London’s Mayoral Manifestos: 130,000 New Homes, a Night Tube and... Nationalisation from Tory Zac
Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park since 2010, is the Tory candidate for Mayor of London. The son of the millionaire business man Sir James Goldsmith, Mr Goldsmith edited The Ecologist magazine before becoming one of David Cameron's A-List candidates. Since entering parliament, he has built a reputation as a eurosceptic and independent-minded MP. The race for mayor will ultimately come down to red versus blue, and his campaign has been centred around building upon the successes of the previous blue mayor Boris Johnson. He says London has boomed under Mr Johnson, but Londoners are “yet to feel it”, which is why he’s “taking a stand”.
Mr Goldsmith wants to tackle the housing crisis that London is suffering through various measures. The most notable is that he wants to tackle the supply shortage that is resulting in Londoners paying continually rising prices for their homes. Mr Goldsmith is pledging 50,000 new homes per year every year by the end of 2020. These homes will be built on public sector land that the government has secured. Mr Goldsmith claims the public brownfield sites could cater for 130,000 new homes. Mr Goldsmith also wants to provide local councils with “expert planning support” to avoid the 34 weeks it takes to get planning permission in the city; a figure Mr Goldsmith claims is a fifth greater than similar applications in Manchester and Bristol. This “expert team” of architects and surveyors will supposedly speed up major applications.
Another policy of Goldsmith’s is to prioritise Londoners in the sale of new homes on public land. This is an attempt to tackle the foreign buyers who supposedly cause spike in demand and hence an increase in the price.
He also wants to create a league table for the developers in London, based on the number of affordable homes they are developing on each site. This should incentivise developers to focus on affordable homes to avoid being named and shamed.
Despite proving his unfamiliarity with some of the tube lines recently, his transport policies are far from amateur. He has pledged in his manifesto to “deliver the Night Tube”, the 24-hour service to run on the Piccadilly, Jubilee, Central, Victoria and Northern lines on Fridays and Saturdays. Undoubtedly an appeal to the party-animal voter…
In all seriousness though, Mr Goldsmith says this will create up to 2,000 new jobs and also add £360 million to the London economy. Moreover, he wants to improve the service of suburban rail services by nationalising them. Yes, you read that right. Citing the stressful journeys Londoners have to endure, littered with poor excuses for all too frequent delays, his solution is to “ensure TfL takes over these failing lines in order to provide a better deal for London’s commuters”.
There is little to no mention of tackling rising fare costs in his manifesto.
Well-known for his unusually green stance (for a Conservative at least) Mr Goldsmith opposes an expansion of Heathrow, claiming that it would be a “vast, taxpayer-subsidised monopoly on one edge of our city.” He emphasises his desire for any expansion to be within the legally-binding carbon, noise pollution and air-quality limits. A unique policy, protecting the parks of the city, is another priority of Mr Goldsmith’s: he wants to double the police patrolling the parks of London. These police have the power to issue on the spot fines for littering, damage, and dog fouling to address the fact that, according to his manifesto, Royal Parks spend more money cleaning up rubbish than they do on planting flowers.
Mr Goldsmith also wants to reduce air pollution. He will do this with tougher rules on HGVs combined with encouraging Londoners to use greener vehicles and to cycle.
To support businesses, Mr Goldsmith wants to extend superfast broadband across London: realising the internet is now central to the success and efficiency of a business, Mr Goldsmith wants to ensure businesses all over London can enjoy the same internet access.
Mr Goldsmith is also intent on supporting small businesses on the High Streets. He also wants to support small businesses by promoting low cost office space for new companies. These start-ups will then, according to his manifesto, get help from the conservative mayor to evolve into scale-ups.
Mr Goldsmith wants to take a “zero tolerance approach” to gang leaders, who he calls “hardened criminals” who ruin the lives of the young. Gangs are something this blue mayor will “pursue relentlessly”. He will do this by lobbying the government to grant judges the power to “back up Gang Injunctions with GPS tags to guarantee the police are alerted if gang members break the conditions of their release”. He also wants to introduce a “two strikes and you’re out policy” which means any second infringement with a known leader of a gang will leave you in prison. As well as punishment, Mr Goldsmith seeks to develop a prevention program to ensure young people are educated about the dangers of gangs. This should hopefully prevent them from joining a gang, and “give them a bright future ahead of them instead of a future behind bars”.
Moreover, Mr Goldsmith wants to address the growing issue of radicalisation by “[disrupting] the online path to radicalisation”. He will do this by working with the Home Office, the poice and the tech sector to “develop a tough new industry-led covenant on tackling extremist content.” He also pledges in his manifesto to back the Met’s decision to double the fleet of armed response vehicles in London and the use of intelligence-led stop and search.
Moreover, a Tory mayor would put 500 more police officers on public transport at night in a bid to make users of the Night Tube feel safer. On the subject of transport, Mr Goldsmith seeks to add more contact points on the tube network in order to speed up the process of reporting crime.
Critics has said that Mr Goldsmith has not run a pleasant campaign, focusing on his opponent’s links with Muslim extremists. Nor has the Old Etonian made a great impact upon voters with his somewhat understated style: Sadiq Khan who was not the most popular of Labour’s candidates soon became the betting favourite - and remains so. Whether Mr Goldsmith’s tactics of getting out the outer London vote works remains to be seen.
Tough on crime, supportive of business there is much that is a typical Tory agenda. However, Mr Goldsmith is trying to appeal to more than core Conservatives. Whether he will succeed or not we will wait to see.
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