The Importance of Sadiq Khan: symbiosis

by George Hatjoullis

The victory of Jeremy Corbyn has overshadowed a connected and perhaps immediately more important development; the nomination of Sadiq Khan as Labour’s candidate for London Mayor. It is possible to argue that the Corbyn phenomenon made Sadiq’s nomination possible. Khan was (I believe ) one of the parliamentary party that nominated Corbyn though he openly admitted to supporting Burnham. They are indebted to each other without necessarily being in the same camp. It is a matter of debate whether Corbyn can last until next May (I do not see why not), but if he can then Khan’s success or otherwise may be a key factor in Corbyn’s ultimate success.

Sadiq Khan is a Londoner. He is of immigrant stock and humble beginnings. He grew up on a council estate. He studied law at the University of North London. This was the former North London Polytechnic that I used to walk by on my way to school before he was born. He used his legal education to defend human rights. This a decent CV. He has an appeal to Londoners simply because he is a Londoner (albeit from South London, but no one is perfect). He is charming and amiable. He is not the best public speaker but this can be improved. I do not know of his abilities as a leader or administrator but then again I do not know of those of any of the candidates. How could I as a voter? It is almost certain he will make housing in London a priority. He will make social housing in London a priority. It is unclear what he can practically do but we can be reasonably sure that he will try. I shall await further developments on policy but as it stands, I shall be voting for Sadiq Khan, especially if the Tory candidate is Zac Goldsmith.

This does not mean I have suddenly become ‘left wing’ and will vote for Corbyn in a general election. It is simply because I recognise in Sadiq Khan someone who knows what I know and has the same local priority. I have nothing in common with Zac Goldsmith and I suspect that apart from a few in Kensington and Chelsea no one can really relate to him. He may well be a great leader and administrator. He may be a lovely chap. But he does not know what I know and it is hard for me to relate to him. I am not unique. I am most people in London. It may be that in allowing such perceptions to drive our voting pattern will lead to a poor choice. But this is exactly how voting decisions are often made, especially in municipal elections.

It is quite possible that Sadiq Khan’s London credentials will attract voters from other parties. I would expect it and may even risk a few squid wagering on it. The reason for Khan’s success would have little to do with Corbyn’s Labour party but it would knock on positively. It might help Corbyn with the parliamentary party. It might catalyse party unity. It might give wider momentum in the polls (less likely). Khan and Corbyn seem symbiotically linked even though pursuing distinct paths. Once the dust settles on Corbyn’s cabinet, it will be time to watch London and the Mayoral election. Watch Sadiq Khan.