What has the last year meant for London?
The past year has been the most difficult of many Londoners’ lives and has been defined by suffering and sacrifice. Both on a personal and professional level it has taken an immense toll – socially and economically. Yet, even in the midst of a global pandemic, Londoners have come together. I have seen and heard so many stories about people in our city supporting and encouraging one another through these most challenging of times.
What are the key issues Londoners are telling you they will be voting on?
London is the greatest city in the world – but I have a 1945-style plan to build an even better, safer and greener London after the pandemic. Londoners tell me again and again that the housing crisis needs further action – which is why I’ll continue to build more genuinely affordable housing including council homes and campaign for the introduction of rent controls. As a father I share Londoners’ concerns about crime rising in our capital once lockdown lifts, which is why I’ll continue to invest record amounts in being tough on crime and tough on its causes. Londoners have also repeatedly said that they want a green recovery. Under my leadership I’ve set a target for our city to be net-zero by 2030, doubling the size of the green jobs sector by the end of the decade too.
You are, of course, running for a second term. How do you assess your own record so far as mayor?
I’m extremely proud of the achievements made during my first term which includes investing £70m in the Young Londoners Fund to help give those at risk of getting caught up in crime positive and constructive opportunities. Since 2016 I have started a record number of affordable homes with more council homes begun in the last year than in any year since 1983. I entered City Hall determined to clean up London’s toxic air and we have seen toxic air pollution fall by more than a third in central London, as well as increasing the number of protected cycle lanes in our capital fivefold. On top of that, Transport for London fares were frozen over five years and we introduced the hopper bus fare, saving Londoners hundreds of pounds.
If, as the polls suggests, you defeat Shaun Bailey in the upcoming mayoral election, what will be your priorities for your next term as mayor?
The only poll that matters to me is the one on 6 May and I will be doing all I can to make sure that London stays Labour. The pandemic has been devastating for many of London’s key industries including leisure, tourism and hospitality. More than 300,000 Londoners have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis and some have shared with me their concerns about the future. My priority is getting them back to work, that’s why my relentless focus for this election and beyond will be jobs, jobs, jobs. But beyond that, there’s so much work to do as part of London’s recovery from the pandemic to build a better, greener and fairer city.
London is a diverse city. How do you plan to ensure it remains a beacon in a post-Brexit world?
This city has given me and my family everything and I will always stand up for London, its openness and its inclusivity. London is a place where you can be who you want to be, love who you want to love and where anyone can achieve their full potential. Whichever way you slice it, the deal we got from the EU was not as good as full membership so my message to EU Londoners is simple, this is your home and always will be. The election on May 6th is a two-horse race between me and the Tory candidate who has shown time and time again, through his appalling views on women, diversity and our working-class communities that he simply does not share London’s values.
Although there is huge support for Labour in London, this is not reciprocated across the country. Why do you think this is – and how does the party need to change in order to win in 2024?
The wonderful thing about elections is they enable everyone to have a say. Voters will let you know whether they think you’re doing well or if you’ve let them down. The loss of Red Wall seats should concern every one of us on the left as it was a sign that people in those areas no longer trust our party. We must do all we can to win their confidence and earn back that trust. I’ve been impressed by the start Keir Starmer has made in reshaping our party’s priorities – and asking voters right across the country to trust us once more and lend us their vote.
How has the Labour party under Starmer changed?
I have known Keir for many years and he has brought focus and direction to the party leadership. He has shown a deep commitment to rooting out the scourge of antisemitism. Crucially, Keir has also reminded us of the importance of securing power. I know a Labour government can transform lives – but it can only do so by winning elections.
As a Fabian, what is your vision of a Labour city in a Labour country in the 2020s?
I want to see a Labour mayor in City Hall, and a Labour government winning the next general election and going on to invest in public services and devolving more powers to the cities and regions. The first step towards that vision begins with voting for it on May 6.
Image credit: Greater London Authority