Why we should vote Sadiq Khan for London Mayor

Dave Kellaway looks ahead to Thursday’s mayoral election in London.

 

Some people on the left have been so appalled by Starmer’s U-turns on progressive policies and Labour’s shameful failure to support the Palestinians or condemn the genocide that they are refusing to vote for Sadiq Khan for mayor of London. They say no ceasefire, no vote, or no votes for parties that support sending arms to Israel. Labour is seen as no different from the Tories, and in some senses, they are worse because they claim to be representing working people. Labour is just the B team for the capitalists and creates illusions that it represents a real alternative.

They are wrong on this. There are clear differences between Sadiq’s actions and policies and those of Susan Hall, his pro-Trump opponent.

He has:

  • called for a ceasefire in Gaza well before the Labour leadership
  • implemented the second phase of the ultra-low emission zone despite a concerted campaign from the Tory party and its mass media, as well as criticism from Starmer.
  • set up free school meals in primary school for all pupils without means testing
  • been in favour of a programme allowing young people from Europe to freely visit, study, and work in London (openly rejected by Labour).

All of these policies are rejected by his Tory opponent, and three out of four are criticised or opposed by the Labour leadership. 

This time, the Tories have tried to reduce the chances of Sadiq winning by shifting from a form of proportional representation to a first-past-the-post system. Previously, many people would vote for the Greens and give their second preference to Sadiq. This is no longer possible. At the same time, there is now a requirement for a photo ID document in order to vote. Research has shown this disproportionately affects Labour voters. The progressive majority that now exists in London would usually ensure a Sadiq victory through PR.

Despite Labour’s big lead in the national polls, there has been little enthusiasm expressed for the increasingly watered-down five missions being promoted by Starmer. The risk is that this is carried over into the mayoral election, and the Tory will benefit from differential turnout.

Apart from policy differences having a real outcome on the environment, people’s living standards, and health, a Tory victory would make it even more difficult to organise action if you are a political, trade union, or campaign activist in London. Can you imagine how Hall would have intervened around the policing of Palestine demonstrations if she had any say over it? Spaces for sexual and multi-cultural diversity would be closed down.

A victory for the Tory would be a big boost for the hard-right of the Tory party. Just remember the fake video about crime and security in London that the Hall team put out? They used footage from New York and talked about a Sadiq ‘regime seizing power in London’. Dog whistle racism against the first Muslim mayor of a major European city runs like poison through the propaganda being put out. At least 36 Facebook and other social media groups have been set up, mostly linked to the Ulez issue but also using anti-migrant, islamophobic, or racist messaging. The Guardian has exposed how these groups have been linked to at least two identified central Tory HQ staffers. 

It is true that Sadiq Khan was not, and is not, a Corbynista. I recall when he first stood and was endorsed by Corbyn that many people on the left were not enthusiastic. Since then, he has taken a number of positions to the left or independent of the Labour leadership. In March, he came out clearly in favour of Diane Abbott having the whip restored. His green credentials are confused. Although he supports the environmental and health benefits of the Ulez programme, he has driven forward the Silvertown tunnel.

Voting for Sadiq does not mean supporting his whole political outlook. The left has to make decisions on how to vote on the basis of actions, policies, and the different consequences of a Labour or Tory victory. A vote on a ballot paper does not mean you stop organising independently of Sadiq in political, trade union, or environmental struggles. A vote is just one part of our political choices. It is a tactical choice that starts with the consequences of the different outcomes, not for the feelings of the political left but for the material interests of working people as a whole. On Thursday, vote Sadiq Khan; keep the Tories out.


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Dave Kellaway is on the Editorial Board of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, a member of Socialist Resistance, and Hackney and Stoke Newington Labour Party, a contributor to International Viewpoint and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres.


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