Monday, 30 May 2016

How Sadiq Khan's big tent diminishes Corbyn

No one – perhaps with the honourable exception of Tony Blair – gets the Corbynistas as hot under the collar as Sadiq Khan.

Remember how the London Mayor had been reportedly allocated to a ‘hostile’ list, even after he’d made the very silly mistake of lending his nomination to Jez last year? Long before the election campaign in the capital, the left-wingers knew that he didn’t share their agenda, but they probably had no idea just how independently minded Khan was going to prove to be.

He made a point of eschewing contact with Corbyn during the run-up to the May vote, knowing that association with the hard left was going to win over very few wavering voters.  Immediately after Khan’s victory, Corbyn returned the favour by heading down to the west country to celebate with the new Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees. 

The decision couldn’t have been more pointed. Corbyn knew that the victory in London was one of the few bulwarks that he had against a challenge to his pitiful leadership. He needed the bus driver’s son from Tooting to triumph in the polls. Jez’s allies, such as Diane Abbott, even laughably suggested that Sadiq had won the capital on Corbyn’s coat tails. But the Leader couldn’t bring himself to share in the moment of celebration with the new Mayor. That would be one step too far.

Immediately after his election, Khan fired a warning shot against Corbyn’s bows. The Mayor talked about the importance of winning, rather than being in opposition. In fact, he boldly said that he’d achieved more in the previous seven days than Labour had achieved in the previous six years. And when asked what Labour MPs who’d been criticising Corbyn should now do, he replied: “I think it is more a question of what Jeremy should be doing.”  Ouch.

Many of Corbyn and McDonnell’s fanatical supporters consider Khan to be a dangerous maverick and a ‘red Tory’. They seethe at his temerity to challenge the veteran left-wing leadership of the Labour Party. But doesn’t Jeremy’s much-touted ‘mandate’ look rather pathetic when compared with the million-odd votes garnered by Khan in one of the biggest direct elections in Europe?

In the latest instalment of the saga, Sadiq Khan has defied Corbyn to team up with David Cameron and make the case for the UK staying in the EU.  Once again, the left are splitting blood and talking of betrayal. But think about what the new Mayor has done. He has reached out to the man who just weeks ago was denouncing him as an extremist. He has judged the issue of European integration to be so important that he has put personal enmity aside.

In the process, Khan has proved himself to be a bigger man and a bigger politician than Corbyn will ever be. He has rejected political tribalism in favour of the big tent. And he has shown what ‘new politics’ actually is. Not a return to the blinkered sectarianism of the 1980s, but rather a world in which people cross political divides to champion causes in which they believe.