THE BLOG

Why London's Newspaper Needs Sadiq Khan to Win

21/04/2016 13:02

One of the great lessons I learned from an editor was about campaigning journalism. I had been tasked with creating a series of articles to spearhead a 'Scrap inheritance tax for everyone' campaign. But it's never going to happen, I protested. Aren't we more likely to achieve success by trying to campaign for something achievable.

His response was thus: 'Never fight a campaign that you expect to win. Where's the fight in that?'
And it's with this mantra in mind that I hope - for the sake of London's iconic newspaper and one that I was once thrilled and proud to work for - that Labour's Sadiq Khan wins the Mayoral election.

The newspaper's editor, Sarah Sands, clearly loathes the very idea. Her newspaper has shown the most extraordinary bias in favour of the Conservatives' Zac Goldsmith, despite him being the very antithesis of what London represents.

OK, it might be easy for those living on the greener outskirts of the city and within a three-mile radius of High Street Kensington to imagine the privileged, billionaire, Old Etonian eco-warrior fighting their corner. But that is an unreal bubble within which the Evening Standard seems to have settled many years ago.

Most of our city is not dripping in wealth, very few fritter their wages away on designer frocks and suits from Harvey Nichols, the proportion regularly spending £50 a head on dinner is miniscule. People find it difficult to live, house themselves, climb the career ladder, thrive within solid communities, look after their parents and children, find decent healthcare and schools and get the council to collect their rubbish.

They're being ripped off by businesses, ignored by politicians and usurped by non-doms looking to make a quick buck.

At least that's how it feels to them. Sadiq understands those issues more than either his opponent or the newspaper with whom he is going to have to work closely in his probable tenure as Mayor. And that's why everyone who works at the Standard, reads it and loves it such as me, should hope that the candidate which the publication so clearly loathes should win.

The paper works best when it campaigns about wrongdoing, not when it cuddles up to power. Its influence is strongest when it goes out on a limb, not when it fawns over politicians (as it has done ever since Boris Johnson discovered that he preferred the city to Henley-on-Thames). Its impact on the city's inhabitants is most significant when it encourages an 'us' and 'them' environment, not by being bland and supine.

After all, that's what London is to those of us lucky enough to live here - it's us and everyone else is them. And - message to Zac and his campaign team - we're colour-blind too.

Zac is not us and, unless it's very careful, neither will be the Evening Standard. But with a sworn opponent ensconced within City Hall, the newspaper and its journalists will finally have a target, their ire will be fuelled, their fangs bared. They will be able to fight campaigns that won't always be won.

The Evening Standard has, admittedly, achieved some wonderful things - its investigation into gangland culture and getting more children to read at an earlier age have been worthy of the awards showered on it. However, the paper's unquestioning and obsequious relationship with shamed charity KidsCompany, for instance, and its habit of being the Tory Mayor's flattering mouthpiece have been embarrassing.

The paper needs an enemy it can fight and not always win against. A vote for Sadiq is a vote for war. And nothing boosts a newspaper like war.

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