Entering Southwark Cathedral on Saturday morning to rapturous applause, Sadiq Khan quickly capitalised on his ‘hope over fear’ elevation to the most powerful directly-elected position in UK politics.
As the Tory blame game kicked off in earnest, Sadiq Khan and his team kept good on their assurances to Labour moderates that he would define his broad-based electoral mandate in sharp relief to the narrow 1980s revivalism of Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn was absent from the diverse audience representing the vibrancy of modern Britain. He did, however, manage to make the trip to Bristol and welcome the election of new Labour mayor, Marvin Rees, which only served to strengthen speculation that Sadiq will ration the Labour leader’s share of his electoral glory.
Even before Sadiq Khan formally took up office on Monday, those around him were already planning for the next election, arguing forcefully that Sadiq maintain the broad base of support that swept him into City Hall. At the stroke of midnight, Sadiq Khan arguably became Labour’s most powerful politician, with a direct electoral mandate larger than any Labour politician before him. Expect to hear repeated reminders to Corbynistas that Sadiq’s mandate dwarfs Corbyn’s much-celebrated Labour leadership numbers. All grist to the mill for those moderates hoping City Hall rapidly becomes a bastion of broad tent politics – and thorn in the side of Labour’s hard left.
An early indication of the new Mayor’s willingness to build a big tent around him is his rumoured reaching out to Lord Adonis, a key supporter of Tessa Jowell’s mayoral candidacy and current chair of the Government’s National Infrastructure Commission, to help him deliver his four year TfL fare freeze. Adonis is universally acknowledged as an effective operator and his appointment as Deputy Mayor for Transport would show the Mayor’s willingness to not just tolerate but work with the “Blairite” wing of the Labour Party.
Khan has promised to be the “most pro-business Mayor ever” however his centrist credentials are likely to be tested by his pledge to deliver a “real” London Living Wage for all. While the Mayor will be able to enforce a Living Wage through GLA and TfL procurement, it remains to be seen whether the offer of small business-rate relief will be enough of an incentive for small businesses to pay an increased London Living Wage.
Finally, Sadiq Khan has pledged to deliver thousands of new homes a year with a target of 50% affordable homes, a London Living Rent and a move to stop off plan purchases of homes by foreign investors. His likely appointment of Islington’s James Murray as Deputy Mayor for Planning and Housing, who has been unafraid to speak truth to the development industry, is an indication of his seriousness in this regard and is likely to have far reaching consequences for the development sector.
The delivery of Sadiq’s campaign was pitch perfect in its final weeks. Whilst early days, if his current tone and precision continue he will prove a strong pillar of moderate politics within the Labour Party. More significantly, his new status as one of the most prominent Muslim politicians in the western world has the potential to make him a powerful advocate not just for London but for community relations beyond our shores.