Quote of the Day:
“Don’t run a campaign which would embarrass your mother”
Robert C Byrd – US Senator; 1917-2010
The results are in and the dissecting, blaming, crowing etc is underway. Although no party (other than the SNP) has much to crow about or dissect really given that very little of excitement happened. Neither Cameron or Corbyn did poorly enough to be ousted or well enough to congratulate themselves. It was somewhat, meh!
In London the result was, perhaps, a fitting end to a decidedly lack-lustre election campaign. Sadiq Khan calmly cantered over the finish line ahead of Zac Goldsmith. Not a surprise but no big bang finish.
The pollsters had already called the election for Sadiq by 3pm, there was to be no nail-biting finish and no Ken vs Boris style bust up in the lift. Although Ken appears to have politically self-combusted over the past two weeks so perhaps it is just as well.
The vote did, however, have to go to second preferences before Khan could be declared the winner, although with Khan on nearly 43% it was just a matter of going through the motions of reallocating second preferences rather than prolonging the tension.
Goldsmith and his team may well wish to reflect on what was ultimately a negative and divisive campaign. Clearly voters grew less tired of being reminded that Sadiq Khan is the son of a Pakistani bus driver then they grew irritated of the continual attempts to link Khan to extremists. However, it is more likely that voters were simply uninspired by a campaign which seemed to have no candidate for the first few months and only really became visible in early March. At the same time, Zac is no Boris and his posh boy image clearly didn’t have the same endearing appeal.
In Barnet, many voters were appalled to find that they were excluded from voting as the Council failed to give the right ballot papers to the right polling stations. If the Mayoral vote had been a tight finish we could potentially have seen legal challenges based on the disenfranchisement of part of North London. As it is, we can rest easy that the people of Barnet were not, in fact, the hanging chad and disenfranchised of the Gore/Bush campaign in 2000, they were in fact just a bit unlucky.
Gone, apparently, is the donut effect, with even voters in traditionally Tory outer London turning out to vote for Sadiq Khan. It was a pretty convincing victory for Khan and his team and one which Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were quick to piggyback onto.
Not only in London but across the country, expectations of an exciting election night were dashed as the primary winner of the evening was in fact the status quo. Except in Thurrock and Basildon, where it was UKIP. Always interesting that the least ethnically diverse communities are the very same communities which are most in fear of immigration.
Oh, and not forgetting the decimation of Labour in Scotland where Nichola Sturgeon continued with her rapid ascent of the political ladder, although the SNP just missed out on a majority. David Cameron can at least be happy that he isn’t going to be battling on another Scottish Referendum, just the battle to stop the Tories utterly destroying themselves from within to deal with now…
In fact, Labour didn’t do too well in Wales either, losing out to UKIP there too but only with one seat. However, Jeremy Corbyn has a mandate apparently and will happily continue in the job. The fact that it is a mandate from people who seem to vote for a Leader but don’t necessarily vote in actual elections is clearly irrelevant (although enough voted to keep the party from losing too many seats) Still, the Labour Party seem to prefer the prospect of permanent opposition than actually governing.
UKIP have seven seats now in Wales. In what would be a Spitting Image dream come true, Neil Hamilton is back – no sign of his wife Christine yet, although she is usually lurking in shadows somewhere. If only Martin Bell had also been on the ballet paper!
You could be forgiven for forgetting that there were other elections in London – not a lot of people seem to have a clear idea of what the Assembly Members actually do and therefore why they should vote for them. However, with 14 of 25 results announced, some change has taken place with Labour taking the Merton & Wandsworth seat from long-standing member Richard Tracey. The remainder of the seats are the same, although some personalities have changed for example in Lambeth & Southwark where Val Shawcross stepped down and in City & East where John Biggs stepped down to focus on being Mayor of Tower Hamlets.
The results are still coming in for the London-wide seatsbut it should be expected that London will remain a firmly Labour city.
What Next for London?
Well, speculation is rife about who will be in Khan’s new mayoral team with some mooting a potential return for Neale Coleman who served under Ken (and more recently under Jeremy Corbyn). The focus has been on who will be the Deputy Mayor covering Housing and Planning. With the only rumour circulating for months being Leader of Southwark, Peter John, the focus has moved onto Islington Councillor James Murray.
We can expect the team to be announced within the next few days – and the fate of Eddie Lister to become clear. Lister had previously offered to stay for up to 6 months to assist in any transition, it may be that Sadiq is more probable to take him up on that then Zac would have been but it is likely that Sadiq and his team will quickly want to indicate a new regime.
Whilst housing has been the top priority throughout the campaign (not that either candidate turned up to the Housing Debate hosted by the NHF), what Khan and his team do in the first few months will be a clear indication of the direction of travel.
First up in the in-tray is the Bishopsgate Goodsyard decision. With concerns already voiced by officers and the decision neatly kicked over the election line by Boris Johnson, we would suggest that it is highly unlikely that Sadiq Khan will approve the scheme. However, the gronuds on which it is refused and the wording of any statements post-decision will be key to understanding views of the new team.
Khan made some ambitious promises in his manifesto. Whilst there is a difference between election promises and real promises, he will be keen to push on with some of his flagship policies. In particular the 50% target for affordable housing, the London Housing Panel and the first dibs on new homes for Londoners.
Khan would be well-advised to seek consistency and continuity within his officer team to ensure a smooth transition. However, some of his policies are at odds with the policies which have been in place for the past 8 (or even 16) years. How the policies transpire – and what the next iteration of the London Plan looks like – will give a good idea as to the internal dynamics of the GLA.
Watch this space.