With Boris Johnson not standing for a third term as the Mayor of London (after being elected as the Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip), this will be the first mayoral contest that will not see the big personalities of Ken Livingstone or Boris competing for the top job.
In September, the main parties announced their candidates, and the focus has switched to policies. Whoever wins next May will wield the mayor’s wide-ranging powers over transport, housing, planning, policing and economic development. They will lead a city rapidly heading towards megacity status, with all the opportunities and challenges this brings. So who are the candidates, and what do we know so far about their visions for London?
Conservative: Zac Goldsmith
From a shortlist of four, the Conservative party chose clear favourite Zac Goldsmith MP as their candidate. Goldsmith was elected as MP for Richmond Park in 2010 and sought his constituents’ consent via postal ballot before he formally declared his candidacy. Goldsmith’s policies focus on housing and transport. He called for an emphasis on brownfield development to bring forward new homes, for landlords to offer longer tenancies, and that Right to Buy receipts are retained in London. There is clearly an appetite for integrating suburban rail into Transport for London (TfL) services and for investment in Crossrail 2, with Goldsmith echoing his main rival, Sadiq Khan. Both have also highlighted the issues of facing the taxi industry following the rise of Uber.
Labour: Sadiq Khan
The Labour party selected Sadiq Khan MP who topped a shortlist of six, he beat other well-known contenders including the MP Diane Abbott and long-time bookies favourite Dame Tessa Jowell. Khan, elected to
Parliament in 2005 as the MP for Tooting, previously worked as a human rights lawyer and served as Shadow Minister for London in Ed Miliband’s team.
On housing, Khan has pledged to set up a new team at City Hall dedicated to tackling the housing crisis and to introduce a 50 per cent target for affordable housing. For renters, he proposes to introduce a ‘London Living Rent’ linked to a third of average incomes. Transport is the area over which the Mayor has the greatest power, and Khan’s proposals to freeze tube fares, take more services under TfL and control and secure funding for Crossrail 2 will be of interest to commuters and businesses alike. Khan champions the London Living Wage and plans to reward companies that pay at least £9.15 an hour to their staff.
Liberal Democrats: Caroline Pidgeon
The Liberal Democrats, who finished fourth in the 2012 elections, have selected Caroline Pidgeon as their candidate. Pidgeon is currently the Lib Dem leader on t
he London Assembly, and was elected as a
London wide Assembly Member in 2008. She has long called for the introduction of a one hour bus ticket and is part of the Assembly’s Transport Committee that is looking into the devolution of suburban rail to TfL. Pidgeon also proposes to focus on boosting housing supply and tackling high rent
Green Party: Siân Berry
The Green Party finished third in the 2012 elections, with high-profile candidate Jenny Jones standing. This time their candidate is Siân Berry, a councilor in Camden who previously stood in the 2008 Mayoral elections. Her campaign has focused on affordable housing for Londoners, helping small business with access to finance, and promoting the London Living Wage.
Don’t forget the Assembly
It’s not just the next Mayor that will be elected on 5 May 2016; the 25 seats in the London Assembly are also up for grabs. Several Assembly Members have stood down or gone on to become MPs, and both Pidgeon and Berry are first placed on their regional list. This means that although they are unlikely to be elected as Mayor, we can expect to see them in the Assembly assuming both parties get over five per cent of the vote.
It’s unsurprising that the candidates’ campaigns focus around similar issues. Housing continues to be one of the biggest issue facing Londoners and businesses alike. The Mayor holds the most power over transport in the capital, and increasingly over other provisions such as skills. With opinion polls putting Khan and Goldsmith neck and neck, it’s not a done deal as to who will succeed Boris Johnson. One thing is certain: the candidates must appeal to Londoners from across the capital if they are going to win.
Sophie Mew, Policy and Public Affairs Officer LCCI