Just 12 weeks before the London’s next Mayoral Election, LSE hosted the LCCI and LSE Hustings event attracting students, staff, and the general public into the walls of our New Academic Building. The candidates were set to define why they should be Mayor of London, given their positions and proposed solutions to a selection of London’s high-priority issues. In case you missed it and would like to see a recording of it, click here.
LSE London’s Director, Tony Travers, led the conversation with the final electoral panel consisting of Sian Berry for the Green Party, Siobhan Benita for the Liberal Democrats, and Rory Stewart as an Independent candidate. The candidates Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party and Shaun Bailey of the Conservative Party were both ‘no show’, sending stand-ins to present their respective cases. These stand-ins were: Clare Coghill on behalf of Sadiq Khan and Stephen Greenhalgh on behalf of Shaun Bailey. Khan tweeted and posted a video on YouTube apologising for his absence while also briefly putting forth his case for why he should keep his job as Mayor.
Most of the candidates took issue with the absence of the Labour and Conservatives candidates, suggesting that this illustrated apathy and inaction. Since both parties have a history of sending representatives to these events in previous elections (see 2016 Mayoral Elections hustings coverage from Construction Manager Magazine, CIHT News, and BBC), candidate Benita suggested there should be an ‘empty chair’ policy at future hustings.
The programme aimed to address key issues of transport fares, housing, freight, and knife crime. While migration and Brexit, devolution, and climate change were on the agenda, time constraints did not allow for direct discussion and debate.
Travers asked the candidates the title question of the event: why they (or the candidate they are representing) should they be Mayor of London?
Coghill argued that Khan’s track record spoke for itself especially when it comes to the impact his policies have had on the daily lives of Londoners including the hopper fares, cycling and walking infrastructure, improved air quality, Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ), and affordable housing delivery.
Greenhalgh put forth his case for Bailey echoing American political slogans that place safety at as the primary concern of the Conservative’s campaign; to ‘make London safe again’ Bailey plans to increase police officers.
Berry also called on her track record as a local Councillor and London Assembly member where she feels like her influence is considerable on Khan’s policies including rent controls, ballots for estate residents, and money for youth services, key items in the Green’s original manifesto.
Benita noted that London dares to be different in its choices for Mayor and it is time for a female, Liberal Democrat Mayor to tackle problems around crime, housing, transportation, and business.
Stewart argued that more action, less rhetoric, is necessary to get things done; for him, politics is not about the plan but about the method of delivery, how delivery gets done.
The conversation was dominated by obvious uncertainty over Khan’s plans regarding ‘flat fares’ post-election, as well as concern for suburban commuters. When asked about their fares policies, Berry proposed to reduce the number of zones, gradually decreasing fares over time and smarter and fairer road pricing system where drivers also contribute.
Benita suggested that the freeze fare policy needs to be revised to be brought in line with inflation while also floating the idea of lower fares for people on lower incomes.
Coghill once again called on Khan’s record of implementing popular policies such as the hopper fare and the night tube and underground, noting that the fare freeze would continue.
The latter point was taken up by Stewart when he noted that Khan’s Looking Forward policy was to increase by RPI + 1%. When pressed to explain his proposal he favoured the Singapore smart fare pricing model to manage congestion and travel time as well as a system where TfL was a self-sustaining entity without having to resort to selling off land.
Greenhalgh admitted that, other than criticism of Khan’s plan, he was not prepared to explain Bailey’s proposals to address the fare system.
Travers then changed the subject to housing asking the candidates how they would try to raise the number of housing delivery considering that under successive mayors the feat has not been accomplished. Coghill noted that Khan’s ambitious targets for the city which ‘leaves no stone unturned’ to support London councils to provide genuinely affordable homes.
Greenhalgh pointed to Bailey’s plans to make use of public land, creating an agency called Housing for London (it is unclear what this agency would do though the representative said he fully supported), and to focus on brownfield development.
Stewart proposed a Mayor’s building company to build the affordable housing that London needs on Transport for London land.
Berry proposed a People’s Land Commission using the Hackney model to map out the small sites where affordable homes could be built.
Benita argued that London needs to stop relying on the private sector to deliver the homes because the pace has not been fast enough; she echoed other calls to use TfL land as well as being more open to new technologies such modular off build sites.
When it came to the Question and Answer session, freight was a brief topic of conversation with most candidates agreeing that we should be using the river more and generally reducing the number of cars on the road. Most of the conversation was focused on knife crime and the candidates’ proposals to address. The question asked about the practical issues that are needed to address the deeper underlying issues, the motivations behind knife crimes.
Benita pointed to her work at a Parliament Commission looking at the very heart of the question noting that the focus needs to be on early intervention and prevention, namely three specific policies including increasing youth services, strengthening inclusion programmes, and legalising cannabis. With regards to stop and search, Benita argued that it should be used with intelligence rather than the current blanket approach which evidence shows does not work and increases distrust between police and communities.
Greenhalgh decided to ponder about the reasons for the increase in violence citing an unnamed UCL academic that argued that gang evolution in terms of size increased alongside a widening drug supply in London.
Stewart argued that ‘stop and search’ can work if done properly and in special circumstances where it is necessary to investigate someone who may be carrying a knife as well as return to good neighbourhood policing.
Coghill emphasises that what the country has learned about knife crime requires in-depth attention, there is no quick fix, short-term solution. A long term response is necessary. This involves close scrutiny and revisions of how ‘stop and search’ is being used.
Berry called attention to the early 2000s when the policy was ramping up enforcement noting that she is seeing a return to the increased and indiscriminate mass use of the policy – which reduces community confidence and trust. She allowed for nuanced and informed use of ‘stop and search’ and an increase of youth services stopping the cutbacks.
The event concluded with each candidate and their representative briefly reflecting on the night’s conversation and debate. The candidates then echoed a version of their answers to the question posed by the event.
You can view a recording of the event on LSE’s Facebook page.