By KD Tait Labour MP Sadiq Khan has secured a six point lead over Tory rival Zac Goldsmith in the battle to seize control of City Hall after eight years of Tory misrule.
The campaign is a chance to build on the 2015 General Election gains and mobilise the enthusiasm generated by Jeremy Corbyn’s new leadership, particularly amongst young people with 71 per cent of 18-24 year olds backing the Labour candidate.
Sadiq has rightly made London’s housing crisis the central plank of his campaign. He has committed to opposing the selloff of housing association homes and the reduction in the benefit cap which is forcing poor and unemployed Londoners out of their communities.
He wants the government to give the Mayor the power to freeze private rents, and proposes a London Living Rent tenure with homes linked to a third of average renters’ incomes.
His proposal to make London a Living Wage city, hiking the London Living Wage to more than £10 an hour, will be welcomed by the 1.2 million working Londoners living in poverty.
Freezing transport fares will be popular amongst residents who are sick of being held to ransom, not by trade unions as the Tory press claim, but by the bosses of London’s privatised transport system whose fare hikes are gouging commuters and lining the pockets of shareholders.
Facing up to London’s polluted climate, estimated to cause 9,500 deaths a year, Sadiq proposes greater pedestrianisation, safer cycling routes, increasing the low emissions zone, opposing fracking and a pledge to run London entirely on clean energy by 2050.
Reheating New Labour
However, these progressive policies are tempered by other statements that demonstrate his New Labour outlook and. Just days after Labour members signalled a radical shift in direction by electing Jeremy Corbyn, Sadiq was interviewed in the Financial Times, pledging to be “the most business-friendly mayor of all time”.
His claim that “when business does well, London does well” is straight out of the Blairite playbook. The reality is that pro-business policies have warped London’s housing market, forced millions to live in poverty, and made London the playground of billionaires and playboy princes. But here again In a Spectator interview Sadiq has said:
‘I welcome the fact that we have got 140-plus billionaires in London; that’s a good thing. I welcome the fact that there are more than 400,000 millionaires; that’s a good thing.’
These sorts of statements could have come from Lord Peter Mandelson who was ‘intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich’.
With a recession looming, the idea that a Labour mayor can repeat the Blairite formula of relying on a booming economy to offset low taxes and light-touch regulation is a fantasy.
In a Telegraph interview he insisted that if elected he would have his own mandate. But it will be Labour Party members and supporters who do the hard work of kicking out Boris, defeating Goldsmith and electing a Labour Mayor, with Labour policies. Unlike some in the Blairite camp, we don’t want Labour to fail in the elections, however anti-Corbyn the candidates. That’s why we will be working hard for Sadiq’s victory.
The Labour Party has recruited hundreds of thousands of new members who have rallied to Corbyn’s opposition to austerity. In London this figure was higher than anywhere else in the country. We want Labour to win elections on the basis of Labour policy.
We certainly don’t want a Mayor who constantly briefs against Corbyn and seeks to be the Mayor of the City of London. All the more so as we are likely to face another financial crash in the next few years when the City will inevitably hold out the begging bowl as they did to Gordon Brown in 2009 and then demand the state balances he books by slashing our services. The bankers already have their own Lord Mayor. One is more than enough.
That’s why, as we campaign for Sadiq’s election, we must continue to pile the pressure on Labour councils not to make cuts and prepare to hold all Labour Party representatives to account.