With just over 90 days until polls open, candidates in London’s Mayoral race are beginning to build momentum. Zac Goldsmith released his ‘Action Plan for Greater London’ two weeks ago, and earlier this week Labour’s Sadiq Khan followed suit with his own vision. “London”, it declares, “is at a crossroads”.
Like Goldsmith, Khan places housing front and centre, opening his manifesto with pledges to “Fix the Tory Housing Crisis”. Here, he promises to accelerate housebuilding by developing public land and partnering with private developers and local councils. Khan is also an outspoken advocate for giving local people “first dibs” on houses built in their area, cutting out overseas investors.
This ties into perhaps the strongest theme of Khan’s manifesto: “genuinely affordable homes”. He proposes a new City Hall team dedicated to building affordable housing. He also advocates a 50 per cent affordable housing target across London. This would be enforced by tightening rules which would compel developers to allocate half of their new properties for affordable rent or sale. This new housing, Khan promises, would be delivered on brownfield land, protecting the Green Belt from development.
More radically, however, he also proposes a “London Living Rent” for some parts of the capital, which complements another of Khan’s policy favourites: the London Living Wage. This would tie rent to average local income, forbidding landlords from charging more than one-third of the average wage. It is a sweeping proposal, and looks set to create tension between London’s landlords and renters.
Nevertheless, this radical policy is definitely the exception to the rule; on the whole it is remarkable how similar Khan’s manifesto is to that of his rival Zac Goldsmith. Both include standard political fare (more police, less crime, tackling climate change) and a range of promises familiar to most Londoners (more cycling, less air pollution, investing in transport). But the similarities run deeper than that.
Khan’s proposals mirror Goldsmith’s commitment to more building, as do his pledges not to sacrifice Green Belt land in pursuit of this. Similarly, Goldsmith also calls to reserve some of the new houses that are built for local people, and emphasises affordability and mixed-tenure development. Both candidates make significant pledges on infrastructure and both promise to spend heavily on transport.
All of this tells us two things. Firstly, Londoners face a unique array of problems, and both parties are in broad agreement on how to deal with them. Secondly, the election is unlikely to come down to different policies, but to the person (and the party) voters believe can actually deliver.