Next month’s mayoral election is the first election since the creation of the post to guarantee a non-incumbent mayor. Over the past six months, Londoners, or those who follow politics at least, are now on first name terms with Zac and Sadiq, or Sadak, to give them their collective portmanteau. This evening, Centre for London will host a head to head with Sadiq and Zac. Ahead of the debate, here’s three things we’ve learnt from the candidate manifestos so far.
Firstly, it is not just the candidates’ names that elide so neatly. A review of the leading candidates’ manifestos reveals a range of policies supported by both candidates. Neither have dared to upset the sacred cows of previous London Mayoral elections, both pledging to protect the green belt, and to ring-fence funding for free travel for the over 60s. When it comes to confronting London’s housing crisis, both have exercised caution in committing to those policies perceived to be more controversial. This includes estate regeneration and the development of tall buildings, where both candidates have pledged community consultation and the preservation of the “character of the local area.” The candidates may accept the need for more houses, but it remains to be seen where this development will be permitted to take place.
Secondly, a read of the manifestos, and a scan of much of the language used, reveals the limitations of the mayoral role. Whoever is elected will have next to no formal powers over schools, health services or the criminal justice system. Taxation remains remarkably centralised. The boroughs are relatively powerful, and central government much more so. The result? An awful lot of tackling, working with, and ensuring.
Thirdly, both candidates appear willing to make changes to the structure and mechanisms of the GLA. Between them, Sadiq and Zac have proposed more than a dozen new roles, agencies and taskforces. Sadiq is placing his faith in the ability of individual mayoral agencies to address London’s housing crisis, including Homes for London, and a London-wide rental agency to be run as a not for profit. What remains to be seen, however, is the extent to which these agencies will be in-house or arms-length, and the extent to which agencies themselves will be responsible for delivery as well as setting strategy. Both candidates have also promised to appoint a chief digital officer, as was recommended in our Digital Manifesto for London, though differ significantly in the remit of the role, with Sadiq placing an emphasis on cyber security and digital inclusion, and Zac focusing on data analytics.
As we move into the final stages of the election, our focus moves from what the candidates are promising to deliver, to how exactly they will do so. Here’s hoping that this evening’s debate will shed at least some light on the matter.
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