It’s hardly a surprise that Sadiq Khan doesn’t support Jeremy Corbyn
Sadiq Khan has today written in the Observer that he will be supporting Owen Smith in the Labour leadership race against incumbent Jeremy Corbyn. It is being hailed as an exclusive by the Guardian and is portrayed as some sort of game-changer. The only surprising thing is the timing of Khan’s jump to the sinking Owen Smith ship. The fact that he doesn't support Jeremy Corbyn should not surprise anyone. Khan is a mayor who, when on the campaign trail, was eager to outline his pro-business credentials. He said he welcomes the fact that there are over 140 billionaires and 400,000 millionaires in London: “that is a good thing” (he didn't say this because he wished to tax them more). Then during the EU referendum he campaigned alongside David Cameron, which was fairly deplorable particularly given (1) what David Cameron stood for and (2) that the Tories campaign against Khan was so disgracefully racist.
Khan’s victory as the first Muslim mayor of London was symbolic. Politically, Khan was never going to be up to much in terms of working with progressive left-wing movements. Corbyn supporters and the wider British left defended Khan from the horrendous Islamaphobic attacks during the mayoral race. And they would do so again tomorrow if it was necessary.
Again it should not shock us that someone who shared a campaign platform with David Cameron has chosen not to support Corbyn. His Observer article takes a familiar Owen Smith ‘soft’ tone and even seeks to distance itself from the coup plotters with lines like ‘I played no part in the Labour turmoil’, and ‘I have little time for those who say that Jeremy is only leader because of “entryism”’.
Bit of a contradiction to try and distance himself from the plotters whose ranks he is now openly joining. If he wanted nothing to do with them then, why now the supposed change of heart? He even tries to suggest that Owen Smith opposed the Iraq war, even though it’s well established at this stage that Smith did not oppose the war at the time. (Smith told WalesOnline in 2006 that he didn't know if he would have supported it or not)
He goes on to say make some very unoriginal recycled criticisms on Corbyn: It’ll be easier for the Tories (who Khan campaigns with) to stay in power if Corbyn is leader; he failed in the EU referendum campaign; he won’t win elections. Can they really not do any better than that?
Many on the left supported Khan because he was the chosen Labour candidate, or because a Corbyn-led party was worth fighting for. Some on the left have supported both Khan and Corbyn enthusiastically. This was never a tenable position and was almost certainly going to be confronted with an eventuality like this.
It’s the latest in a long line of Guardian/Observer “exclusives” about high-profile figures supporting the coup plotters. This, though, is supposed to be the big one: the article from the popular London mayor will supposedly shift London support for Corbyn over to Owen Smith. Rather crucially however, Corbyn’s popularity in London owes nothing to Sadiq Khan. It is in fact the other way around. This latest intervention from the Labour right is unlikely to have the desired effect, and is far more likely to damage Khan’s career in the long term.