Last year I warned how Labour’s attempts to peg Boris as a ‘part-time’ Mayor and condemn him for not confessing to voters that he fancied running for a second job could easily rebound on any of their own mayoral hopefuls who were also MPs.
David Lammy and Diane Abbott subsequently did the right thing and told their respective local voters that they might be off to City Hall next year. Both reported receiving endless messages of goodwill and good luck and both were rewarded with significantly increased majorities at the general election.
Meanwhile Sadiq Khan, architect of the ‘part-time Boris’ attack, repeatedly refused to come clean about his own much-briefed mayoral ambitions while sanctimoniously lecturing Lammy, Abbott and Tessa Jowell how they risked undermining Labour’s general election chances by campaigning for the mayoral nomination.
On the night Boris was selected as the parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge, Khan called into a BBC radio show on which I was an in-studio guest and repeated his attacks on Boris’s failure to tell voters in 2012 that he might fancy another job in 2015.
My pointing out that he was doing exactly the same thing by secretly planning a mayoral run without telling his Tooting voters about his ambitions did not go down well and culminated with him suggesting I was making the whole thing up.
But Khan’s planned mayoral bid was an open secret – every London and Westminster political journalist had been called in for a sit down and he’d been busy soliciting support from local councillors for months.
His protests and attack were a blatant example of a politician saying one thing and doing another.
On Monday night the New Statesman brought us more evidence of Khan’s apparent belief that what’s wrong for his opponents – be they in or outside Labour – is just dandy for him.
According to Stephen Bush’s report, Khan “will remain as MP for Tooting until 2020 even if he becomes Mayor of London.” Having told voters in Tooting he was committed to serving them, he’s now retrospectively offering himself on a part-time basis.
And having told the Evening Standard that: “The greatest city in the world needs a full-time Mayor committed to London,” Khan’s pitch to Labour members and then, if selected, to Londoners is for a part-time Mayor dividing his time between competing duties.
As in Tooting where he ensured his MP’s salary and pension were safe before admitting to his mayoral ambitions, Khan has waited until he’s secured dozens of local party nominations before admitting he’d be the same part-time Mayor he attacked Boris for reducing himself to.
Well it’s one thing for Boris to share his time between two roles for his final year, it’s quite another to start a Mayoralty unable to devote your full attention to the capital’s problems.
Khan has so far been flattered as one of the “front-runners” for Labour’s mayoral nomination.
But it’s worth noting that party members in the constituency served by Zac Goldsmith, widely seen as the Conservative’s best chance of a third term at City Hall, don’t rate him.
On Monday night they backed Tessa Jowell and Christian Wolmar as their preferred Labour runners.
When the local members and activists who best know Labour’s biggest threat don’t think you’re up to the job, and when you make clear you’re not committed to doing it full time, why should anyone take your mayoral pretensions seriously?