I have recently announced my firm intention to run to be Labours candidate for Mayor of London. It is not a formal declaration. The contest does not start officially until June 2015. So my current priority is Labour’s campaign to win the 2015 General Election. But it is not too early to think about issues in relation to London. I am still working on my policy offer to London, but certain things are already clear.
So one reason why I want to run as Mayor is to lead the fight to make London affordable again. London is a wonderful city. But it is also one of the most expensive cities on earth. We in London have our own distinct and ballooning cost of living crisis. Recent government statistics reveal that thirty something Londoners are leaving the capital in unprecedented numbers apparently because of living costs. Continue reading
The New Era housing estate scandal in Hoxton, east London, highlighted by Aditya Chakrabortty, tells a poignant and tragic story about how Victorian philanthropic ideals has been transformed into commercial assets in play in the international market with not a shred of concern about the human consequences. Arthur Barsht, the man who built this 93-flat estate, must be squirming in his grave. It was preserved for more than 80 years by the Lever family who ran the estate as a place where low-income workers in teaching, health and construction could live near where they worked.
Now the grandson of the founder, who lives in a 5-bedroom detached house in Northwood, Middlesex, has announced the family is to sell up to an American private equity company which intends to quadruple the £600 a month rents for a 2-bed flat to £2,400. The US company was assisted in the takeover of the estate by Richard Benyon, the Tory MP whose multimillion-pound family estate in extensive parkland near London was a partner to the deal. None of the tenants will remotely be able to afford the new sky-high rents and they will all be evicted before Christmas. Welcome to Cameronian capitalism. Continue reading
When I last twice travelled directly to Guangzhou, by China Southern Airline out of Heathrow, the flight was nearly full. But not – by visual impression at least – full of thrusting British entrepreneurs keen to visit the most vibrant economic region of China, thanks to this direct link from Britain’s hub airport. More like ordinary Chinese workers and some visitors. No – increasing trade is a more complex issue by far.
Which is one of many reasons why I was truly jaundiced reading Heathrow Airport’s advertisement yesterday, which compiled a list of highly dubious claims as to the benefits to all of us in the UK of a 3rd runway at Heathrow. I have no doubt that a 3rd runway there would be of benefit to the shareholders of Heathrow Airport, and might conceivably be nicer for passengers, but the specifically economic case for choosing Heathrow over say Gatwick – or indeed Boris Island – is still as thin as ever. Continue reading
The latest evidence of massive tax avoidance going on right under our noses – uninvestigated, undetected, unaddressed – is truly staggering. A Financial Times analysis of Land Registry data has found that that at least £122bn of property in England and Wales, a sum equal to no less than 8% of Britain’s entire GDP, is held through companies in offshore tax havens. This colossal level of wealth avoiding and evading tax is actually greater than the total value of all housing stock in Westminster and the City of London.
It immediately raises some profound and disturbing questions. Why has it been left to the FT to uncover this monstrous sidestepping of the UK tax laws rather than the government which likes to promulgate the idea that it’s cracking down hard on tax cheats? Why has the government been so slow and so ineffective in blocking this gigantic loophole which it could easily do if it were really minded to do so? Continue reading
In a YouGov poll for the London Evening Standard today, Diane Abbott emerges as Labour voters top choice for London Mayor with 29%, beating Tessa Jowell who topped a similar poll eight months ago but now has 24% (figures exclude don’t knows and those without preference). Sadiq Khan who is said to be Ed Miliband’s preferred candidate (hence his additional Shadow Cabinet responsibility as ‘shadow Minister for London’) emerges in fourth place with a disappointing 14%, behind David Lammy.
Although there is a year before the campaign will seriously get underway (and voting not until Autumn 2015), this does seem to consolidate Diane Abbott’s position as the candidate of the left. She was the keynote speaker at the London political conference of Unite the Union ten days ago and has strong support for their backing in the election. Continue reading