With slightly less than a month to go, this week we are launching LDN’s dedicated 2019 General Election section, which focuses on developments in the capital and the Home Counties.
Read on for the latest candidate selections and electoral pacts, as well as a heads up on who is on the campaign trail in London (and where). It is always useful to see where the first serious candidate appearances take place as it gives a good read on where the parties think they have a chance or alternatively, where they are worried they might be in for a fight. Sadiq’s weekend haunts certainly chimed with our ‘seats to watch’ map – Chipping Barnet, Putney and Hornsey and Wood Green all had a visit from the Mayor.
But LDN, as ever, continues to keep a close eye on the big issues for London and the next big electoral contest – May 2020’s Mayoral and Assembly Elections. Despite recent polling that looks pretty good for him (but less positive for the Greens and Lib Dems) Sadiq may be concerned by recently-released housing stats, troubles across the transport network and brewing industrial action.
On a more sombre note, this week we were saddened to hear of two deaths. Former Labour MP, Minister and Mayoral candidate Frank Dobson, passed away on Monday following a long illness; our Chairman Robert Gordon Clark reflects on his life and times in a brief blog on our website. Meanwhile, Conservative Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has suffered the unexpected loss of a younger brother and will understandably take a few days away from the campaign trail.
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LATEST MAYORAL POLLING
The Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) last week released its latest Mayoral voting intention polling. It was good news for Sadiq on several counts, not least because he increased his share of the first preference vote by 2% since the last QMUL poll in May, to 45%. The Conservatives’ Shaun Bailey is steady (though still a distant second) at 23%, while Independent Rory Stewart – who features in the polling for the first time, only having announced his candidacy last month – came in at third place, with 13%. Lib Dem and Green candidates Siobhan Benita and Sian Berry did not fare quite so well, with Benita seeing her share of the first preference vote fall from 10% to 8% and Berry’s tumbling from 16% to 7%. Respondents were also asked to indicate their preferences in a series of hypothetical head-to-head scenarios involving Khan and one other candidate and the incumbent came on top in every case. The poll additionally tested satisfaction with the Mayor’s performance and here too Sadiq emerged a winner, with a net positive score of +9% (up from +6% back in May). So whilst there’s still six months to go to the GLA elections and the small matter of the general election in between, the current Mayor will be quietly pleased with this latest poll.
DOWN THE TUBES?
It’s been a troubling week for transport in London:
- A leaked version of the HS2 review report seen by The Times recommends that the project go ahead, despite its delayed delivery and increased cost, which the document notes is now likely to amount to over £88bn. However, the deputy chair of the review Lord Berkeley has distanced himself from the document, saying that he is concerned about ‘the report’s preparation and its outcome’.
- Crossrail has now been confirmed to be even further delayed and more expensive than previously estimated. The already overdue and over-budget project will now not open within the six-month window (between October 2020 and March 2021) introduced after it missed its original opening date of December 2018, but ‘as soon as practically possible’ in 2021. The delay will incur additional costs of between £400m and £650m, increasing the overall cost to £18bn. The original budget for the project was £15.4bn.
- GLA data seen by City A.M. has shown that the Northern, Central and Victoria Lines operate at over 100% capacity during morning rush hour. However, TfL has released a new timetable for the Victoria Line, according to which a train will arrive every 100 seconds at peak times.
- In an interview on LBC, Sadiq apologised for the poor service of the Woolwich ferries, which have been affected by numerous problems since they were put into operation last year. Ongoing technical issues have disrupted the journeys of thousands of passengers, while ferry staff went on strike earlier this year over safety standards.
- TfL data has shown that there is almost £400m sitting on Oyster cards which have been out of use for over 12 months. TfL says that it is using the unclaimed funds to make improvements to its network, while reassuring customers that they will still be able to use their cards and reclaim any money left on them.
- Campaigners against the controversial Silvertown Tunnel, which is expected to soon be given the final go ahead, have written to the Mayor threatening to launch a judicial review of the planned river crossing. The No to Silvertown tunnel coalition are concerned that the road tunnel will increase congestion and air pollution in the surrounding area.
AFFORDABLE HOMES STATS
Statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Greater London Authority (GLA) over the past few weeks provide vital insight into the availability and supply of affordable housing in the UK as a whole and London specifically. The ONS figures, which compare data from the UK’s four nations, suggest that 60,000 new affordable homes of all tenures were made available in 2017/18 (of which 47,000 were in England), up from 54,000 the year before (and 42,000 in England). As for the capital specifically, the 15th London Plan Annual Monitoring report quietly published by the GLA last month indicates only 4,700 net new affordable homes were added to the housing stock in 2017/18, down from 7,300 in 2016/17 (and against an annual target of 17,000). The supply of social homes in particular remains an issue to watch. The ONS’ figures confirm that in in England specifically, the number of social homes as a proportion of new affordable homes delivered annually has decreased dramatically since 2010, from over 60% to under 20% in 2018. Separate analysis of rental sector statistics, recently published by Shelter, suggests that in England as a whole, 91% of private renters who need a social home (468,080) were still on waiting lists in 2018. About one fifth of that number (95,810) was in London.
JENRICK PUSHES THROUGH HARROW SCHOOL
Earlier this month, the Communities Secretary approved plans by the Harrow School for new sports and science facilities. The Mayor of London had instructed Harrow Council to refuse the application at Stage 2, mainly on the grounds that it represented inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL). The local council had approved the plans in September 2017. This particular planning bust-up between Marsham Street and City Hall is an intriguing reversal of the usual roles. Most recent interventions by Communities Secretaries have been to block plans for tall, ‘ill-designed’ or ‘overdeveloped’ schemes, especially in cases where the Mayor has tried to push them through against the wishes of a Conservative-led local council. But in this case, a Tory Secretary of State is supporting development on MOL (which in theory enjoys the same level of protection as Green Belt land), in support of a Labour Council’s initial decision, against the wishes of a Labour Mayor. Meanwhile, the application has taken three-and-a-half years to be decided (having been originally submitted in April 2016).
The Fairfield by-election in Croydon took place on 7 November, resulting in a Labour hold and the election of Caragh Skipper with 41% of the vote. Interestingly though, there was a 10-point swing to the Lib Dems, who still came third with 19% of the vote. The next London by-election will be in Camden’s Haverstock ward where Labour’s Councillor Abi Wood is standing down. The by-election is scheduled for 12 December to coincide with the General Election.
HOME COUNTIES SELECTIONS LATEST
- Ealing Councillor Joy Morrissey (Con) (who was one of the party’s three shortlisted prospective Mayoral candidates last year) has been selected to run in Beaconsfield, Bucks, against now-Independent Dominic Grieve.
- Cranleigh Parish Councillor Angela Richardson (Con) has been selected to run for the Guildford seat, against now-Independent Anne Milton MP.
- Dr Ben Spencer (who is also a Conservative London Assembly candidate) has been selected to contest the Runnymede and Weybridge seat vacated by former Chancellor Philip Hammond.
- Former Camden Councillor (also former Special Advisor to David Cameron, but not the famous cyclist) Laura Trott (Con) has been selected in Sevenoaks, Kent, another safe Tory seat, where she is widely expected to succeed Sir Michael Fallon.
- Colonel James Sunderland (Con) has been selected by to run in Bracknell, Berks, where the incumbent Dr Philip Lee defected from the Tories to the Liberal Democrats (for whom he will be standing in neighbouring Wokingham this year).
- Ever so slightly further afield, Islington Councillor and Labour NEC member Claudia Webbe has been selected to stand in the safe Labour seat of Leicester East, where Keith Vaz is stepping down after 32 years.
- Also in the Midlands, Lambeth Labour Councillor Ibrahim Dogus (the council’s current ceremonial Mayor, who was also shortlisted for the Vauxhall seat), has been selected to replace Tom Watson in West Bromwich.
- Following remarks in a private meeting that were construed as anti-Semitic, Haringey Labour Councillor Gideon Bull has pulled out from the race in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex.
- And former Camden Councillor Sally Gimson (Lab), who was selected to stand in Labour MP John Mann’s Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire, seat only a couple of weeks ago, has been deselected for reasons that remain unclear.
KEEPING YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER
The ‘Remain Alliance’ agreement between the Lib Dems, Greens (and Plaid Cymru in Wales) will take effect in 60 seats in England and Wales in an attempt to avoid splitting the ‘Remain’ vote. This includes seven London seats. The Greens have agreed to stand aside in Finchley & Golders Green, Chelsea & Fulham, Richmond Park, Wimbledon, Bermondsey & Old Southwark and Twickenham. In return, the Lib Dems have withdrawn their candidate from Dulwich & West Norwood to aid the Greens. More detail on these constituencies in this OnLondon piece.
Apart from the official ‘Remain Alliance’, the Waltham Forest & Redbridge Greens have announced that they will not stand in Conservative-held Chingford and Woodford Green to improve the chances of election for the Labour candidate. Meanwhile, in the Cities of London & Westminster, the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) has announced the withdrawal of their candidate and their endorsement of Lib Dem candidate Chuka Umunna, after his party agreed to adopt some WEP policies, including changes to the Recall Act to facilitate the removal of MPs accused of harassment or violence.
All of the above is mapped out in our latest elections graphic, below.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL IN LONDON
- John McDonnell attended Virendra Sharma’s campaign launch on 10 November, alongside Labour PPC for Brent Central Dawn Butler, who has also recently announced her intention to stand for Deputy Leader of the Party following Tom Watson’s recent departure.
- Sadiq has been spotted campaigning alongside PPC for Putney, Fleur Anderson, as well as Emma Whysall who is standing in Chipping Barnet and Catherine West in Hornsey & Wood Green.
- Throughout the pre-election period, Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita will be leading the ‘Gold Squad’ to Lib Dem target seats. Most recently the ‘squad’ has been canvassing in Wimbledon, Putney and Southwark.
- As for the Conservatives, Boris stopped off in Uxbridge & South Ruislip to launch his re-election campaign, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock visited the St Helier and Charing Cross hospitals.
Did you read the above and immediately think of a political enthusiast who’d really find it fascinating? If so, we are hiring! LCA is on the lookout for a Research Intern (full or part-time) to support our dedicated Research Team from now until May 2020. Details here.
Brent was launched as the 2020 London Borough of Culture on 12 November. So far, planned events include a mile-long street party on Kilburn High Road, the creation of an anthem for London by local artists and new play written by author Zadie Smith, who was born and raised in the borough, to be performed at the Kiln Theatre. The Borough of Culture year will also coincide with international events taking place in Brent, notably the 2020 UEFA Euro semi-finals and final in July at Wembley Stadium, as well as the MOBO awards at Wembley Arena in November. Elsewhere in the arts and culture world, the audience of the Piccadilly Theatre had to be evacuated on 6 November after part of the ceiling collapsed. There were thankfully no fatalities, but four audience members were taken to hospital and a further five treated at the scene. The play affected, Death of a Salesman, was temporarily moved back to the Young Vic (from where it had originally transferred to the West End) but performances at the Piccadilly Theatre resumed on 11 November.
Regeneration specialists Reef Group have submitted plans to Westminster City Council (WCC) for a unique subterranean development in the heart of London. The £100m scheme proposes to turn the 1970s car park under Cavendish Square into 280,000 sq ft for medical and wellness businesses, shops and leisure outlets, across four underground storeys. The plans would see the iconic green Georgian square preserved at ground level, with improved accessibility and greater scope for use as an events venue. Reef Group is developing the site in joint venture with WCC, which took advantage of an option to buy the car park back from its previous owner for £17m two years ago. Pending approval, the partnership hopes to start construction in late 2020, with a completion target date in 2022.
There seems to be a distinct uptick in industrial action in London, mainly motivated by low pay and job insecurity, as well as access to pensions, sick pay, and holiday pay:
- International Union of Food Workers (IUFW) members in at least six McDonald's outlets in in the capital went on strike yesterday.
- Outsourced cleaners, porters and security guards at University College London, belonging to the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IGWB), have backed strike action on 19 November.
- Cleaners from the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union working on the London Underground are voting this week on whether to take industrial action.
- The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is battling Royal Mail in the High Court over the right to strike in December.
- The IGWB is also behind a much smaller strike ballot which made the news this week, with kitchen porters at the 5 Hertford Street private members club in Mayfair backing action to demand the London Living Wage (LLW).
The Living Wage and its weighted London version – both of which are higher than the statutory National Minimum Wage – are a voluntary rate proposed by the Living Wage Commission, based on ‘best available evidence about living standards’. New Living Wage rates were launched just this Monday, with the UK hourly rate set at £9.30 (up 30p) and the London Living Wage at £10.75 (up 20p), with the Mayor of London’s support.
(THE OTHER) CONFERENCE SEASON
Another week and another appearance by the LCA team on the events circuit, this time Board Director Jane Groom and Director Jenna Goldberg were talking politics and housing, or rather the difficult politics of delivering housing, at the National Housing Federation’s London Development Conference. If you missed us, don’t worry - you’ll get another chance at Inside Housing’s Communications Conference this coming Monday, where Jenna and fellow Director Gabriel Abulafia will be talking estate regeneration.
We are also very excited to attend the MapLondon conference convened by Coherent Cities and hosted by Arup, on Monday 9 December. The event will see a cross-sector group of map-lovers and urban practitioners exchange notes on the huge potential of digital maps. Sign up now!
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LDN is put together by a dedicated team at London Communications Agency. The content for each edition is developed from news drawn from the last week from every London local paper as well as the regional and national press, from intelligence gathered by monitoring local, regional and national government activity and from the insight and expert knowledge of the entire LCA team.
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