- Sadiq Khan warns that the Labour Party must change dramatically to defeat Boris Johnson.
- The London mayor said he feels “nervous” when Labour figures say they “won the argument” at the general election.
- Khan said that Labour cannot just change its lead singer, but its band and music too.
- “I used to be a lawyer, and if I ever said to a client after losing a case ‘well at least we won the argument,’ I can imagine what their response would be,” he told Business Insider.
- The London mayor has not decided who to back in the Labour leadership contest.
- Keir Starmer is the current favourite.
- He said Labour should be “careful” before insisting its next leader ought to be a certain gender or not from the south of England.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan says he is “nervous” when he hears Labour figures claim that the party “won the argument” at the general election, warning that Labour must “change the entire music we are playing” if it is to return the power.
In an interview with Business Insider, Khan said that any Labour leadership candidate who “can’t accept” the scale of the party’s recent election defeat does not have “the route map back to winning.”
The Labour Party is in the process of choosing a successor to leader Jeremy Corbyn after losing swathes of seats to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives on December 12. The Conservatives were returned to power with an 80-seat majority.
Figures on the left of the party have since suggested that the party’s offer to the nation, expressed through its manifesto, was not a problem for Labour at the election, and that Brexit was the main reason for the party’s defeat.
However, Khan, who is seeking a second term as London’s mayor, said his party needed to change both “the band” and “entire music we are playing,” not just its “lead singer.”
Speaking to Business Insider at the Fabian conference in central London, Khan said: “I get slightly nervous when people talk about winning the argument on December 12. I used to be a lawyer, and if I ever said to a client after losing a case ‘well at least we won the argument,’ I can imagine what their response would be.”
He said: “It’s important we understand that you win elections by winning the argument.
“I’m slightly nervous by people assuming we simply need to change the lead singer. That’s not what we need to do. I think we need to change the entire music we are playing. We need to change the band. We need to realise that we need to persuade people across the country to come to our concerts, not just the same fans.”
Khan said he has not yet decided who to back in the leadership contest. However, he said it’s “really important” that Labour’s next leader has “a proper analysis and accepts that we lost badly.”
He said: “Our return of MPs was the worst since 1935. Anybody who can’t accept that I don’t think has the route map back to winning.
“If the thesis they have is we just need a new leader with the same policies, and that will lead us back to Downing Street, I’m not sure where the evidence is for that.”
Khan says Britain must be able to ‘relate’ to Labour’s next leader
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is the current favourite to win the Labour leadership contest.
Polls suggest that his closest rival is Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey. The other contenders are Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips, and Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry.
Khan told Business Insider that Labour must be “careful” about demanding specific characteristics of its next leader, like being a certain gender or from a particular region of the country.
“We need to be careful about putting requirements on the candidate which have no bearing on whether we are going to win the next general election,” the London mayor said.
“For example, if the thesis people have is that it’s not possible for a southern MP who is male to win a general election, how do you explain Boris Johnson and David Cameron?”
However, he added: “By the same token, it’d be great if we had a woman leader. And it’d be greater if we chose an MP who can appeal to the whole country, as clearly our next leader needs to do.
“What our next leader needs to do is unite our party and more importantly, unite those of us who voted Leave and those of us who voted Remain, the north and the south, and be somebody who the country can relate to.
“It’s clear from the last election that many people couldn’t relate to our leader and didn’t see him as a prime minister, plus concerns about a whole host of issues.”
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