Posted: 10.12.14

2016 Mayor: In the image of Londoners

Further to the Change London paper on ‘A deeper democracy’, which outlines the ideas and visions for the next mayor, the organisation held an open meeting at the Abbey Centre titled Changing London. Those speaking on their visions for the next mayor

ChangeLondon.14.12.10

Further to the Change London paper on ‘A deeper democracy’, which outlines the ideas and visions for the next mayor, the organisation held an open meeting at the Abbey Centre titled Changing London. Those speaking on their visions for the next mayor were Bharat Mehta (Trust for London), Radhika Bynon (Young Foundation) and Rosie Ferguson (London Youth), Christian Wolmar (transport commentator) as well as David Lammy MP (Lab, Tottenham), Tessa Jowell MP (Lab, Dulwich and West Norwood), and Baroness (Oona) King of Bow (Lab) was the chair of the event.

David Robinson introduced the conversation, conversation being the operative word as Change London seem to be keen on the pervasiveness of a common and shared dialogue, and set the scene of a diverse city rich in opportunities.  However, Robinson stated that the wealthier boroughs of London tend to live 25 years longer than the poorer ones. He emphasised the small number of people who voted in the last mayoral election and the need to address the apathy of those who did not vote. ‘A deeper democracy’ is seen as a rough guide for the next mayor.

Participative politics was a point Robinson, and the paper, emphasise and last night’s conversation was the spark to light the match perhaps not just for what is required from the Mayor but what is required for London by Londoners. This social agenda set the tone for the speakers.

Interestingly, the ‘non-politicians’ all seemed to have a shared vision of a mayor that fosters a grassroots-up approach. Radhika Bynon started the discussion with a particular focus on the value of neighbourhoods and children. Bynon wants children in the capital to flourish regardless of their postcode and envisages this will be achieved through a mayor that provides an infrastructure and ethos for communities. Rosie Ferguson discussed London’s children being given the opportunity to develop their skills and consequently, their life chances. Bharat Mehta was keen on the next mayor introducing a living rent and a ‘good city index’ ensuring the capital contributes globally in culture, science and technology.

The political platform was not exploited by the politicians who contributed to the conversation from personal perspectives too drawing on their experience of living in London and speaking with Londoners. David Lammy MP was adamant that if there is a pursuit of ‘another generation of tower blocks’ he does not want to be party to it, he continued that the next mayor should commit to mid-rise buildings. He felt that house-building needs to involve communities more and relayed that only 40 council homes were built in 2013, and this really needs to be addressed, however, the mayor will need to go further than a reliance on the private sector. Tessa Jowell MP focused on social inequality within the capital. The next mayor, she commented, needs to ensure power resides with local communities and this can be orchestrated through parish councils as they can be trusted to act and spend monies responsibly. Regarding housing, Christian Wolmar stressed the importance of rent controls to ensure stability for tenants and communities. He suggested a strong housing development corporation might be fruitful in tackling the capital’s housing shortage.

The mayoral election might be far from the concerns of Westminster, but for London the spark last night was lit to prepare the springboard for the next mayor. It was a pragmatic and candid dialogue between the audience and the speakers. A point of significance was perhaps the necessity for the next mayor which will be that they are created in the image of Londoners. Moreover, it is about the person in the personality of the mayor highlighted through the engagement of the people.