TRADE union Unite and Ken Livingstone are doing all they can to ensure Labour’s race for the London mayoral nomination is won by their protégé, Ed Miliband ally Sadiq Khan.
Undaunted that Khan was part of the campaign team which has just lost a general election, or that Livingstone lost two London mayoral elections on the trot, or indeed that Unite backed both Ed and Ken, who between them have lost three elections, the fix is in. It helps that Khan, the MP for Tooting, sits on Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), which sets the rules for the very mayoral selection he wants to win.
Labour had promised a “revolutionary” open primary in which Londoners would be free to pick their champion. All Londoners had to do, cried Miliband, was “to register as a supporter of the Labour party at any time up to the ballot”. But when party establishment figures realised they would give away control, the open primary closed like a clam.
Supporters had to pay a £10 fee as part of a pointlessly cumbersome registration process; and the NEC set another restriction too: new supporters had to register within a window of 12 days from the 7 May general election. Why 7 May? Er, so Khan would know whether Labour had lost the general election and becoming mayor of London was his only chance of power. There was no such hurry for union members, who had six weeks to register.
David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham and another mayoral hopeful, said he was “shocked” by the party’s attempt to limit the voting pool. Fellow contender Diane Abbott said the selection process was “blatantly rigged”. The signing-on fee was cut to £3 and Labour supporters were given the same treatment as union members.
But the attempted stitch-up didn’t stop there. Miliband had not only made Khan his shadow justice secretary, but his shadow minister for London too. This job gave him access to the email addresses of London Labour members, which the party denied to Lammy and Khan’s other rivals until last week. As early as December, Khan was using his advantage to direct potential supporters to his personal website – Sadiq Khan: Let Londoners Run London – and urging them to “sign up to my campaign”.
‘The integrity of the ballot’
Meanwhile, Khan is rumoured to have promised Livingstone control of London transport in return for his endorsement – and Unite has been busy too. It hired a team of cold callers to urge Londoners to sign up. Nothing wrong with that; but one recipient, Islington Labour councillor Paul Convery, told politics.co.uk that his cold caller was “subtly” pushing him towards Khan. Unite said the “view expressed by the caller was a personal one”.
Convery was blunt. “My anxiety is that Unite could damage the integrity of the ballot, embroil the candidate in controversy and harm its own rather bruised reputation in these matters.”
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Boris bogs off
THE outgoing mayor suddenly seems far less keen on the job, meanwhile, despite having a year left in the role. Boris Johnson – now also the Tory MP for Uxbridge – was lambasted by London Assembly members for “clearing his desk early” after he quit the chairmanship of some key City Hall bodies.
In the week of the general election, Johnson wrote to London Assembly chair Roger Evans to say he thought arrangements for regeneration projects were “a little disjointed”, so he would be handing over the two mayoral development corporations (MDCs) to their deputies.
Johnson took over the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), which oversees the area around the Olympic park, in 2012. At the time he claimed: "Securing the future of the Olympic and Paralympic legacy and building on the regeneration of east London is a matter of huge importance to me personally.”
However, with the controversial plan for West Ham United FC to move to the stadium on a peppercorn rent again looking like a poisoned chalice, Johnson is detaching himself from the project. Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust says the extremely cheap tickets West Ham plans to offer, thanks to picking up a bargain stadium, will threaten Charlton. The deal has also been referred to the European Commission over the use of taxpayers’ money to subsidise a private club. Lawyers ask why the LLDC didn’t get the EC to sign off on the deal first. Johnson’s response? “They can bog off. It’s totally ridiculous.”
The other MDC to lose its chair is the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation in west London, site of a planned railway station where HS2 and Crossrail will intersect. It only launched this year and Johnson has chaired a total of one meeting.