Khan he do it? Sadiq Khan is winning crucial business support in the race to City Hall

Why the Labour candidate is gaining ground in the City

At the 2015 general election, at which David Cameron’s Conservative Party was returned to power with an outright majority, London bucked the trend.

The capital saw a swing towards Labour, with the party getting 62% of the seats – the best result since 2001.

In 2013, Sadiq Khan was appointed shadow first minister for London. Tessa Jowell  also held the position between 2009-10. But it was Khan who subsequently triumphed in the race to become the Labour Party’s mayoral candidate.

Khan’s selection by the party has put him head to head with the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, and the next five months will see the pair repeatedly squaring off with one another.

But at the moment, Khan appears to have gained significant ground.

On Friday, the Financial Times was alluding to Khan when it reported that “one candidate seems to have a clear lead when it comes to courting the business community and appealing to entrepreneurs”.

City engagement

The FT quoted senior City sources one of whom who said that “Zac’s engagement has been less than impressive”.

Meanwhile, Khan has been on the warpath.

He has made the effort to visit the key influential business institutions seeking support, which according to the FT include: the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors, London First, the CBI, the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the City of London Corporation and TheCityUK in his campaign.

In comparison, Goldsmith has only been to the CBI and the FSB so far, and will meet the IoD later in January.

Following the positive Financial Times piece, Khan has pulled off a double whammy, with an interview in Monday’s Telegraph in which the right wing paper is uncharacteristically sympathetic to a Labour candidate.

Why? It’s because Khan is clearly talking sense. He wants to put aside party affiliations and speak for London as a whole.

“When you meet and study the best mayors from around the world they are not tribal,” Khan says. “What they try and do is to reach across the entire city.”

Khan has also made a fairly successful attempt to distance himself from Jeremy Corbyn, who is certainly not attempting to win much support from business groups. On several policy areas, including business, Trident and in his support for a new runway at Gatwick, Khan differs from Corbyn.

In the Telegraph interview Khan says: “That is the job of the Mayor of London: not to be a patsy or a spokesperson for George Osborne and David Cameron – as Mr Goldsmith is being – or Jeremy Corbyn or the party, but to be London’s advocate to their party and the government.”

Poll positions

Despite the word of mouth support from businesses, there remains a big challenge for Khan.

A recent ComRes poll found that businesses still believe Goldsmith is more “pro-business” than Khan.

“Two thirds (68%) of London businesses think that Zac Goldsmith is pro-business, more than double the proportion (29%) who say the same of Sadiq Khan,” ComRes said.

But the latest overall polls have given Khan a 10% lead over his key rival. But with over four months to go until May, can he cling on to it?

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