Ten Things to Think About When Voting for the Next London Mayor
Across England, Wales and Scotland citizens will be voting in local and assembly elections. For Londoners polling day will be the opportunity to elect the next mayor of London, and successor to Boris Johnson. Since the creation of the Greater London and Assembly and the position of Mayor in 2000, the position has been filled by two big beasts: Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. Whoever is elected will be filling those big, if somewhat erratic shoes.
Disclaimer has looked at the manifestos and promises of the five major parties standing for election from Ukip to Labour. We have also profiled the two major party candidates, Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan, and asked whether they have a vision for London.
We are not going to tell you who to vote for. It is pretty arrogant and you probably - quite rightly - would not listen to us anyway: each of us casts our votes in individual considerations. However, here are some of the issues facing the largest - and undoubtedly the best - city in Europe.
As all the candidates have acknowledged London is facing a major crisis: soaring values are pricing an increasing number of people out of the housing market. It has been known for some time that this will damage employers' ability to find staff but nothing has been done. Fiddling around at the edge is pointless and measures that actually increase demand, such as ‘Help to Buy’, actually make the situation worse. The only response is to "go big" and for the Mayor to use public land and either borrow money or work with developers to develop land but on the basis of specific rent limits.
Although many of the big decisions have been taken already (Crossrail) or will be underway by election time (the night tube), the challenge for the next Mayor will be to ensure that the transport network continues to meet the needs of Londoners at affordable costs for users. This will be easier said than done as the Government has already decided to remove the subsidy worth £700m a year by 2020. The Mayor will have to show that he or she can work with Transport for London to help them fund its services through commercial investment, cuts or potentially higher fares. Given that fares are already the highest in Europe this is an area where voters should really to look what the plans are.
This is an individual issue for each voter. London has had two mayors who dominated the city's consciousness. Will this be the case with the next? The candidates are a mix of white, ethnic minority, male and female. It is worth considering in the polling booth who could best represent a diverse city like London. London's recently gone for one state-educated white man and an old Etonian white male. Perhaps it's time for a change.
Like it or not London is the world's first or second most important financial centre and can look after itself, especially with the active support of the Treasury and the City of London. But not everyone can work in a bank or hedge fund so we need to ensure there are jobs for all who want them. Given that employment tends to be created by small and medium sized businesses, we need to nurture those. Right now a nasty cocktail of policies is encouraging large areas of business workspace to be converted into housing. The Mayor is probably the one person to ensure there is enough business space available by coordinating with local councils. Failure to act will cause problems that will be reaped by those joining the workforce in coming years.
This a binary decision: either back a new runway wholeheartedly for commercial reasons, or insist that the plan is blocked for the sake of environmental damage, safety and congestion. There is no half-way house and voters should look to see what each candidate says. Whatever your own view, it is perhaps wiser to ignore the candidates who do not answer this clearly.
Both the police and fire service face budget cuts. The next mayor is going to have come up with some imaginative solutions to convince Londoners that they will be able to get more out of less and prevent a rise in violent crime in particular.
he timing of the election on 5 May makes it likely that the Brexit argument will be played out here ahead of the 23 June referendum. Given that Sadiq Khan, the Greens and Lib Dems are in favour of staying, and Zac Goldsmith and UKIP are I favour of exit the hope is that after three months of phoney war that finally debate might be joined in an intelligent, coherent and rational way. Here's hoping.
Londoner are tired of living in a city which is polluted and whose streets are crowded and noisome in all ways. Some of this crosses over with transport policies and the expansion of Heathrow airport but there is plenty of room for new and innovative ideas.
London is the capital of culture in the UK with its theatres, museums ad art galleries as well as opera, ballet and rock concerts. But some of them are mighty expensive and often smaller theatre groups suffer. Start up groups are working to hard to find new free and cut-price ways of presenting art but they could do with some help. Right beside City Hall The Scoop at More London is a great example of how London's government can create better cultural space, offering free theatre throughout the summer.
The vision thing.
After listing a nine-point tick-box list It might seem unfair to castigate the candidates for failing to have an overall vision to inspire Londoners whether it is on issues of inequality in the capital or just the sort of capital they want to govern but none of them seems to have one.
About the author
Disclaimer is a group of writers, journalists, and artists who have been brought together by their desire to tackle serious issues with a light and humorous touch. A mixture of idealists and pragmatists, Disclaimer is socially very liberal, economically less so. The editorial stance is formed collectively, based on the shared values of the magazine. Gonzalo Viña founded Disclaimer with the help of Phil Thornton who oversees the economics coverage. Graham Kirby is the editor.
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