Since Thursday’s council election results my Twitter timeline has been full of Labour supporters insisting their strong result put them on a clear path to victory to win back City Hall in 2016.
It’s fair to say my doubtful interjections were pretty unwelcome but the (much delayed) London result from the European elections seems to support my scepticism.
On a night which the party considers a success, Labour managed to secure 36.67% of the London-wide vote.
Not only is that almost 15% below what they need to win the London Mayoralty in 2 years time, it’s also lower than it got in both the 2012 London-wide Assembly ballot (41.1%) and Mayoral race (40.3% of first preferences).
So Labour is currently less popular in London than it was when Ken Livingstone spearheaded a campaign which became overshadowed by rows about his personal tax affairs and views on Jewish voters.
Somehow between now and 2016, Labour needs to increase both its first preference vote and find a way of persuading a sizeable number of non-Labour voters to lend the party their second preference votes.
Relentless personal attacks on opponents might help with the first of those challenges but they’ll do nothing to persuade loyal LibDems and Tories to cast their second preferences in Labour’s favour.
And it’s far from guaranteed that Green party members will automatically back Labour’s candidate as they did Livingstone.
London Assembly member Jenny Jones tells me: “With Ken lots of Greens (inc me) naturally gave him their 2nd preference. May not be true for the next Labour candidate.”
So to win Labour needs to park the triumphalism and tribalism and work on a big tent offering which appeals across the political divide.
And it’ll need a different message than the ‘cost of living’ theme currently dominating its national policy set – Livingstone piloted the same message in London in 2012 and voters weren’t won over by promises of cheaper energy and clampdowns on private sector rents and are unlikely to want to hear the same message both next year and in 2016.
So the party needs to both put together a coherent, credible, London-specific policy offering and woo large numbers of non-Labour supporters if it’s to win the Mayoralty for just the second time.
I remain doubtful that the current intention to select a candidate in late 2015 – leaving them just a few months to put together a campaign and win over doubters and opponents – is the right approach.