Sadiq Kahn has thrown in his two penneth worth into the Labour leadership thing and has decided to support Owen Smith.
Carry on with your Sunday, nothing to see here.
Why should you care if Kahn supports Smith? Why are people upset that Khan has supported Smith?
Firstly, I don’t think you should much care that Khan supports Smith. True, it rather suggests that his political judgement is unsound but, then, he’s maybe not speaking to you. In the world of British politics, we have the spectre of wealthy donors who pump £millions into party politics because it sates their egos to have people jumping to their tune and putting them on a pedestal. It is already rumoured that there are sizable war chests already allocated to fighting Corbyn’s leadership should/when he receives a second mandate from the party membership. Just as I don’t think that most of Zak Goldsmith’s ‘dog whistle’ campaign for London Mayor was truly aimed at London voters, my suspicion is that very little of the noise coming from the “coup” is genuinely targeting Labour party members.
Goldsmith was a well-liked, leftish leaning greenish Conservative who was part of and party to an appalling gutter political campaign that will almost certainly forever tarnish his political career and people’s opinions of him. Was he naïve to have trusted his party leadership and their choice of campaign leaders? He was certainly hung out to dry by his party and, one wonders, what the motivations for that were. Was a Conservative ‘golden boy’ being brought down a peg or two in case he ever had party leadership aspirations? Were the ‘dog whistles’ aimed at audiences outside of London pre EU referendum, as part of stoking up Brexit support? That Goldsmith was brought so low by his party certainly left me feeling that all was not what it seemed in that business.
So is Khan even talking to us, the members, at all? Are things as them seem?
Secondly, people feel Khan has repeated Ed Miliband’s crime of stabbing his brother in the back. Khan was reliant on Corbyn’s support to gain the Labour nomination to run for Mayor ahead of Tessa Jowell and then utilised the Corbyn’s grassroots support to campaign in the capital. Supporting Smith is seen as a betrayal. Yes, it probably is, but it’s politics and knives go in the front as easily as in the back. The thing I find more interesting is not what he’s said or done but what the reasons might be for why.
My speculation: Khan has played the loyal political voice for those wealthy donors to Labour and has done so at a time when it is considered it might have some impact in the leadership voting. He has otherwise remained fairly quiet. Members may provide essential funds to party coffers but wealthy donors put cash into MP’s and Mayor’s “personal” funds for campaigning etc. Wealthy donors can help with money for when you’re buying that second or third home. It’s helpful to have wealthy people on your side. Yes, he has taken a gamble on losing Labour support when he runs for a second term as London Mayor but I think, with backing from wealthy donors, he is probably fairly confident of success as an independent candidate. Plus, there is life outside of being an MP and it never hurts to plan ahead.
Do I think Khan feels Owen Smith is a better leader for Labour and more likely to be able to lead Labour to a general election victory? No, Khan is not a stupid person. I’m sure Khan knows Smith’s short comings, least of which includes his ability to win the Labour leadership election. Khan won’t stop being London Mayor because he has backed the losing horse in the Labour leadership race and there’s a far longer game being played.