On 5th May 2016, London will go to the polls to decide it’s new major, replacing the charismatic Boris Johnson. As with the previous elections, Labour and The Conservatives currently lead the polls by a long way, no other party has more than 5% of the vote (Peter Whittle, UKIP) while The Liberal Democrats (Caroline Pidgeon) and The Green Party (Sian Berry) both have 3%. So who are these two candidates and is this election truly the forgotten election or has it just been swallowed up by the EU debate and the American presidential race for the moment?
The leader in the race is the Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan. He has been a member of parliament since 2005 for the London borough of Tooting. He currently holds a lead of 7% in the polls, going up 1% in the latest numbers. He has played to his London roots during his campaign, he often talks about being a Londoner who has stepped up and is fighting for the
good of other Londoners. As far as genuine policies go, his campaign is focused around the housing market (Boris Johnson has come under scrutiny for the rising house prices in London) and freezing public transport prices in London until 2020. Freezing public transport prices is an agreeable policy among Londoners, upset by the consistent price rises. This policy would undoubtedly cost the city money; Khan believes the figure to be around £450 million pounds but Transport for London (TFL) estimate the figure to be a massive £1.9 billion. He has called for George Osborne to take what he calls “emergency action” in the upcoming budget to address London’s housing issues. He plans to build 50,000 homes in London a year (a target Boris Johnson set for himself but has consistently failed to meet). He also plans to use TfL land to build housing, which would keep the building work away from the congested “green belt”.
His rival is Conservative MP (since 2010, for Richmond Borough) Zac Goldsmith, who also saw a rise of 1% in the latest polls. He won the Conservative nomination by a landslide 70.6% but has caused ripples in the Conservative party by saying he would stand down as an MP if the controversial third runway at Heathrow gets built. Most in the Conservative party support the runway, but this act of rebellion has fallen favorably with the general
public, particularly in his constituency. Like Khan, he uses his London roots to his advantage. His campaign is focused around similar issues to Khan, but he has been more focused on the pollution levels in London, he says he wants all new minicabs and delivery vans produced to be electrically driven. How realistic this concept is remains to be seen, producing electric vehicles remains an expensive business. Goldsmith holds the same beliefs as Khan when it comes to the housing market, he says people are being “priced out of their own city”. He has promised to bring creative arts to the masses, he wants to give everyone an opportunity to forge a career acting if they so wish, he described taking a career in the profession as “a huge personal risk”. The arts funding to local councils have been hit hard by the government cuts, something Goldsmith is keen to turn around.
Both candidates have their strengths, but both face issues as well. Kahn has a very public relationship with the ever controversial Jeremy Corbyn, which could sway people away from him if the belief spreads that the pair are close enough for Corbyn’s agenda to influence Kahn too much. Goldsmith meanwhile, has to follow public favorite Boris Johnson as the Conservative nominee. If he were to get elected, there would doubtless be comparisons between the two. Goldsmith will need to step out of Boris’ shadow, make himself his own man to have any chance in this election.
Finally, has the whole thing been forgotten? Is it really just going to be swept under the rug? Well, probably not, no. The two main candidates launched their manifestos barely a week before the time of writing and campaigns for mayoral elections don’t last as long as general elections or referendum’s anyway. The EU debate and the US presidential race may dominate the headlines for a few more weeks but as London’s polling day comes closer, the race will only hot up and become the focus of more people’s attentions.