In early March when London was starting to think about the Mayoral election scheduled for May 2020, we organised a short series of roundtables to address major policy areas. The objective was straightforward – to bring together a range of people who were well informed, both about London politics and the challenges a Mayor would face, to develop a set of questions that might productively (and publicly) be put to the candidates. But there was also another ambition: to help develop a continuing policy debate in the media and among a wider public – something which has been almost entirely lacking.
One issue that had already emerged was the Mayor’s lack of interest in taking part in pre-election hustings (including our own held in early February) – presumably on the basis that he had no wish to be challenged and anyway the election appeared to be a forgone conclusion. With the Conservative candidate following suite, such debate as there would be, was going to be pretty deficient. But when are the major issues facing London to be addressed if not as part of the Mayoral election process?
And then – after 4 of our planned series of 6 events had taken place – the Covid19 lockdown brought a 12-month postponement of all the May elections. Even so the discussions that had taken place raised a whole range of issues which are still important for the election debate. We also saw it as particularly valuable to maintain public debate during the following 12 months as unpredicted policy changes occurred. There were already examples with respect to the transport budget and fares; the delivery of developer contributions to support affordable housing; and the dynamics between the GLA and central government on many fronts.
The four topics we addressed last year were housing, transport and land use planning– where it was relatively easy to identify major policy issues and the critical questions that candidates would need to answer; and employment, jobs and inequality where the issues were more broad-brush.
So what we did initially was to review what we had learned, both as an immediate contribution to the policy debate, much needed in the rapidly changing environment, and as a baseline for re-opening ‘question time’ in 2021.
The first four blogs from the 2020 series of roundtables discussed:
- Housing Delivery;
- Finance and delivery of transport;
- Partnership and collaboration in land use planning;
- The Metropolitan Economy, Jobs and Equality.
Therefore, following the 12-month postponement of all May elections due to Covid, London Mayoral election was confirmed on 6 May 2021. So, we decided to resume our series of roundtables and events to discuss the key policy issues facing the new Mayor of London after the elections, ranging from the London’s plan, transport and policing in London, the Mayor’s political leadership, London’s growth to-the levelling up agenda.
London is now a very different place as the pre-Mayoral election discussions re-started in March 2021. But, equally, there are many more reasons for politicians, the media and the public to be involved in the debate.
Christine Whitehead and Ian Gordon