfuture

      I have no idea why Sadiq Khan thinks the middle class won’t vote Labour. I am middle class and more than half of my middle class friends vote Labour they wouldn’t be seen dead voting for the Tories.
      I think he needs to get out and mix more with all classes.

  3. casalealex

    I voted for Sadiq because  we have to have a Labour Mayor.

    I had watched some videos of Sadiq, and although I was
    a bit sceptical, I voted Labour.

    Imagine my dismay when I read Sadiq’s comments on
    Jeremy Corbyn in immediate news reports.

    We have enough problems with divisions with Labour’s
    politicians without Sadiq adding fuel.

    He writes: ”It might seem obvious but offering real solutions to the challenges the majority of people face every day is the only way to win elections.”

    Surely this is what Jeremy has been saying and doing all along!

    Sadiq should stop showing off and get something under his belt
    before upsetting those who support Corbyn.

    Not a good idea to be joining the Tories and Labour dissident MPs in their quest to oust the best thing that has happened for those Labour members who have faith in Jeremy.

    I hope it has not gone to his head. Many of us voted for a Labour Mayor believing he would support our Labour leader, but I am disappointed in Khan’s lack of solidarity in his first interviews after the election.

  4. Phil Woodford

    This was about as direct an attack on Corbyn as you could possibly imagine, within 24 hours after his election as Mayor of London. I see it as a warning from a winner to a loser.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You see it as a chance to capitalise on an anticipated rift in Labour, because you are a Tory.
      What a shame for you that they are already offering olive branches to each other.

  5. roybeiley

    What people seem to fail to understand about Jeremy Corbin’s leadership style is that he doesn’t “shoot from the hip” when an issue arises. Instead he discusses it in a democratic way within the Party and then comes up with a response which is measured and well thought through. Trouble is people have got used to Carmeron’s approach. That is to annoy us all by popping up at the earliest opportunity on TV, possibly wearing a brand new hard hat to try and identify himself as a “man of the people- we are all in this together” saying “I think that this is the right thing to do” only to be forced to do a U-turn next day or to get No 10 to “clarify” what he really meant.Sadiq Khan was probably right to keep his distance until he got elected but he needs to build bridges with Corbyn as the Labour Party has to represent everyine not just Londoners,

  6. John

    Beware of media spin. I dare say Khan’s predecessors – Livingstone and Johnson – also made very similar statements. So why pick up so publicly on Khan’s remarks?
    The answer is obvious: the media want to foment divisions within the Labour Party.
    Beware of Murdoch media spin – sorry, interpretation!

  7. John

    Woodford – as a Tory – knows all about losing and they will be learning even more about it if the current police investigations into excessive expenditure by Tory candidates results in them being stripped of their MP status.
    Dodgy Dave will probably have to leave 10 Downing Street.
    Then, we really will hear poor Woodford howl !!!!!!!

  8. John

    I agree with much that Christine Cullen says as I too view Corbyn as similar to Attlee.
    Churchill used to make cracks about Attlee that he had a lot to be modest about.
    Churchill had to change his tune after 1945 and so too will Cameron by 2020.
    Being Elected Mayor of London means being a bit of a renegade.
    Livingstone and Johnson: they weren’t singing from the same party song book.
    We’ll probably see something similar from some of the other elected mayors.
    What Labour needs to be doing right now is focus on improving party organisation.
    Next, establish rapport with the wider British public – learn about their issues.
    That will also mean building newish bridges towards traditional working class areas.
    There’s plenty of work to be getting on with. Internal squabbling is so yesterday….

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