Tomorrow at 9.15 the Conservative Party will announce who has won the selection contest in the race to succeed Boris Johnson as London Mayor. It is widely expected that the MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith – who is supported by Boris – will win the candidacy and face Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate for the London Mayoral election. How do the two candidates compare on two of the key election issues?
As London’s population is set to rise to 10 million by 2030, and with house prices in the borough of Westminster currently 24 times local salaries, housing is set to dominate the mayoral election.
In the red corner, Khan said at the Labour party conference in Brighton that housing would be a priority issue for his administration if he won the Mayoral election. He said that the Tories have failed to build the homes that Londoners need and called on Goldsmith to oppose the Government’s Housing Bill.
Khan wants to establish a team in City Hall called Homes for Londoners, which would work with developers and councils to speed up the delivery of affordable housing. He has also called for a devolution deal for London to include new powers over housing, skills, investment, health and crime and justice.
Goldsmith has also faced up to the Capital’s housing crisis head-on, acknowledging that “without radical change in the way we build homes, London will cease to be liveable for the very people who make it so successful.” He says there is no shortage of land, and has noted that the Government have launched a Land Commission for London to identify publicly owned brownfield land. It is expected that the commission will publish its findings in November or December of this year and it will reveal the vast swaths of the capital that could be developed. Once the land has been identified, Goldsmith says that we should channel foreign investment into a pan-London fund to finance new homes.
Therefore both agree that there is a housing crisis that needs addressing, but do they agree on the environment?
Goldsmith is a prominent environmentalist having served as editor of The Ecologist from 1998 to 2007 and he continues to commentate and campaign on air quality in the capital. Goldsmith spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on air pollution in London and city regions in June 2015, but Khan did not. However, just as Goldsmith has placed housing front-and-centre of his campaign, Khan has since been more vocal on the issue.
Since his nomination, Khan has outlined a number of green initiatives, including the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street and the promise to turn London into a National Park City. He would also implement a major extension of the “ultra-low emissions zone” so that it covers most of the central zones one and two, as well as key arterial routes into the capital. We can expect more policies from both over the coming months as the Mayoral race really gathers momentum.
Both candidates have taken steps to neutralise one another’s key strengths before the official race has even begun. These moves come from the knowledge that London is an extremely diverse city, filled with multiple voter groups, and that they need to appeal to those outside of their traditional support base. The second preferences of Green, Liberal Democrat and UKIP voters will be crucial to this contest, so I expect that the debate will continue to centre on these two topics, but to proliferate and encompass many others also, including transport and immigration.