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. This clearly put the immediate reason for our exercise to one side. Even so the discussions that had taken place raised a whole range of issues which are important now and will still be important when we return to the election debate next March. We also see it as particularly valuable to maintain public debate during the next 12 months as unpredicted policy changes occur. There are 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 had already addressed 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. The remaining two, to which we will return next year, cover crime and the overarching issue of London’s growth (or, now, indeed decline).
So what we have done here is to review what we had already 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’ next year.
The four blogs discuss:
- Housing Delivery;
- Finance and delivery of transport;
- Partnership and collaboration in land use planning;
- The Metropolitan Economy, Jobs and Equality.
London will be a very different place when the pre-Mayoral election discussions re-start next year. But, equally, there will be many more reasons for politicians, the media and the public to be involved. Our aim is to encourage this involvement.
Christine Whitehead and Ian Gordon