With just over three months until Londoners head to the polls, the race for Mayor has begun to generate some serious sparks. In the House of Commons, both Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith have been slugging it out to put their own spin on the Housing and Planning Bill in the run up to an election that Khan has branded a ‘referendum on London’s housing crisis’.
Meanwhile, accusations of ‘divisive dog whistle politics’ and ‘race cards’ from both the Labour and Conservative candidates have dominated the City Hall newsbeat.
As both campaigns start to dig in for the hundred day countdown, Zac Goldsmith’s ‘Action Plan’ has been released to give a flavour of his priorities. It seems that he too wants to tackle housing head on in the election; the plan opens with a raft of policies designed to build more houses and earmark more for locals.
Goldsmith pledges to double housebuilding to 50,000 new homes per year by the next mayoral election in 2020. Perhaps to forestall fears that the new properties could all be snapped up by overseas buyers, he wants to see Londoners given the first chance to buy them. The plan also includes a promise to allocate a ‘significant proportion’ of these new properties exclusively for rent.
What remains to be seen is how these commitments to more building – alongside promises to promote an expanded rail network, including Crossrail 2 – will square with Goldsmith’s noted environmentalism. Elsewhere, his action plan enshrines these environmental credentials, calling for both Green Belt protections and for more green spaces in London.
This raises the question: which side of Zac Goldsmith will win out? The former editor of Ecologist magazine who wants to protect London’s ‘green lungs’, or the construction-friendly politician aiming to fix London’s housing crisis and invest in infrastructure?
Only time will tell. And voters will have to measure their faith in Zac Goldsmith against the offerings of his rival Sadiq Khan when Londoners from Barnet to Bromley take to the polls on 5 May.