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Sadiq Khan Begins Regional Tour As He Says Keir Starmer Shouldn't Be Nervous Of Popular Labour Politicians

Sadiq Khan Begins Regional Tour As He Says Keir Starmer Shouldn't Be Nervous Of Popular Labour Politicians
5 min read

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said Labour must not panic about the poor election results in May and Keir Starmer shouldn’t be “nervous” about the popularity of other politicians.

In a wide-ranging interview with PoliticsHome as he kickstarts a series of regional visits with a trip to North Yorkshire, he denied the party leader had been weakened by the “brilliant” Angela Rayner or “popular” Andy Burnham in recent weeks.

On party policy he said it is still too soon to deliver concrete plans when they could be out of date by the next election, and when the economy will look so different post-Covid.

Starmer has endured a barrage of criticism from within his own party since the May 6 poll that Labour lacked policy and vision, which contributed to the loss of key councils and the Hartlepool by-election.

In the fall-out deputy leader Rayner was sacked as party chair but then promoted to shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and shadow first secretary of state by Starmer. Meanwhile Burnham said he would go for the leadership again in the future if people wanted him to, adding he would have kept hold of more red wall seats in 2019 under his leadership.

“Keir is the leader of our party and this idea people have where if somebody else in the party is doing well, it’s at the expense of the leader, it’s not true,” said Khan.

“It’s not a zero-sum game. The fact that Andy Burnham is incredibly popular shouldn’t make the leader nervous, similarly the fact Angela has a public-facing job shouldn’t make the leader nervous. It bodes well for us. Politics as far as I’m concerned is a team sport.

“Compare and contrast the cabinets that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had - big names round the table - versus Boris Johnson, it shows a lack of confidence [within] the current Prime Minister has with having talent. Keir is right to move talent in the Labour party.”

He said Rayner was brilliant and wasted doing internal party work, and it was right for her to move into jobs where she will meet the public. Likewise moving Anneliese Dodds from shadow chancellor to party chair to conduct a policy review was a good move, describing her as someone with "three brains". 

Starmer had clearly accepted the mixed results, he suggested, and was setting the party on the right path for re-building. The party now needed to urgently get back into the "election-winning businesses", he said and Starmer should have the confidence to engage and listen to the regional Labour mayors.

"We've got lots to offer because we are showing Labour in power, and we've got brilliant Labour councils and Mark Drakeford in Wales," he said. 

Labour also won the Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and West of England mayoralties, and Tracy Brabin’s win in West Yorkshire means she will become the first ever female metro mayor. Second terms were secured for Burnham in Greater Manchester and Steve Rotherham in the Liverpool City Region.

Khan, who won his second term at the election with the best result for a sitting mayor, is due to begin a number of trips out of the capital to look at levelling up and how the regions and London can work more closely together.

Today he is visiting an electric bus company in Sherburn-in-Elmet, in North Yorkshire and which employs 300 people, many from West Yorkshire. He is visiting the factory with newly elected Brabin.

He said the public can expect to see more of him in the coming weeks as he tries to stress that the government’s “levelling up” agenda shouldn’t hit London's financial power.

“A ‘levelling strategy’ is one where you make London poorer, then it becomes more equal to other parts of the country. ‘Levelling up’ if it’s meaningful needs to give all parts of the country powers and resources.

“The factory I’m visiting today is state of the art and they employ 300 people. We haven’t got that expertise in London so if we’re going to have electric buses in London we need a partnership with friends in Yorkshire.

“This is the opposite of trickle-down economics. This is respecting we haven’t got the manufacturing expertise. Yorkshire has, [so] let’s work together as a partnership.”

He said the Tories are playing to the gallery and people’s fears when it’s suggested “people down south, they get everything” considering six out of ten of the poorest parts of the country are in London.

Yet on policy, Khan said now is still not the time to deliver a concrete offer because the economy and politics post-Covid is still unknown. Dodds' policy review is "spot on" he said.

He said: “I’ve got huge sympathy for the national Labour party for the obvious reason they are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. If they come up with policy now with the election still two, three years, away, and that policy is out of date, they’ll be crucified in two or three years time for going prematurely.”

He said Starmer has accepted the Labour offers of 2019, 2017, 2015 and 2010 haven't persuaded enough people to vote for the party, so whatever is developed needs to speak to the voters of the 2020s and 2030s.

His message to the party today was: “We shouldn't panic, it's quite clear we're on a journey."

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