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Labour MP aims to be first black mayor of London

by Toby Helm

The Observer

Labour member of Parliament David Lammy has declared his interest in becoming the first black mayor of London during a fact-finding mission to several U.S. cities.

Speaking from Chicago before visiting Boston and New York last week, the London-born representative for Tottenham said that the job — which is attracting the interest of several other top Labour names — holds massive appeal and that he is preparing the ground for a likely bid for the Labour candidacy.

“I am thinking seriously about putting my hat into the ring to be Labour candidate for mayor in 2016,” he said.

Echoing the campaign vow of New York’s new Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio, he said: “London is a great city; however, its economy works for some Londoners but not all of them. It is a tale of two cities, and I see that all the time in my own constituency. Ending that division is what animates me.”

A former minister for higher education and the chairman of Ken Livingstone’s 2012 campaign, Lammy is believed to have the backing of many of the ex-mayor’s supporters.

On his U.S. study tour he was to have met the mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, to discuss the challenges facing the city, before heading to New York, where voters elected their first Democratic mayor for 20 years, after billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg’s three-term reign.

Ed Miliband has said that the Labour candidate for mayor will be chosen after the 2015 general election in a primary, rather than under the previous electoral college system in which selections were decided by a combination of the local London Labour parties and members of affiliated trade unions.

After the scandal over alleged vote-rigging in the Falkirk constituency, the Labour leader wants to throw open the selection process to all Londoners of voting age.

Others known to be interested include former Olympics Minister Dame Tessa Jowell; former Transport Minister Lord Adonis; the shadow Justice Minister Sadiq Kahn, who is also shadow minister for London; and Diane Abbott, Labour member of Parliament for Hackney North.

Jowell said Nov. 9 that she remained “genuinely undecided” and said it was too early to be declaring candidacies. She said: “I am Londoner, I love London and London is the greatest city in the world. But it is too early.”

For the likes of Adonis and Khan, much is likely to hang on whether Labour forms the next government on its own or in coalition. Adonis is drawing up his own detailed policy plans for London and is said to believe that as a former transport secretary he has much of the expertise and experience necessary.

Asked if he was preparing to run, he said: “I’m working hard on an agenda for London after Boris [Johnson, current mayor]. The challenge is to build the housing and public services for a successful city of 10 million — without London becoming more congested or divided.”

Friends of Khan said he was definitely “very interested” but was concentrating for now on helping Labour perform well in London elections next May and the general election in 2015.

Abbott said in a recent interview that she thought she would be a good mayor, but had not decided whether to run. “But honestly I am looking at it,” she said. The comedian Eddie Izzard wants to stand, but not until 2020.

Lammy laid out several policy ideas for London in a recent article in the Evening Standard, including the need to build homes on greenbelt land in outer London, and has published a detailed critique of Boris Johnson’s record.

Johnson has hinted he may stand for a third term, though many Tory lawmakers would like to see him return to Westminster, where some believe he could become party leader.