OPINION - Sadiq Khan has lost the suburbs – it probably doesn’t matter

 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

Meet the next Mayor of Outer London: Susan Hall. While Sadiq Khan languishes with a net favourability of -24 in the suburban boroughs, the Tory candidate enjoys a score of +4. That is landslide territory.

There are, I concede, a couple of problems with this analysis. First, there is no such position available. Not even Hillingdon is threatening to strike out alone on WTO terms. Second, Hall’s positive number is predicated on the fact that Londoners essentially do not know who she is.

Moreover, these figures are hardly surprising. The Labour candidate always does better in inner boroughs, while the Conservatives dominate those further out. What they illuminate isn’t the difference between Khan and Hall, but between Khan and Keir Starmer.

Writing in today’s paper, Professor Tony Travers makes the point that these YouGov results imply a tighter race in London than nationally, where polls place Labour anywhere from 15 to 20 points clear of the Tories.

At first glance, this is puzzling. London is a Labour city while the country usually elects Conservative governments. If Khan won reasonably comfortably in 2021, surely he should do so by a greater margin in 2024, when the national political environment is so much more favourable?

The explanation is, of course, the extension to the Ultra low emission zone, set to come into force a week from today.

Whereas Starmer is doing everything possible to clear the barnacles off the boat – dropping policies with even the slightest hint of controversy – Sadiq Khan is moving in the opposite direction. Were Ulez a national Labour policy, Starmer would have dropped it months ago and spent the Uxbridge by-election campaign grinning ear-to-ear in photo-ops with old diesel cars. Instead, he can only watch on in horror.

The difference between Khan and Starmer is not only in temperament, but in their constituencies. The reality is that the mayor can afford to alienate voters in order to pursue policy goals, but his party leader enjoys no such margin for error.

Put another way, Khan thinks he can do the unpopular thing and still win, Starmer doesn’t. They’re both probably right.

In the comment pages, Anne McElvoy says we must beware the knee-jerk reactions to Lucy Letby’s evil. Nimco Ali reveals she cheered on the Lionesses, but has to ask — why was our team so very white? While Melanie McDonagh congratulates the British Museum on outdoing itself in neglect.

And finally, Joe Bromley sees you in your tepid floral dress with white trainers, and begs you to go home and get changed.

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