Sadiq Khan is the Mayor of London having triumphed in a tightly contested, lengthy and frequently bitter campaign. So, how did Sadiq win? Field has five reasons to help you sound informed at dinner parties and BBQs this weekend:
Firstly, he defined the campaign as being about housing, a subject he knew played into his hands. Boris may have been a character, a jester to delight and amuse the population, but on housing he failed to deliver the boost in house building that would arrest the insatiable rise of rents and house prices. The Mayor of London’s powers are actually more limited than many imagine but there are two areas they do truly command: housing and transport. Sadiq’s campaign reminded Londoners that renting is increasingly unaffordable and home ownership out of reach for many. Sadiq’s additional focus on transport fares also played into the same analysis: a problem identified and a solution proposed.
Secondly, Sadiq’s message disciple was amazing. Journalists groaned when they heard Labour’s man repeat again and again that his dad was a bus driver but they knew when politicos are tired of hearing a phrase it is just starting to get cut through with the general public. Forgive us but: Blair had education, education, education. Sadiq had repetition, repetition, repetition.
Thirdly, Sadiq recognised his personal story was as important as policy. And if that personal story could be proof points for his policies then the solutions and the man promising them would be indivisible. No matter what the story, Sadiq’s key messages: A Mayor for all Londoners, a council estate kid who will fix the housing crisis and a bus driver’s son who will freeze fares were all delivered professionally and repeatedly. Unlike Zac, his personal story sounded like the London people recognise.
Fourthly, he was his own man. A few awkward posed photos between Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq was all the connection the two had during the campaign. Sadiq ran a campaign distinctive and separate from his party leader. The occasional comment piece calling for unity, reaching out to different communities of voters and embracing business was right out of the centrist playbook. Jeremy has never owned a copy of ‘winning from the centre left’ and Sadiq has never put his down. The type of campaign Sadiq ran is not the type of campaign Jeremy Corbyn wants to run. The victory though, is for both of them.
Finally, Zac ran a campaign not true to himself. Zac could have been formidable and unifying. But he chose a different path. Instead of making a virtue of the independence his wealth and comfortable majority gave him, he chose to confuse, divide and bore the electorate. Sir Lynton Crosby’s negative tactics oozed from every Zac appearance. The awkwardness of drinking a pint with two hands, cautious and unfamiliar, highlighted to many Londoners this man might come from London but he was not of London. The dog whistle campaign, the stock strategy from Sir Lynton Crosby, failed in London precisely because London is London. Anyone who has spent time in the capital would realise London’s diversity is what makes it such a lively and creative city. Sadiq’s poise under attack sucked in supporters and helped attract the softer Tories uneasy at the tone of Zac’s campaign.
Sadiq charted his own course, was disciplined in his approach and offered a message of hope not division to Londoners. Like the best political leaders, he turned his opponent’s attacks into a strength of his own campaign and triumphed with the biggest personal mandate in London electoral history. He is now a big beast with a big to do list. Better get cracking. As always, we’ll be watching and reporting.