Thursday, 10 March 2016

Khan and Goldsmith, Start Engaging

You would never think it from most of the coverage, but one of the candidates for Mayor of London is one of this country's most experienced and recognisable politicians.

The man, rather than the ball, is played so often and so hard against George Galloway that neither the Prime Minister nor the Speaker of the House of Commons expressed any sympathy when he suffered the worst physical attack on a sitting Member of Parliament in recent decades. 

But then, on his first day as the Honourable Member for Bradford West, David Cameron had referred to him by his name instead on the floor of the House, and John Bercow had issued no rebuke. 

For months and even years after Galloway's election at Bethnal Green and Bow, the BBC and others had treated as a far more significant figure the MP whom he had defeated after a single term in which she had neither attained even the lowliest Government office, nor exhibited even the tiniest independence of mind. 

Having unsuccessfully sought her party's nomination for Mayor of London last time, she has appeared briefly on one of the less watched examples of reality television, and she is now a member of the House of Lords, as perhaps befits someone the second paragraph of whose Wikipedia entry links to the Wikipedia entries of her father, her maternal aunt, her maternal aunt's son, her paternal grandfather, and her paternal uncle. 

Clearly, from Bethnal Green and Bow, to Bradford West, votes do not count if they are cast for George Galloway. Yet the bookmakers have him in third place for the position of Mayor of London, which is determined by the Supplementary Vote. 

Both Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, neither of whom stands any realistic chance of winning outright on first preferences, had better start engaging with his policy proposals. The following questions are addressed to each of them, and indeed to each of the other Mayoral candidates. No, I do not live in London. But its governance affects us all. And in any case, try answering the questions. 

Will you require and insist that any housing project submitted for your approval must be comprised of 50 per cent affordable housing? Will you define affordable housing as 50 per cent of average rents, not the 80 per cent that is currently the case? Will you fight to introduce legislation to take back idle properties and developments that are not lived in, rented, or used for business purposes by their owners? 

Will you be a voice on the national stage to bring this issue to the centre of our political debate, seeking allies in all parties and in all parts of the country, to crack down on the speculators, and to make sure that our national priority became the provision of affordable and decent housing for all? 

In introducing an all-night Tube service, will you make sure that workers are properly consulted on the process, are properly recompensed, and are not forced into working long, unsocial, and potentially dangerous hours? 

Will you ban HGV vehicles from Central London during daytime hours, in a bid to reduce fuel emissions during those hours? Will you invest in more cycle lanes and initiatives that make it safer to cycle around London? Are you against a third runway at Heathrow, since Gatwick offers a better alternative?

Will you support moves to renationalise the rail network? Will you be a leading voice at national level demanding that this country follow Australia's example of forcing Uber to pay VAT, and take the international lead in requiring Uber to pay its fair share of corporation tax? 

Do you propose to merge the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police? (Based purely on my own limited experience, that is not necessarily my view, in that the City of London Police and I once had very fruitful dealings. But I claim no expertise.) Do you propose a substantial increase in the recruitment of black and minority ethnic Police Officers? Do you propose a zero tolerance attitude to racism within London's Police Force? 

Will you end the scandal of stop and search, which has marginalised ethnic minority communities? Will you give greater powers to the Police to deal with hate crimes? Will you deliver greater spending to ensure the protection of places of worship such as mosques, synagogues and churches? 

Will you turn the Oyster Card into an interest free debit card that can be used in shops and restaurants, for other services, and for the transfer of money abroad, either in family remittances or simply when parents needed to send emergency funds to their children overseas? In that sense, will you turn City Hall into a publicly owned People's Bank? 

Will you put the £18 billion annual City Hall budget online in real time, absolutely transparently, so that every expenditure, by every department and official including the Mayor, was visible to the public, and was thus able to be criticised instantly? To achieve this, will you use the BlockChain technology developed by London's red hot FinTech industry, currently based in the Shoreditch Corridor? 

Will you end immediately all fire station closures, and all cuts to London's fire services? Will you reverse the cuts that have already been made to this vital, lifesaving public service? Have you a close working relationship with the London Fire Brigades Union, such as could be used to ensure that Londoners enjoyed the world class fire service that they deserved? 

In view of London's unique contribution and requirements, will you campaign to have a "London NHS", with its own budget run directly by City Hall, allowing the Mayor to ensure that Londoners had access to a healthcare service suited to the unique pressures and challenges faced by a global city in the twenty-first century?

The answer to none of these questions involves milk, cats, leotards, Celebrity Big Brother, the Middle East in general, or the long dead Saddam Hussein in particular. But answering them does require courage and indefatigability.

1 comment:

  1. HuffPo spiked this, I take it. You should be very proud. I mean that.