There are several things one can take from Sadiq Khan's victory over Zac Goldsmith in the London mayoral contest. The first, and in a broader sense the most encouraging, is the fact that a Lynton Crosby-esque campaign of 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink... Sadiq is a Muslim and he wants to steal your jewellery' has fallen flat on its face.
This is in spite of the fact that there are a few questions even I (who leafleted and voted for Sadiq) would like the new mayor to answer. Does he now regret appearing on platforms alongside individuals who have promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories? And why was it ever OK to appear on Press TV at all, regardless of what was actually said on there?
I don't think these questions necessarily constitute, as the Labour MP Yvette Cooper has put it, "a full-blown racist scream". There is, however, a way not to ask them. You don't accompany an article on Sadiq Khan with a photograph of the 7/7 terrorist atrocity as if – nudge nudge - there is some sort of link between the two. Nor do you circulate leaflets branding a Muslim candidate 'radical' – wink wink - when you are perfectly aware of the pejorative connotations that word has in the context of Islam.
As the Conservative group leader on the Greater London Assembly, Andrew Boff, has pointed out, stunts like this risk undoing years of good community relations work. As a result of the Tory mayoral campaign, politics – and indeed public life more generally – will look a lot more like a closed shop to many Muslims. Why, after all, would anyone want to wade through the muck that Sadiq Khan has been dragged through during this campaign?
London has duly elected a Muslim mayor in spite of a Tory campaign which appeared to warn Londoners not to vote Labour on this very basis. This is a wonderful testament to the capital - anti-Muslim bigotry is, in London at least, a distinctly minority fixation.
Yet London has duly elected a Muslim mayor in spite of a Tory campaign which appeared to warn Londoners not to vote Labour on this very basis. This is a wonderful testament to the capital – anti-Muslim bigotry is, in London at least, a distinctly minority fixation. The damage done by Zac Goldsmith's campaign can also be at least partly undone by the holding of one of Britain's highest offices by a Muslim citizen. I dislike identity politics and 'tokenism' as much as the next old fashioned social democrat, but getting members of disenfranchised groups into positions of power can have a positive effect on aspirations lower down the chain – as long as efforts to improve opportunities do not stop at the door of the elite.
Sadiq Khan's victory also goes to show that leftish policies are not necessarily irreconcilable with electoral success – so long as Labour fields the right candidate and drops the parochial stuff. Sadiq's campaign has focused on things that are at the front and centre of voters' minds. Forget Trident and whether or not Osama Bin Laden's death was a 'tragedy'; think housing, transport and jobs.
The damage done by Zac Goldsmith's campaign can also be at least partly undone by the holding of one of Britain's highest offices by a Muslim citizen.
Those in the Labour Party not happy with the current direction of travel under Jeremy Corbyn must at some point win over the bourgeoning left-leaning membership of the party. Harking back to the halcyon days of New Labour is unlikely to help. Indeed, the worst thing party moderates could do when Corbyn does finally depart is to place yet another empty suit in front of the membership and clap their hands.
Tepid platitudes about 'aspiration' failed to win over Labour activists last year and there's no sign that they will work anytime soon. Were Corbyn to be unseated tomorrow, the membership would almost certainly elect him again – or someone just like him. This newly radical membership must therefore find reassurance that electoral success need not be synonymous with hiding in euphemisms and selling out your principles.
With the rise of Donald Trump in the US and Jeremy Corbyn here in the UK, it has become fashionable to wax incandescent over the growth of so-called 'anti-establishment' politicians.
With the rise of Donald Trump in the US and Jeremy Corbyn here in the UK, it has become fashionable to wax incandescent over the growth of so-called 'anti-establishment' politicians. What such assumptions overlook is why many Republican and Labour activists appear to have voted for the likes of Trump and Corbyn in the first place: they simply don't believe their side can win.
I listened to this sort of talk again and again from supporters of Jeremy Corbyn during last summer's Labour leadership contest. 'None of the other candidates can win in 2020 anyway, so I'm voting for the candidate I like the best'. There was a mindset, at least among Republican and Labour activists, that their party was going to lose anyway – so it did not matter who they ultimately selected from the field of mediocrities presented to them. Why, then, not lose with your convictions pinned firmly to your lapel, in the manner of a Trump or a Corbyn?
Sadiq Khan should offer hope to Labour moderates precisely because he represents the necessary merging of pragmatism and radicalism (of the progressive sort) that will be vital to any post-Corbyn landscape
Sadiq Khan should offer hope to Labour moderates precisely because he represents the necessary merging of pragmatism and radicalism (of the progressive sort) that will be vital to any post-Corbyn landscape. Labour has won in London by focusing on the sorts of dull initiatives that make life marginally better for the majority: lower train fares, skills for Londoners and a 'living rent'. The party has performed poorly elsewhere because over the last seven months it has become embroiled in ideological abstractions.
People want to be a little better off next year than this year, a little more secure and a little more free to create a good life for their families. They don't care whether the government brings the means of production into collective ownership or whether Russia 'has a point' in Crimea. They want competent managers first and visionaries second.
London may not be the quintessential constituency as far as elections go, yet the anyone but Corbyn camp will have to perform a similar amalgamation of principle and pragmatism if it is to stand any chance of setting the agenda post-Corbyn. Supporters of Labour leader will invariably bask in Sadiq Khan's victory as their own. Yet in practice, the new mayor's victory offers a potential way forward for the party's moderates.