Sadiq Khan’s manifesto will make London the best city in the world to grow up in

Sadiq Khan is the Mayor that can bring all Londoners together – whereas the Conservatives only seek to divide us

Sadiq Khan

Unmesh Desai is London Assembly Member for City and East, covering Barking and Dagenham, the City of London, Newham, and Tower Hamlets. He is London Assembly Labour’s spokesperson on policing and crime

London Mayor Sadiq Khan stepped up to the challenge of keeping the Tories out of City Hall at his manifesto launch on Thursday. Promising to make London the best city in the world to grow up in, he unveiled a manifesto that builds the broad electoral coalition Labour needs to keep the Conservatives out of power in our capital.

In principle, appealing to all Londoners should be easy. Labour’s record in City Hall is strong and Sadiq has protected Londoners from the worst of the damage the Government has done to the rest of the country.

But after spending the past weeks and months on the campaign trail for my re-election as an Assembly Member, I see some causes for concern about London’s elections.

This will be the first set of elections here with photo ID. Voters must present photograph ID to have their say – something we know is more likely to exclude the very old, the very young as well as those Londoners living in poverty or marginalised groups.

London will see the impacts of this more so than anywhere else in the UK. London’s population is very diverse and the communities least likely to have ID are over-represented here – especially in some of the most deprived communities in East London that I represent.

On top of this, the government has also changed the voting system. Until now, Londoners have had a first and second preference for their Mayoral votes. No one was calling for it to change.

The Conservatives in Westminster, however, have taken away the second preference. Previously some of those who voted Green or Lib Dem would use their second preference to vote Labour. Scrapping the second preference rigs the system in their favour.

Labour’s Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has been explicit in asking Lib Dems and Greens to lend their vote to Labour. While they previously had the opportunity to express their views, the Tories have taken this away, and now they must think far more tactically about their vote. To keep the Tories out we need this sort of co-operation between Labour, Lib Dems and Greens voters.

This is why it’s more important than ever to get the message out about Labour’s positive record in City Hall – and what more we can achieve if Sadiq Khan wins a historic third term as Mayor. A third term which offers the historic chance for a Labour Mayor in City Hall alongside a Labour government at Westminster. 

Many Londoners have raised his flagship programme of free school meals for all primary school children. It’s the first city-wide scheme, supporting low-income families, saving them over £1000 per child over two years.

This is a great policy that works well for London – showing the value of Labour in Government to many of those who may not have previously voted for us. At the moment, for families struggling with the rising cost of living, it is providing a reason to get out and vote – especially when we know that the Conservative candidate, Susan Hall, has talked about scrapping the scheme.

This is on top of the suite of policies that reflect Labour’s values that were rewarded by Londoners in the 2021 election – the TfL fares freeze, Sadiq’s record-breaking housebuilding programme, his protections for our environment and record investment in new transport links.

If we win a third term for a Labour Mayor, Londoners will see more policies like these. Labour will introduce baby banks in every London borough for families to access free essentials for their children. Operating similarly to food banks, baby banks will provide families with items including nappies, toiletries, bedding and feeding equipment.

This is on top of Khan already vowing to end rough sleeping for good by 2030, build 40,000 new council homes by the end of the decade, deliver affordable “rent control homes”, and offer young people studying in the city a new version of the EU’s Erasmus scheme.

None of this would be possible without Labour Assembly Members to back in the Mayor – and to hold the Government’s feet to the fire. As a group we’ve seen big successes – such as my campaign to make attacks on shop workers a specific offense, following my colleagues’ wins from pushing for the much-overdue lift to Local Housing Allowance, calling for action on childhood hunger, causing the government to u-turn on its plans to close station ticket offices, working with women’s groups to secure a national domestic abuse register and pushing to make misogyny a hate crime.

Even though we have been building a better future for London, making the case for Labour is harder when the Conservatives have been running a scare campaign. Many will have seen their lies about pay-per-mile. For those who have managed to avoid this conspiracy theory, this is a form of road user charging that replaces taxes previously gathered through fuel duty with a form of charging based on how much you drive. Rishi Sunak himself has considered it in the past, but it is something that Sadiq Khan has explicitly ruled out in London. That hasn’t stopped the Conservatives pushing out misinformation that drivers could start getting fines under this make-believe scheme – something election fact checkers have labelled as deceptive and which has been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Conservatives have also sought to use crime to divide our city. In a repeat of their unsuccessful 2016 campaign, they have sought to draw a caricature of the Mayor as dangerous. It’s a bad faith argument – London’s police force has seen more than £1 billion cut from its budgets from the Government, with City Hall plugging the gap. Sadiq has stepped up, doubling police spending over his two terms.

Sadiq has also made some difficult decisions to oversee our police force – not least accepting the damning findings of the Casey Review and implementing the wide-ranging change demanded if the Met is to have the trust and confidence of Londoners.

We know that too many Londoners are victims of crime. But it is wilfully ignorant for the Conservatives to point the finger at the Mayor when he has been cleaning up the messes made by the Government for years now. Members of all progressive parties must not let the Tories lie to the public about their complicity in the under-funding of our police force.

We must also be honest with ourselves that many Londoners look to City Hall for leadership on international issues. If Labour is to be victorious again in London, we know we need to be a voice on issues that are important to Londoners.

In the area of London that I represent – stretching from the City to the outer boundary of Barking and Dagenham – I know that thousands of people are feeling the impacts of the war in the Middle East.

My constituents feel passionately about a political solution that sees an end to the violence – respecting a two state solution where everyone gets to enjoy legal and political rights.

On top of that, I know that many Londoners are facing a rise in Islamophobia and Antisemitism – where they are unfairly held to account for the actions of those thousands of miles away.

In the face of such suffering in Israel and in Gaza, I know that Londoners will want to look beyond our strong record in London. Many will want to elect a Mayor who sees that we live in an international city – and will use their position to advocate on an international stage.

Over recent months, we have seen how vital it is that we have a Mayor who can bring together London’s diverse communities. Sadiq has been calling for a ceasefire since early November, adding his voice to those working towards a cessation of hostilities.

On top of this, I am pleased that Sadiq Khan has met with Jewish and Muslim faith leaders, consistently since October, to hear their experiences of rising hate crime. He has also not shied away from using his platform to show the extent to which Londoners want to see peace in the Middle East. That is the sort of leadership that brings people to support him – and should be commended.

Contrast this with Susan Hall, who, when asked about her comments that have been labelled as racist, said they were just “hurty words”. I cannot emphasize enough, in a context of rising hate crime, how irresponsible this is.

Sadiq Khan is the Mayor that can bring all Londoners together – whereas the Conservatives only seek to divide us. On May 2nd, you have the chance to vote for the Mayor, your constituency Assembly Member and the Londonwide list. Please, use all your votes for Labour.

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