Cowardice and arrogance could cost Labour City Hall in 2016

Over the past few months I’ve been trying to piece together the talk within Labour about the selection of a 2016 Mayoral candidate and what I’ve heard has been pretty depressing for someone who expects parties to take a £16bn a year regional government seriously.

While 2016 might seem a long way off, I think there are some clear advantages for Labour in selecting a candidate at least a year ahead of the City Hall race:

1) The chance to use the 2015 General Election to introduce their candidate to the electorate. The most widely talked about potential runners are well known to the Westminster lobby but how many voters outside their constituencies have heard of Sadiq Khan or David Lammy? 

2) Allowing Londoners to see that their candidate is so serious about winning City Hall and so committed to London as a whole that they passed on seeking (re)election to Parliament in order to concentrate on the 2016 race.

3) Creating pressure on Boris Johnson to confirm his own future plans. 

Many expect Boris to seek election to Parliament in or around 2015, but the presence of a Labour candidate ahead of that time would force him to confirm his plans once and for all. 

It’s not just Londoners and the media who’d want to know Boris’s plans, potential Tory runners would want to know whether it’s worth suiting up for the nomination race.

Yet the talk inside London Labour is of waiting until after the General Election “to see who comes forward” and that “the focus has to be 2015.“

The first of these sounds like code for “seeing who isn’t lucky in 2015” and offering them a bauble to make amends.

Yet, as I’ve said before, Londoners deserve someone who really wants to be their Mayor, not for the role to be treated as a consolation prize for failing to be re-elected to Parliament or missing out on a ministership.

City Hall isn’t an extension of the House of Lords.

The second refrain is often accompanied by the arrogant pronouncement that 2016 is Labour’s turn and an implied suggestion that it doesn’t really matter who runs because the party will be a shoo-in after 8 years of Boris.

Advocates of this position seem to think any old generic manifesto and a few barbs at the (probably) departing Mayor Johnson will see A.N. Other coast into City Hall on the back of Ed Miliband’s charisma.

I think taking Londoners for granted, and falling into the trap of thinking London is their city, could be disastrous for a party which has won just one of the four Mayoral elections held to date.

If London were the inherently Labour city some claim, Ken Livingstone would be marking his first year back at City Hall.

While his detractors claim Ken lost the election entirely due to his own brand of “toxic politics” and that another candidate would have done better, the truth is that serious big hitters chose not to run for Labour’s 2012 nomination because they were afraid they couldn’t beat him.

Is the same cowardice at play here?

Are some hoping to put off the nomination until after the General Election in case, post their selection, Boris suddenly announced he intended to run for a third term? It’s easy to imagine so.

Either way, unless they work hard to show Londoners that the Mayoralty and the capital’s unique issues really matter to them, I think there’s a real danger for Labour that a Tory candidate, shepherded around London by a still popular Boris, will be the one claiming victory in May 2016.


  1. Dan says

    I am sorry but this is rubbish.

    It is not arrogant for the Labour Party to be focussing on the election of a Labour Government in the 2015 election. The country is being ruined by the current Tory-led Government and all Labour Party members will be trying to ensure that Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister.

    That is not to say that if Labour win in 2015 the Party can expect to win the mayoralty – far from it. Once the General Election is out of the way London Labour members will be doing everything they can to ensure that the Labour candidate is successful in 2016 in becoming mayor.

  2. Martin Hoscik says

    >> Once the General Election is out of the way London Labour members will be doing everything they can to ensure that the Labour candidate is successful in 2016 in becoming mayor.

    How many months after the GE would you expect the nomination process to take place? How long will this last? How long does that then leave a candidate to draw up their manifesto and get out campaigning? The LibDems fell into 4th place behind the Greens last year by thinking they could select late and then go and draw up their policies.

  3. says

    The Greater London Authority Act does not allow the Mayor to be an MP if Boris does intend to stand for Parliament he would have to resign and as there would be more than six months before the next scheduled Mayoral election rather than the Deputy Mayor taking over until May 2016 we’d have to vote for a new Mayor. None of the candidates would have more than a matter of months to familiarise themselves with the third of eligible voters who bother to turn out for the Mayoral contest.

    Another thing that deserves mentioning is that unless they are the incumbent all the major parties Mayoral candidates are elected rather than appointed, in the past the selection process has started with about a year and a half to go, the notable exception being the Labour giving their candidate a full two years before 2012 so anything earlier than Spring 2014 would be unexpected.

    While it is true that none of the “big hitters” stood last time because they didn’t think they could beat Ken there was also the trifling matter of the election of the Labour leader at the same time.

  4. says

    2012 was no different to 2008, the LibDems didn’t select their candidate until September the year before, six months after the Greens, the collapse of Brian Paddick’s support in 2012 cannot be blamed on late selection, far more likely it was a general reaction to the LibDems being in the Coalition.

    Boris wasn’t announced as Tory candidate for the 2008 contest until September 2007 having only announced he was running on deadline day and after the election had been postponed for a year.

  5. says

    Whoops, I think I was the reader from Leyton that asked Dave Hill that question, amazed I’d not read it.

    I could have sworn that I read somewhere in the GLA Act that the Mayor couldn’t hold any other office but I’ve just had a quick browse through section 21 (disqualification from being the Mayor) and can’t find anything. I must have dreamt that up one dark and dismal night.

    Egg/face combination a-go-go