Elections. The nation's just had one and the Labour party is in the midst of one. But what's that on the horizon... another election?!
Yes, London has a mayoral election this year. At an event hosted at LSE in association with the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), the five main candidates to be the next mayor of London set out their stall. Well three of the five candidates — incumbent Sadiq Khan from Labour, and Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey both dropped out in the run-up to the event (more on that later), each sending stand-ins from their parties.
Here are the five best bits of policy we heard from the candidates at the hustings.
1. Lots of ideas for changing TfL's fares
Most exciting policy: The candidates all attacked Sadiq Khan's fares freeze, and felt that fares needed fixing. But they each had very different ideas on how to do this. The most attention-grabbing idea came from the Green Party's Sian Berry, who wants to get rid of the transport network's zones system. This would mean there'd be a flat fare for getting around the capital — the current outer zone prices would be brought down to match the central zones, not the other way around. To make up the shortfall in funding this would create for TfL, she believes road users need to pay more (depending on their time of travel and type of vehicle). She also floated the idea of a part-time travelcard.
What did the others say?: Berry was the only candidate to explicitly talk about reducing fares. Liberal Democrat Siobhan Benita said the fare freeze was unsustainable and fares would have to rise — probably in line with inflation. On the flip side, she wants lower fares for lower earners. Independent candidate Rory Stewart argued that the fare freeze will soon be no more, according to Khan's own four-year plan for TfL. He himself would like to see smarter fares through modern technology, like in Singapore (although he was short on detail of what this meant). Bailey's stand-in Stephen Greenhalgh says he'd raise fares in line with CPI, only to find out (amusingly, from Benita) that this isn't Bailey's policy, and that Bailey wants a more dramatic fare raise — RPI + 1%. Khan's stand-in Clare Coghill stuck to defending Khan's record (a theme for the evening).
2. New ideas need to tackle the housing crisis
Most exciting policy: Benita takes this one with a whole host of ideas for tackling London's housing epidemic. She says we need to stop relying on the private sector to build homes as this clearly doesn't work. She also wants to tackle the empty property scandal, look at intergenerational approaches to solving housing issues (pointing out its not only young people affected by the lack of housing), and look at modular technology as fast and effective methods of home building.
What did the others say?: There was a lot of overlap from all the candidates when it on this topic, and there were many attacks on the amount of land TfL is currently selling off. Rory Stewart wants to set up a mayor's building company to use the vast amounts of land that TfL, National Rail and other bodies have access to. Berry, meanwhile wants community led building companies, to build the homes actually needed for specific areas.
3. Too many deputy mayors
Most exciting policy: A bit of a one-off, but a question was asked by the LCCI about appointing a Freight Commissioner. Rory Stewart says that he wouldn't appoint one, as City Hall is currently inundated with bureaucrats, and he would purge the number of deputy mayors — aiming to get the current 12 down to a neater three. This may chime with many who feel that Khan's predilection for deputy mayors or czars has achieved little — such as the perceived ineffectiveness of Amy Lamé as night czar.
What did the others say?: Not much on this point really, but they seemed vaguely in favour of a freight commissioner and Benita did mention appointing others to head up specific issues.
4. Looking at the causes of knife crime
Most exciting policy: Knife crime was the topic probably spoken about the most over the course of the hustings, and like with housing, Siobhan Benita came ready with a bevy of policies to try and quell violent crime. She stated that to tackle knife crime, we needed to look at the root causes. She argued that many young people have too much free time on their hands, often because they've been excluded from school. She wants to foster the idea of inclusion, not exclusion, at schools. She also said that young people get involved with drug gangs (especially those who are excluded), and to tackle these she wants the city to seriously look at drugs reform and legalising cannabis.
What did the others say: There was a lot of overlap here. Most candidates, including Benita, want to see more youth centres open after school. Stewart wants to return to local neighbourhood policing, so that communities know their police force and trust them. Stop and search was a big topic, with Benita and Berry largely against how much it's being used and wanting it to be intelligence-based only, whereas Greenhalgh said that "Stop and search done properly with respect, works." That elicited the only boos from a student-heavy audience all evening.
5. London needs more than a 'mascot mayor'
Most exciting policy: Not a policy so much, but Khan's rivals all attacked the Mayor over how he's shaped the role. There were lots of accusations of him liking to be seen to do things rather than actually doing anything. These candidates claim they'd do more to affect practical day-to-day of life for Londoners. Benita called Khan a 'mascot mayor' and said this shouldn't be a 'ceremonial role'. Stewart said if he had a slogan for the campaign it would be: "Less politics, more action".
What did the others say: Coghill defended Khan, talking about him being an excellent mayor under 'difficult circumstances'. She's referring to the fact that he's had to deal with a central government run by the Conservatives, who aren't eager to work with him whatsoever. She also talked about his record standing up to Donald Trump, which elicited large cheers.