The race is officially on for City Hall’s top job…
On Wednesday, the Redwood team attended the London Evening Standard’s first mayoral hustings. Held at the Royal Geographical Society, the event gave all seven mayoral candidates the chance to talk about their vision for London’s future once incumbent Mayor Boris Johnson steps aside in May. The event will be followed, much closer to the election, by a second more focussed Evening Standard debate amongst the frontrunners. The hustings began with two minutes for each candidate to outline their own agenda, interrupted rather ineffectively by a bell sounding to signal their two minutes were up. Following their initial digests, the real fun began as the candidates had to then contend with questions from the Evening Standard team.
The first question of the night forced the candidates to disclose a negative attribute of their party leader. To rapturous applause, Jeremy Corbyn was accredited with “a dodgy haircut” by Khan, who said he would not become a patsy Mayor.
Scandal and safety deposit boxes
In relation to London’s burgeoning housing crisis, widely hailed across the board as the major issue facing London, Goldsmith said he would provide 50,000 new homes a year. The Richmond MP reiterated his policy of freeing up publically owned brownfield land to build homes, which will then be offered to Londoners first.
Khan, meanwhile, said London was “at a crossroads” and described foreign investment in London’s homes as a “scandal”. Khan also referenced the housing charity Shelter and its advice that housing should only be a third of a person’s salary – clearly still an unachievable ratio for many Londoners today. He also outlined his plans for a not-for-profit lettings agency to help address those at the mercy of rogue landlords.
Outspoken independent candidate George Galloway accused foreign investors of making “safety deposit boxes” out of London’s homes and claimed that the Conservatives caused the crisis by selling off council houses.
The Green Party’s candidate for Mayor, Sian Berry, hit back at the others’ claims of increasing supply being the only answer to the housing problem. She said demand is infinite and London can build and build and build … with minimal impact. Instead she explained control is key. Control the buyers and control the rent.
Our next Mayor?
The two frontrunners have already been clearly defined as Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan. The latter, standing as he delivered his opening two minute speech, announced himself as the “best fighter, best champion and best advocate” for London. He repeatedly denounced Goldsmith as inexperienced and said he had the right “experience, values and vision” to lead London.
Zac Goldsmith on the other hand stepped up to the plate, remarking that he “will make greater London, greater still”, and that his record of working with central government to reach compromise makes him the most suitable candidate for the brief. He pledged to “protect the success of the city but make it work for everyone”.
So, who will be London’s next mayor? Only Londoners can decide.