Is David Lammy planning to run for London mayor?


9:18 am - August 10th 2009

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contribution by Michael Gray

Is David Lammy MP slowly positioning himself to make a bid as the Labour candidate for Mayor of London? Dave Hill thinks he is. I would guess it is a real possibility.

David Lammy, who I’ve heard speak several times, is an intelligent and articulate minister. But he has three problems. He is close to New Labour and consequently has a terrible voting record (cabinet ministers have to toe the line despite personal opinions) and this is unlikely to attract the left-wing grassroots.

Second, he is seen as a lightweight because he has not fleshed out his own agenda and a strong personality. New Labour was always good at keeping peronalities in check.

His third problem is that he lacks name recognition.

Currently if the Labour Party was persuaded to hold an open primary for their candidate then Ken Livingstone would win. He has the name recognition and his re-election vehicle: Progressive London.

On the other hand Yorks Ranter is right to say an open primary would encourage candidates to develop grassroots campaigning.

The left needs an effective candidate against Ken Livingstone primarily because the polling goes against him.

Voters moved against Ken during the last election because they throught he was tired, lacked ideas and was polarising. There is no reason to assume that those who voted against him previously will come back.

Furthermore, Boris can no longer be painted as a right-wing extremist. The outer-suburbs came out strongly against Ken and inner London came out strongly against Boris because they believed he’s tack sharply to the right. Boris hasn’t. He has remained centrist and continued many of Ken’s biggest policies while aggressively courting or at least trying to neutralise the hostile ethnic minority media (for good reason).

Ergo, if Ken stood again then outer London would once again come out strongly against him while inner London would not come out in strong numbers to vote against him. Poor and ethnic minority voters are already less likely to vote.

David Lammy’s article in the Evening Standard last week hit the right notes and recognised the need to reach out to the outer-suburbs.

But Ken Livingstone has tacked sharply to the left since his loss and has been on one long offensive to get the grassroots on side. Unless Lammy also moves to the left and starts reaching out to them he won’t even get past the initial stage.

The left needs an alternative to Ken who can actually win.

—————-
The writer is a trade unionist and writing under a pseudonym.

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Reader comments


He’s also, by reputation, a distinctly hands-off local MP. I used to live in Haringey and work in various bits of the third sector, and the comparison between his and the neighbouring MP Lynne Featherstone’s record for turning up to local events and meetings was notorious.

I was nodding in agreement with the article – right up to the last sentence.

“The left needs an alternative to Ken who can actually win.”

Nope!

The left needs POLICIES that actually win.

It may gall some people to realise this, but having a photogenic, engaging and witting politician is useless if the policies are unpalatable to the voters.

Tony Benn is a fantastic personality, but he would never win an election now because his policies are just not what the public want from the future government.

3. Alisdair Cameron

David Lammy, who I’ve heard speak several times, is an intelligent and articulate minister

In your opinion, but he’s no Mastermind is he. Since his public recognition factor is low (and that TV performance was about his high-water mark…) why not go for someone more competent, more engaged and untainted by having compromised so many of their principles by taking the New labour bullshit to heart and regurgitating it ad nauseam?

Anyone who recently watched Lammy flounder around as a government minister for many months will know that he is hopeless. Surely Labour have got someone with more credibility, intelligence and… oh no, wait, my mistake.

David Lammy’s name has high recognition in my neck of the woods, which is Haringay, he is constantly namechecked in a lot of local and North London MCs songs, which may sound daft but he has large scale recognition with the black community and also with the hard to reach youth vote.

6. Mike Killingworth

Leaving personalities aside, I am unclear how David Lammy’s proposed London Labour primary would work. Does he think it should be won by the candidate who wins most votes, or the one who carries most boroughs?

I’ve seen David Lammy touted a lot on this blog, and am still in the dark as to how he differs in calibre from any other bog-standard New Labour junior minister.

It may gall some people to realise this, but having a photogenic, engaging and witting politician is useless if the policies are unpalatable to the voters.

Boris ran with near-identical policies to Ken.

“The left needs an effective candidate against Ken Livingstone primarily because the polling goes against him.”

It’s quite laughable to see utterly discredited New Labour hacks posing as trade unionists and trying to pinch the mantle “left”. New Labour needs a candidate, but in this, as in so many other things, it is about to be so over. The idea that New Labour can hide behind a cipher such as Lammy proves that you can’t teach a bunch of sorry old hacks new tricks. He would struggle to outpoll Frank Dobson. Why don’t you try Lord Sugar? Oh, whoops, he’ll have scarpered by then,

“There is no reason to assume that those who voted against him previously will come back.”

More rubbish. We will be two years into a real economy depression with a vicious programme of Tory cuts aimed at making ordinary people pay for the bailout of Cameron’s mates in the City. Ken has cleverly tacked to the left, and has won the grudging respect of currently non-Ken Londoners by going into active opposition and not just disappearing, which can be the basis of a winning coalition for a third time.

There’s some pretty vulgar Tory crowing going on in this thread, it reeks of a desperation brought about by 12 years out of power but still, it speaks volumes about the attitude of those that see themselves in power soon.

11. Alisdair Cameron

Well, Daniel, in my case it’s definitely not Tory crowing, but rather a principled Leftist objection to another bloody New Labour type manoeuvering for position, distancing themselves from their heinous activity. The entryist bastards have buggered the Left for a generation, and they want just to move on to other high-profile positions of power?

“The left needs an effective candidate against Ken Livingstone primarily because the polling goes against him.”

This is total and utter rubbish (there are other reasons not to support Ken, but this is not one of them).

Ken lost to Boris 53-47 on a day when Labour were 20% behind the Tories nationally – Ken got a lot of votes from people who didn’t support Labour.

If Ken stands in 2012 as the Labour candidate, then he needs a 3% swing from 2008 to beat Boris (if Boris even stands again). Since mid term elections usually involve protest voting against the party in power, he would be the massive favourite to win.

David Lammy would also be a terrible candidate because he is an extremely weak campaigner who is on record as supporting a whole range of unpopular policies.

I’m all for an open primary, though. Either Ken would walk it, which would be good, or someone else would manage to beat Ken, and anyone who can beat Ken in a Labour open primary in London would destroy Boris.

13. Mike Killingworth

[13] Don, that’s a rosy scenario. Why do you suppose it more likely than this one:-

It’s 2012. Having been elected with just over 40% of the vote nationally, Cameron’s Tories still lead in the polls. They are getting about 30-35% – Labour sometimes reach 30% but the polls are extremely volatile and they also fall back into the low twenties. “Others” continue to poll well, varying between 20% and 25%.

UKIP decide they don’t have a good candidate and when Jeremy Clarkson decides to run, they fall in behind him. The BNP call on their supporters to give Clarkson their second vote.

The polls show that Clarkson breathes down Bozza’s neck with the Labour candidate (whoever, although Ken does better than anyone else) struggling in third…

Don’s right. Ken Livingstone bucked the trend. And this was in spite of having a virtually unrivalled campaign waged against him in the Evening Standard – which is now, officially at least, committed to a less partisan approach.

@13 Mike that’s a rather rosy scenario yourself.

More likely that two years into the economic collapse of the country, with London in the grip of food riots and the Olympics only months away, Prime Minister Cameron announces that the Mayoral elections are cancelled with Boris (who has taken to wearing the uniform of his new paramilitary police force at the office) to take on emergency powers until further notice.

“The polls show that Clarkson breathes down Bozza’s neck with the Labour candidate (whoever, although Ken does better than anyone else) struggling in third…”

Hmm.

In 2008, Boris got 53% with a policy platform which included an amnesty for illegal immigrants (not exactly a sign that London has a natural or overwhelming centre-right majority, given the massively favourable political backdrop). 2008-2012 will see a substantial growth in the proportion of London’s electorate who are BME, and increased motivation for lower income voters and public sector workers to turn out in protest against spending cuts.

And yet in your scenario, the support for the Right and Centre Right is going to increase substantially at the expense of the Left and Centre Left?!

In somewhere like Yorkshire, I could imagine a populist Right wing candidate taking a large chunk of Labour’s support and becoming the main challengers to the Tories.

In London, not so much.

17. Chris Baldwin

Why would he quit as an MP to get involved in local politics instead?

The left needs POLICIES that actually win

If that were the case then surely Boris would have lost?

Ken lost to Boris 53-47 on a day when Labour were 20% behind the Tories nationally – Ken got a lot of votes from people who didn’t support Labour.

That was the inner London vote that doesn’t usually go out to vote to support Labour.

But I’ve had a look at some of the Ipsos-Mori polling too and not sure why people would suddenly start liking Ken and shift towards him.

“not sure why people would suddenly start liking Ken and shift towards him”

People will be on the dole in very large numbers. The deep and vicious cuts that the Tories will impose will be very unpopular. Cameron’s people won’t be expecting or be too bothered about the lack of (what they will view as) midterm popularity, which will be terminal end of term unpopularity for Bozza and off he will go back to the pavilion as collateral damage.

Hi Sunny,

“That was the inner London vote that doesn’t usually go out to vote to support Labour.”

Partly. But look at the results in, say, South West London. In Sutton, Labour got 8,000 votes for the London wide list, and Ken got 14,000 votes.

“But I’ve had a look at some of the Ipsos-Mori polling too and not sure why people would suddenly start liking Ken and shift towards him.”

1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder – particularly since it is just before the Olympics (people who Boris has annoyed will think better of Ken).

2. Evening Standard won’t be as virulently anti-Ken.

3. Demographic change is good for Ken.

4. Fed up public sector workers who decided not to bother because they were fed up with Labour/10p tax/whatever being confronted by a Tory government which is trying to sack them and/or take away their pensions.

5. Lower propensity to turn out of Boris / Tory supporters – e.g. white working class anti-Ken voters not bothering or voting for minor parties and people in Bromley voting UKIP or Liberal Democrat to protest against David Cameron.

Remember, two years after Labour gained power in 1997, they lost the mid term Euro elections to **William Hague**. Boris has been a pretty ineffective Mayor even before his chums take power nationally – a mid term election in London is almost bound to see a big swing to the main opposition party.

People will be on the dole in very large numbers. The deep and vicious cuts that the Tories will impose will be very unpopular.

The recession has definitely NOT favoured the Labour party in poll numbers, so I think it’s naive to assume that it will in the future when the Conservatives come in. People now mostly blame Labour for the economic crisis – so it’s not going to help Ken. And the Tories are unlikely to impose deep and painful cuts immediately. They will also have their eyes on the elections.

Don:
Partly. But look at the results in, say, South West London. In Sutton, Labour got 8,000 votes for the London wide list, and Ken got 14,000 votes.

That doesn’t mean anything. Ken has name recognition and he managed to get a better percentage than Labour across the nation. That’s great but London is more liberal-left than the rest of the country anyway.

Besides, that doesn’t tell me how Ken will suddenly attract a higher percentage of votes than Boris in 3 years time.

1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder – particularly since it is just before the Olympics (people who Boris has annoyed will think better of Ken).

What? No, they’ll simply see him as someone who refuses to go away despite losing… Ken was a maverick candidate ten years ago but not now.

2. Evening Standard won’t be as virulently anti-Ken.

But all those who voted against Ken and for Boris aren’t likely to change their votes. They have no real reason to yet.

3. Demographic change is good for Ken.

Those demographics are not being converted to registered voters.

Boris has been a pretty ineffective Mayor even before his chums take power nationally – a mid term election in London is almost bound to see a big swing to the main opposition party.

That is not entirely predictable given that Ken himself also bucked the national trend. Boris may have been ineffective but we know that in the Westminster class. Outside the chatterati this isn’t a wide-spread meme yet. And that accusation needs to come from someone new and fresh.

I’ve said this before – if Ken is the only person the left can come up with then we’re fucked.

Re: comment 5

I was unaware that mobilizing the London MC vote was so critical to the prospects of a candidate for Mayor.

I obviously lack an understanding of how GLA politics work in London.

“But all those who voted against Ken and for Boris aren’t likely to change their votes. They have no real reason to yet.”

Mid term elections are usually extremely bad for the party in government – 1999 was appalling for Labour, 1981 was very bad for the Tories, 1968 was one of Labour’s worst ever election results. This happened even though the leaders of the opposition in these cases were William Hague, Michael Foot and Edward Heath.

In 2012, a greater percentage of Labour voters will go out and vote, and a smaller percentage of Tory voters will go out and vote. That’s your 3% swing right there, even if the Tories are reasonably popular – which they probably won’t be. If someone was generally unhappy and wanted to protest in 2008, they would have voted for Boris. There will be very few people in 2012 who register a protest vote by voting for an incumbent Tory mayor while the Tories are in power nationally.

“I’ve said this before – if Ken is the only person the left can come up with then we’re fucked.”

No, not really. If Ken stands, he’ll win and be a much better Mayor than Boris. How is that bad for the left?

The argument that ‘Ken can’t win’ doesn’t stack up. What anti-Ken lefties need to do is demonstrate:

1. that Labour (or an independent or a Lib Dem or whatever) can beat Boris even if Ken doesn’t stand.
2. that there is someone who could get the nomination who would be a better Mayor than Ken.

David Lammy meets neither of these criteria.

I agree with Don.

Michael Gray: “Voters moved against Ken during the last election because they throught he was tired, lacked ideas and was polarising. There is no reason to assume that those who voted against him previously will come back.”

Do you have any evidence for this assertion? Or is it just gut instinct?

I have problems with Ken but overall he was a good mayor and he did well in the 2008 election when considering how appalling Labour was performing nationally. He shouldn’t be written off: especially when thus far the suggested alternatives have not been especially impressive.

Sunny: you recently wrote a column about Gordon Brown in which you said that Brown is unpopular therefore Labour have to find a new leader. You are now writing a column in which you say that Ken Livingstone is unpopular so the Left in London have to find a new leader. In neither case do you say who this imaginary new leader might be. In neither case do you analyse the causes of the unpopularity and what might be done about it.

Both Brown and Livingstone have been subject to organised campaigns of vilification. Their unpopularity is not spontaneous. Replacing them does not necessarily resolve the problem because their replacements are likely to be subject to the same vilification. Any effective left-wing Mayor of London will step on the toes of the outer-London Tories (who want the advantages of being in London without the disadvantages), will annoy the Evening Standard and will implement transport policies that worry the used-car dealers. Any effective left-wing Mayor of London will be attacked over real or imaginary character defects. They will be attacked because of what they’ve done right, not because of what they’ve done wrong: it comes with the territory.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    : Is David Lammy planning to run for London mayor? http://bit.ly/4bA5kY

  2. Paranormal Guru

    Liberal Conspiracy » Is David Lammy planning to run for London mayor?: Liberal Conspiracy is the UK’s most popul.. http://bit.ly/m3Sg1

  3. Londonolympics

    Liberal Conspiracy » Is David Lammy planning to run for London mayor? http://bit.ly/2gando

  4. Liberal Conspiracy

    : Is David Lammy planning to run for London mayor? http://bit.ly/4bA5kY

  5. Adam Bienkov

    Interesting discussion in @libcon comment thread about next London mayoral elections http://bit.ly/F4rSl

  6. sunny hundal

    Is David Lammy planning to run for London mayor? http://bit.ly/gZPMZ (regardless, I’m quite anti-Ken anyway)

  7. Paranormal Guru

    Liberal Conspiracy » Is David Lammy planning to run for London mayor?: Liberal Conspiracy is the UK’s most popul.. http://bit.ly/m3Sg1

  8. Londonolympics

    Liberal Conspiracy » Is David Lammy planning to run for London mayor? http://bit.ly/2gando

  9. Adam Bienkov

    Interesting discussion in @libcon comment thread about next London mayoral elections http://bit.ly/F4rSl

  10. Lammy’s call for open primaries ignores London’s real democratic deficiencies | MayorWatch

    […] In case you missed it, David Lammy last week wrote in the Evening Standard about the need for Labour to hold open primaries to select their next Mayoral candidate. As well as Lammy’s original piece it’s worth reading Dave Hill’s response and the discussion at Liberal Conspiracy. […]

  11. Lammy for London… why not? «

    […] followed swiftly by the Ephraim Hardcastle column in the Daily Mail, and before you knew it Liberal Conspiracy carried an article knocking down Lammy’s bid for City Hall before it had even […]





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