Most Labour people I know in Westminster have been sure for weeks now that Sadiq was almost certainly going to get the nod to be the party’s mayoral candidate for 2016 – but few saw the margin of victory coming. A whopping 18-point margin over Tessa Jowell – who at one point, let us recall, was considered almost a shoo-in – surprised even most insiders.
Part of the assumption that Khan would win was based on him being preferred over Jowell by what everyone figured was the Corbyn inspired influx of new people registering to vote in these sorts of things. So now the question is how large the margin of victory Corbyn manages to win with, if the Khan result is anything to go by. I’ve been saying to people for the last couple of weeks that I think he’s going to win with about 60% in the final round, a prediction that has drawn some hard stares and even a few guffaws. But if Sadiq can win with almost that percentage, I’m starting to think the leadership election result could be in embarrassing territory for the other candidates.
There will now be a plethora of speculation regarding whether this was a bad move for Labour in terms of winning back the London mayoralty in 2016; whether Tessa would have been a better choice – and have Labour now blown the one election they stood a chance of doing well in during 2016? I’m not going to join in. My gut says Zac was always going to win anyway, for what it’s worth.
So I should get around to answering the question here, shouldn’t I? Yes, Corbynmania I believe had a large effect on the mayoral contest just won by Sadiq Khan. But this is sort of a chicken and egg question, when you stop and think about it. To imagine this contest rerun but with Tessa Jowell winning, you have to take the Corbynistas out of the equation. And they are now so baked into the whole Labour equation that it’s an impossible task to just weed them out of everything. So you might as well ask whether or not if his father hadn’t immigrated to Britain, would Sadiq still be Labour’s nomination for London mayor. Of course he wouldn’t, but that’s such an esoteric question it’s pretty much not worth asking.
Having established that however, we can now move onto the really interesting bit, which is that the London mayoral election next May will be an early test of Corbyn’s electoral draw more than ever. If Zac wins by a landslide, it won’t be a definitive shut case in terms of Jeremy being able to reach out beyond his core following – but I’ll tell you what, it will be a pretty interesting example of such a thing. Sadiq has already tried to distance himself a touch from Corbyn by admitting he voted for Burnham. But it doesn’t matter – if Corbyn was an MP in Doncaster, maybe he could escape his shadow a little bit. But Jeremy is a London MP. Whatever Sadiq does, the Corbynmeister will follow in the minds of Londoners.
Anyhow, best of luck to Sadiq. Will I vote for him? I’ll tell you what: my vote goes to whichever candidate promises the greatest expansion of public transport south of the river. For all my political geekery, I still vote like everyone else does, i.e. mostly out of naked self-interest. And whoever does that most effectively for most Londoners out of either Sadiq or Zac will be the next mayor of London, I can pretty guarantee you of that much.