Diane Abbott, the London MP, declares in this morning’s Independent that she “wouldn’t mind being Mayor of London” and regards Boris Johnson as the Tory she is “most scared of.” Is this a candidacy we see before us?
I’ve always thought that Abbott could make a realistic Labour nominee in 2012. She is clever and independent-minded. Her stint on the BBC’s This Week sofa has taken her towards the level of visibility you need. Her constituency, Hackney North and Stoke Newington, effortlessly combines the two key elements of Labour’s London core vote – ethnic minorities and metropolitan lefties (if you boiled down The Guardian’s London readership to its core essence, you would get Stoke Newington High Street.)
Could she win in the suburbs? She did recently describe them, or their high turnout for Boris, as a “serious problem” – sounding rather like those deluded members of the Ken Fan Club who seem to believe that outer London shouldn’t count. It does count, of course – indeed, has always been the key decider of the mayoral contest. Even so, she’s a suburban girl herself (she went to school in Harrow) and would definitely have a better shot than Livingstone, who thoroughly alienated his former suburban supporters and shows no sign of wanting to rekindle the relationship.
Abbott has been one of Ken’s few big backers in the parliamentary party, but she has never bought into all the Livingstone nonsense – she was always pretty cool towards the model of race politics represented by Lee Jasper, for instance. So over the next few months, if Diane is spotted buying herself an all-zones travelcard, doing events in Ilford and Croydon, or presenting the prizes at her old school, I think we’ll know what’s happening.