London mayor Sadiq Khan rocked the pro-Jeremy Corbyn camp to its core over the weekend when he officially endorsed Owen Smith for the Labour leadership.
Khan, who became the first Muslim mayor of a major western capital earlier this year, urged the party membership to ditch Corbyn and throw its weight behind Smith in a strongly-worded interview with The Observer.
“Jeremy has already proved that he is unable to organise an effective team and has failed to win the trust and respect of the British people,” he said.
“Jeremy’s personal ratings are the worst of any opposition leader on record and the Labour party is suffering badly as a result. He has lost the confidence of more than 80% of Labour’s MPs in parliament — and I am afraid we simply cannot afford to go on like this.”
Predictably, the London mayor’s intervention was heavily criticised by some Corbyn supporters. Just the mention of Khan’s name was enough to elicit a loud chorus of boos from people who attended a Corbyn rally in north London on Sunday.
But, for anyone who has paid close attention to what Khan has said about the current Labour leader over the last year or so, the former’s intervention really should not come as a surprise. In fact, the real surprise is that it did not come much sooner.
Khan nominated Corbyn for the ballot for last year’s Labour leadership contest. However, this came with a major caveat. “I won’t be voting for Jeremy Corbyn,” Khan stated, “and I don’t think he can lead us to election victory in 2020.”
The former Tooting MP Khan did not believe Corbyn was a suitable a candidate for the Labour leadership even before the veteran socialist was on the ballot.
Then there is an archive of interviews Khan has given since first standing to succeed Boris Johnson where he has been anything but reserved or unclear in his criticism of Corbyn.
In this interview with the Daily Mail published in September, to cite just one example, Khan accused Corbyn of giving Labour an “anti-Jewish image” and said it was “very unwise and disrespectful” of the Labour leader to refuse to sing the national anthem during September’s Battle of Britain memorial service.
Khan also accused Corbyn of failing to act “swiftly and decisively” in response to the anti-Semitism crisis which engulfed the party earlier this year.
The London mayor’s claim that Corbyn is “extremely unlikely” to lead Labour back into Downing Street really is not surprising, either, when you recall what he said about what the party needs to do to make itself electable again.
Here is a key extract from an opinion piece he penned for The Observer in May (emphasis ours):
“Labour has to be a big tent that appeals to everyone — not just its activists.
“Campaigns that deliberately turn their back on particular groups are doomed to fail. Just like in London, so-called natural Labour voters alone will never be enough to win a general election.
“We must be able to persuade people who previously voted Conservative that Labour can be trusted with the economy and security, as well as improving public services and creating a fairer society.”
Khan’s victory in the London mayoral contest was based on an electoral strategy which Corbyn is totally failing to replicate. He was not just popular with staunch Labour activists, but with all types of Londoners — including those who in years gone by may well have voted Conservative.
Corbyn, on the other hand, is one of the most unpopular opposition leaders in recent memory. His latest net satisfaction rating was -33%, according to Ipsos MORI, the lowest for any opposition leader since Margaret Thatcher became prime minister.
Khan’s endorsement of Smith should come as no surprise whatsoever. His position on Corbyn has been clear from the very beginning — he never wanted him to be Labour leader.
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