After insulating his election campaign from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Sadiq Khan, the new mayor of London, has offered lessons to his party leader on how to go about winning power back from the Conservatives in the 2020 general elections.
Khan was one of Corbyn’s backers when Corbyn was elected party leader last September, but has been critical of his handling of the anti-Semitism row that hit the party on the eve of last week’s election. Corbyn has been conspicuously absent during Khan’s campaign events.
Khan offered his advice to Corbyn in a signed article in The Observer: “Labour has to be a big tent that appeals to everyone – not just its activists. Campaigns that deliberately turn their back on particular groups are doomed to fail. Just like in London, 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”.
Labour has been unable to live down the reputation that it wrecked Britain’s economy towards the end of its 13-year rule that ended in 2010. It is also now seen more to be driven by pro-Corbyn supporters and recently-joined activists, to the detriment of others.
Khan continued: “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”.
“Over the next four years, I will work tirelessly to bring communities together and deliver my Labour manifesto for all Londoners. Over the same period, it’s crucial for the whole country that the Labour party becomes a credible government-in-waiting”.
Corbyn was not present at Khan’s swearing-in ceremony on Saturday, and was in Bristol when Khan was declared elected on Friday night. The official reason was that Corbyn was in Bristol to hail the victory of Marvin Rees, who was elected mayor of the town.
Rees’ election is as significant as Khan’s and both share a similar back story. Rees is of Afro-Caribbean background in a town with a long history of slavery, while Khan is a son of a Pakistan-origin bus driver in London.
Simon Woolley, director of campaign group Operation Black Vote, said: “The symbolism of Marvin winning cannot be overstated. Bristol made its vast wealth in slavery. Slave owners such as Edward Colston have statues and institutions throughout the city. Bristol has for some time struggled with acknowledging its dark past, much less effectively dealing with it”.
“But with Marvin - a descendent of those enslaved - perhaps Bristol takes a truly redemptive step to modernisation. And in doing so Rees becomes not only the first directly elected city mayor of Caribbean/African decent in the UK, but also Europe.”