Meet The Candidates: Who Wants To Be A Labour Mayor?

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 44 months ago
Meet The Candidates: Who Wants To Be A Labour Mayor?

There are six people in the running to be Labour's candidate for Mayor in May 2016. One of this lot is going to be a major frontrunner and all over the news for eight months after the choice is announced in September. So we might as well start getting to know them now...

Tessa Jowell

Tessa Jowell with Mahammed Hashi and Solomen Smith, founders of the Brixton Soup Kitchen. Photo by Andy Thornley.

Who? Former MP for Dulwich and West Norwood (until she stood down at the last election), ex-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and ex-Minister for London and the Olympics. She was born in London, and has previously worked as a childcare officer in Brixton and psychiatric social worker in Southwark. Jowell is the bookies' current favourite — and, judging by a show of hands at Tuesday's Centre for London hustings, the popular favourite too.

Plans? Jowell's big theme is One London, which reminds us of Ken Livingstone's '7 million Londoners, 1 London' campaign in the wake of the 2005 bombings. Her current main focus is homes, and plans to establish Homes for Londoners (Shelter spent the 2012 mayoral election campaigning for City Hall to create a body similar to Transport for London; Jowell seems to have taken this on board). She plans to use land owned by TfL — equivalent to the borough of Camden, she says — to build 2,000 affordable homes a year for the next 20 years and will encourage the building of thousands more. She'll use 'rent to buy' schemes to expand home ownership and promote build to rent schemes, which are purpose built homes with decent landlords. She also wants these new homes to tackle, rather than exacerbate, inequality in London.

South London would be a focus of a Jowell-led transport policy, integrating the network of poor rail lines. More east London river crossings would also be on the cards, connecting the thousands of homes coming to either side of the Thames. Interestingly (though not explicitly stated), these may not all be car crossings: Jowell says "I understand why many Londoners choose to own a car. But much of London is a car park... Many Londoners want an alternative: the mobility a car provides without the hassle and cost of owning one", before going on to discuss cycling.

Jowell's incipient manifesto also promises to restore Sure Start, increase take-up of the London Living Wage and create a skills and jobs strategy for young Londoners.

Read more on Tessa Jowell's campaign website.

What we think: Jowell's got the most political experience and has a proven track record of working across the political divide with the Olympics. She's perhaps a bit dull — certainly less likely to raise the roof than David Lammy — but could be the heads down, sleeves-rolled-up type London needs after two colourful — and divisive — characters in charge.

Sadiq Khan


Who? Current MP for Tooting, former Minister of State for Communities, then Transport, then Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, then Justice and also Shadow Minister for London. Born and raised around Tooting, he still lives in the area. Very proud of his roots growing up on a council estate and his bus driver dad.

Plans? Khan is also stressing inclusivity, promising to be a Muslim mayor that fights anti-Semitism and not a 'zone 1 mayor'. He agrees that housing is the biggest challenge the next mayor faces, but disagrees with Jowell on creating a new organisation to tackle it. He's identified the financing as a major issue preventing the building of affordable homes — he's not wrong — and will work to co-ordinate existing funds and encourage inward investment. He'd also reinstate the target of 50% genuinely affordable homes in new developments. On the private rental sector, he wants a London Living Rent and a city-wide social letting agency; he'd also work to block the government from carrying out its plans to extend Right to Buy to housing association homes.

On transport, Khan pledges to freeze fares for his four year term (though we have doubts that's a realistic plan). He promises to cut bus fares and bring in transfers, so we can travel for an hour on different buses on one fare. He'd also push for TfL to take over more of London's commuter rail services. He's also recently come out in favour of expanding Gatwick, not Heathrow airport.

Read more on Sadiq Khan's website.

What we think: Khan is the other major frontrunner and, according to various rumblings, the internal party favourite. Like Jowell, he has experience of being at the top of politics — but annoyed some Green voters when he was tasked with convincing them to vote Labour during the general election. Also seems to have pissed off various sections of the London political media, too, which won't help.

Diane Abbott


Who? Abbott has been MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987; her reputation as a rebel could be one reason that the highest political office she's held is Shadow Minister for Public Health. She's the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, went to Cambridge and has worked as a TV researcher and reporter and was head of PR at Lambeth Council before being elected to parliament.

Plans? Again, we're talking housing. (Note for the future: any mayoral candidate, from any party, who doesn't talk about housing isn't worth your vote.) Abbott says that building more houses alone won't fix London's housing market; she wants rent controls (but isn't yet going into detail about what that would mean) and a landlords licencing scheme — but needs to update her policies to accept that the Mansion Tax is dead, so won't be around to provide cash for building, while talking about non doms / buy to leave in wealthy central London is like focusing on an annoying flea bite and ignoring the huge brown bear that's about to rip you to pieces.

Abbott also wants a four year freeze on transport fares, a mandatory living wage for London and to work with relevant bodies to reinstate the Educational Maintenance Allowance. She's got a focus on cycling, creating safe, open spaces for pedestrians and — we think this will be a hot topic during the main campaign — air pollution. She also wants to lower the voting age to 16 (presumably for the London elections) and wants London to be "ground zero against the fight against the anti-immigration narrative".

Read more on Diane Abbott's campaign website.

What we think: A mix of good ideas but also policies that are out of date or just not that relevant. Also, for all her reputation as a rebel, Abbott came across as terribly measured at the Centre for London hustings. Her problem is that's probably not what people want from her, especially not with Jowell in the race.

David Lammy


Who? The MP for Tottenham and former Minister for Culture, then Innovation, Universities and Skills, was the first to step into the mayoral race. Again, he's a Londoner born and bred, growing up next to Broadwater Farm.

Plans? Housing. David Lammy really gets the fire in his belly when he talks about housing (as is right and proper) and we like his slogan "affordability should mean something again". He has a comprehensive housing strategy (PDF) already in place, which covers how to build more homes, particularly genuinely affordable homes, and rent controls. He's also the only candidate who accepts that at some point, we're going to need to look at building on some of the poorer-quality bits of green belt. This is just a fact: there isn't enough brownfield to do the job, and anyone who says otherwise is lying either to you or themselves.

He wants to build up police numbers again — interestingly, saying it would cost each of us a tenner a year — and plans to deal with inequality by focusing on skills development and rebalancing London's economy away from the services industry. He makes no firm promises about transport, but mentions both affordability and the importance of maintaining investment (he's big on Crossrail 2).

Read more on David Lammy's campaign website.

What we think: It's good to see a candidate be genuinely passionate about an issue, and Lammy clearly appreciates why so many Londoners are angry about the housing situation. Highly unlikely to get the nomination, but should force the frontrunners to up their game on some issues.

Gareth Thomas


Who? Well, quite. We don't want to be rude, but when Thomas announced he was running we had to Google him. He's the MP for Harrow West, chair of the Co-operative Party and former Minister for International Development. He, too, was born and raised in the part of London he now represents.

Plans? Thomas's main aim seems to be to get devolution for London onto the discussion table. Many of his public pronouncements — in speeches or articles — are underpinned by arguments for more powers for London and City Hall, along with a commitment to more involvement from Londoners in organisations like TfL (as befits the chair of the Co-operative Party).

He believes in rent capping, a quota of 50% affordable housing on all developments and a mayoral lettings agency. At the Centre for London hustings, he objected to building on green belt with the phrase "I don't see why outer London should end up looking like Tokyo". Because that's the logical conclusion of such a policy, apparently. On transport, he says he'd cut fares by 10% in his first year and then freeze them for the remainder of his term, and he's another candidate who's going big on air pollution.

Read more on Gareth Thomas's campaign website.

What we think: He's clearly committed to the cause of more powers for London, which we approve, but much of his agenda depends on gaining those extra powers. More of a single-issue promotion than a serious contender, and we weren't terribly impressed by his performance at the hustings.

Christian Wolmar


Who? AKA the one who's not a politician. Wolmar is an acknowledged transport expert — his book Down the Tube is the one to read if you want to know why PPP was a disaster. He's also worked for Shelter, and has lived in London his whole life.

Plans? Wolmar's been putting together his campaign for a while now, and has comprehensive strategy documents about transport, housing, food and policing and health. He'd freeze fares for the first year, but recognises the need to balance fare cuts against investment (he's more in favour of rebalancing the fares system to make it fairer). He'd put cyclists "at the heart" of every road junction change, pedestrianise three major London roads — including Oxford Street — bring more rail services under TfL and expand the ultra low emission zone to improve air quality. He's also against HS2, calling it a "grand project attractive to glory-hunting politicians".

On housing, he wants devolved taxes to help fund affordable house building and a review of council tax banding. For renters, he wants to introduce longer tenancies with capped rent rises and an end to "rip off" letting agent fees. He also says he'd 'call in' bad developments — i.e., would use the Mayor's powers to change or cancel projects that just don't meet the needs of Londoners. Policing is the other big area of power at City Hall, and Wolmar wants the Metropolitan police more concentrated on policing within London, rather than national policing, building decent relationships with the community and to focus on traffic safety.

Read more on Christian Wolmar's campaign website.

What we think: Listen to this man when it comes to transport. At the Centre for London hustings, he also proved himself a useful antidote to post-election naval gazing about the direction of Labour, pointing out that the mayor needs to be for all Londoners rather than Labour voters. Not got a prayer of getting selected, but we're very pleased to see him in the mix.

Last Updated 18 June 2015