Candidates need to show they have the pragmatism and vision to lead the UK's most successful city
Tomorrow sees the first hustings between the final shortlist of Labour party candidates for the 2016 mayoral election. After weeks of CLP nominations, culminating in a party interview process which took place this Saturday, the Labour party announced their shortlist.
The six potential candidates still standing – Diane Abbott, Tessa Jowell, Sadiq Khan, David Lammy, Gareth Thomas and Christian Wolmar – are seen as occupying positions across the entire Labour spectrum.
With all the big hitters still in contention some will see a party uncertain as to who can best represent it; others will see a party with an enviable surfeit of qualified and well-liked candidates.
The lead-up to the 2016 mayoral election takes place against a backdrop of looming political questions. The recent reading of the Devolution Bill featured just one mention of London. Unsurprisingly, this was attributable to Diane Abbott, a leading mayoral contender.
While parliament talks of metro mayors and a Northern Powerhouse, the question of how to keep London at the top of the national agenda should be at the forefront of candidates’ minds.
Making the case for devolution in manifestos and stump speeches is one thing. Making the case to Number 10 for more power to the UK’s most successful city is another task altogether.
While no date has yet been set, MPs voted overwhelmingly in support of a referendum on EU membership last week. London’s mayors have a tradition of speaking out in favour of immigration, championing the city’s diversity and ability to attract skilled workers from all over the world.
With so much of London’s trade, investment and talent tied up in the EU (and vice versa), Labour’s candidate must demonstrate they can make the case for remaining in Europe.
What then can we expect from the first hustings of the final Labour candidates? Issues-wise, London’s housing crisis looks set to dominate discussion.
At a time when voters of all backgrounds are feeling the effects of London’s housing shortage, Labour’s candidates would do well to come armed with policies rather than platitudes.
Inequality is another popular theme among candidates. The ‘tale of two cities’ trope, lifted from Dickens so successfully in Bill de Blasio’s New York campaign, has featured in articles and speeches by no fewer than five of the six shortlisted candidates.
Hopefully this week’s hustings will provide candidates with an opportunity to set themselves apart and to present some meaningful solutions to London’s inequality problem.
Beyond the philosophical issues of housing and inequality, candidates are likely to be grilled on more prosaic choices currently dominating London politics, including funding of the Garden Bridge, expansion of Heathrow or Gatwick and introduction of a London minimum wage.
Candidates will need to show enough pragmatism to make such decisions in the short-term, and enough vision to show they can lead London in the long-term.
Tomorrow evening, Centre for London hosts the shortlisted candidates in a public hustings. Let’s hope that it is just the beginning of an engaged and ambitious mayoral contest.
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