On the face of it, it was an entirely routine denunciation of Boris Johnson’s “abysmal record” in rubber-stamping steep rises in bus and tube fares as Mayor of London.
But Sadiq Khan’s comments this week could come to be seen as a key moment in the capital’s political history. They came in his first speech as the shadow minister for London and, more significantly, as a potential candidate to replace Mr Johnson.
Labour politics in London have been dominated for a generation by Ken Livingstone who has stood in all four mayoral elections, winning two, but who announced last year that he would not contest a fifth.
That has opened the door for a battle to the Labour nomination – and a better than evens chance of succeeding Mr Johnson who has said he will step down in 2016 (although he later raised a trace of ambiguity about his intentions).
The party hierarchy has already started thinking about the contest for the nomination, with Ed Miliband announcing the candidate would be selected at an open primary.
The former Cabinet minister Alan Johnson, a born-and-bred Londoner who is popular across the party, insists he has “absolutely” decided not to stand. If he could be prevailed upon to change his mind, he would be the front-runner.
Party sources say that Shadow Justice Secretary Mr Khan is keeping his options open, but that the Tottenham MP David Lammy is open about his ambitions for the job.
The former Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell could also emerge as a credible candidate and her fellow London MP Margaret Hodge could be a longer shot.
Conservative party sources confirmed yesterday that they had not begun planning for their selection, not least because Boris Johnson has not yet made a definitive statement about his future.
Their dream standard-bearer would be Sebastian Coe because of the adulation he received for his part in bringing the Olympics to London.
The former Olympic athlete has a strong track record in Conservative politics, with five years as an MP and a spell as chief-of-staff to former party leader William Hague.
Lord Coe also has a strong friendship with the Prime Minister, David Cameron. He might take some persuading to stand, though, as he too has ruled out a return to politics.
The Cabinet minister Justine Greening, MP for Putney, could fancy her chances, along with Shaun Bailey, who advises Mr Cameron on communities and youth engagement.
The contenders: Who’s in the running
1. Boris Johnson (Con)
Age: 49 Currently: Mayor of London
Most famous for: Making little attempt to disguise ambitions to succeed David Cameron.
Will he stand: Unlikely, but hasn’t said no definitively. Odds of becoming mayor: 5/2
2. Alan Johnson (Lab)
Currently: MP for Hull West, has just written biography.
Most famous for: Spells as Education Secretary, Health Secretary, Home Secretary.
Will he stand: Ruled it out, but party hopes to change his mind. (8/1)
3. Seb Coe (Con/Ind)
Currently: Chairman of the British Olympic Association.
Most famous for: Running London’s successful Olympics bid and overseeing the games.
Will he stand: Has said he wouldn’t return to politics, but senior Tories would love him to. (8/1)
4. David Lammy (Lab)
Age: 41 Currently: MP for Tottenham.
Most famous for: Former junior minister, wrote well-received book on the causes of the 2011 riots.
Will he stand: Almost certainly. (12/1)
5. Sadiq Khan (Lab)
Age: 42 Currently: MP for Tooting, shadow Justice Secretary.
Most famous for: Running Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign.
Will he stand: Considered by colleagues to be leaving his options open. (14/1)
6. Tessa Jowell (Lab)
Age: 65 Currently: MP for Dulwich and West Norwood.
Most famous for: Her role – initially as Culture Secretary – in bringing the Olympics to London.
Will she stand: Strong possibility. (14/1)
7. Christian Wolmar (Lab)
Age: 64 Currently: Writer, broadcaster and commentator specialising in transport.
Most famous for: Leading expert on the rail industry.
Will he stand: He has already launched his campaign website. (20/1)
8. Shaun Bailey (Con)
Age: 43 Currently: the Government’s Communities and Youth Engagement Champion.
Most famous for: Black youth worker who was narrowly beaten in Hammersmith at 2010 election.
Will he stand: Has previously suggested he would be interested in the post. (20/1)
9. Siobhan Benita (Ind)
Age: 41 Currently: Broadcasting, public speaking, consultancy work.
Most famous for: Polling almost as many votes as the Lib Dems in 2012.
Will she stand: Within hours of 2012 result, confirmed she would take another shot in 2016. (40/1)
10. Margaret Hodge (Lab)
Age: 68 Currently: MP for Barking and Dagenham.
Most famous for: As chair of the Public Accounts Committee, taking Google, Amazon and Starbucks to task over their tax arrangements.
Will she stand: Unlikely. (40/1)
11. George Galloway (Respect)
Age: 59 Currently: MP for Bradford West
Most famous for: Stunning by-election victory last year; infamous Celebrity Big Brother appearance.
Will he stand: Has confirmed he is seriously considering it. (80/1)
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