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“Why London’s new mayor won the election”
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“Why London’s new mayor won the election”

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Ruth Adeyi picLondon’s mayoral election drew international interest, writes Ruth Adeyi, 23, a Correspondent from London, UK, as she looks at the issues behind the headlines in that campaign.

London is well known for the different cultures, languages and diverse values of its 8.6 million people. The recent mayoral election has highlighted the need for a mayor who embraces this diversity.

Sadiq Khan, who won the election, recognises London’s identity. Khan secured 1,310,143 votes (57 per cent), beating Conservative opponent Zac Goldsmith who achieved just 94,614 (43 per cent) votes. It has given Khan the largest personal mandate in UK political history.

Over the past few months, I’ve watched the debate between Goldsmith and Khan. In the beginning, both candidates appeared reluctant to attack each other. Khan stated “I’ve come across Zac Goldsmith before he became the candidate. He’s a nice bloke. He really is a nice bloke. He’s charming, he’s personable, he’s interesting. Before he was selected I was asked publicly on a couple of occasions about the Tory contest and I said I hoped it was Zac. Why? Because I thought we would have a great campaign fizzing with ideas”.

As the campaign progressed, the election turned aggressive towards Khan. Goldsmith insisted “I’m up against someone who poses a real danger”. In the Tories’ destructive stance, Goldsmith’s campaign featured a photo of the July 7 bombings titled “Are we really going to hand the world’s greatest city to a Labour party that thinks terrorists are its friends?” During his campaign, Goldsmith maintained that Khan had “given platforms, oxygen and even cover – over and over and over again – to those who seek to do our police and capital harm”. At the core, the campaign was fueled by racial and religious politics. Khan was presented as “radical” and an “extremist”.

In London, 40 per cent of residents were born outside of England and Wales. The Muslim population accounts for 12 per cent of London, and in some boroughs up to 30 per cent. On Goldsmith’s campaign, senior Conservative politician Andrew Boff said, “It was ridiculous… I do believe it’s going to affect Conservatives at the sharp end, especially in those parts of London where there is a high Muslim population. I mentioned that I thought this was a mistake for future integration in London. If you are a London politician this is just a bizarre thing to do.”

Across the world, in response to Sadiq Khan’s win, his religion has also been viewed as a major issue – even more important than his politics. Headlines across the world read “Sadiq Khan likely to become the first Muslim mayor of London”. Broadcaster TF1 questioned “Sadiq Khan: Muslim, immigrant’s son, self-made man – and future mayor”? The Metronews described Khan “the first Muslim mayor of a European capital”.

Throughout the entire elections, there was very little discussion of either candidate’s plans. On his website, Khan is celebrating the “overcome [of] a desperate and nasty Tory campaign”. He describes his victory as “hope over fear and for unity over division” Given Sadiq Khan’s win, here is an outline of his ten goals:

  1. Tackle the housing crisis by building thousands of homes that are “genuinely affordable”
  2. Freeze London transport fares for four years and introduce fairer fares- the bus hopper one hour ticket
  3. Make London safer by addressing neighbourhood policing, gangs, knife crime, and extremism
  4. To work with businesses to deliver skills, infrastructure, and growth in London
  5. To restore London’s air travel by encouraging alternative greener travel
  6. Set up skills based opportunities for Londoners to train and meet the needs of the economy
  7. Tackle low pay, by working with employers to increase the living wage across London
  8. Work to challenge gender inequality, particularly the pay gap
  9. Make cycling safer by creating more cycle routes, taking action on dangerous junctions and making lorries safer on London roads
  10. Encouraging London to be open, accessible and tolerant to all. To be free from prejudice

London accounts for two-thirds of the Labour Party’s parliamentary constituents. According to pollsters, the key issues for voters is transport and housing. The responsibility of any London Mayor includes supporting economic growth and wealth formation, supporting social development and improving the environment. Under what the Greater London Authority (GLA) describes as “few direct service and delivery powers”, only time will tell what Sadiq Khan is able to achieve as the London Mayor.

photo credit: Tower Hill at Night via photopin (license)
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About me: My name is Ruth and I live in London. My main interest is the “International Drug Complex”. Using existing research on the failed “war on drugs”, I hope to draw awareness to how the international community and legal intervention in different countries is re-interpreting drugs, the drug market, and law enforcement.

My other interests include feminist theory, international trade and labour, climate change and environmental policy, and issues of social justice.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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