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Westlake Legal Group > Sadiq Khan (Mayor)

Shaun Bailey: London just isn’t working for everyone. We need a Mayor who will help it to do so.

Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London

One of the things that strikes me as I go around meeting Londoners is just how much of our beautiful city we don’t see on our tellies or in our newspapers.

London is – without a doubt – the global city the world knows and loves, but for most of us it’s just ‘home’. Yes, it’s the place of the Palace of Westminster, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Square Mile, but it’s also home to quiet neighbourhood parks, local chippies, crowded train platforms, and backed-up roundabouts that do our heads in.

Most of us living in London just don’t experience the city the world reads about. Other than a long commute to work, most of our day-to-day doesn’t reach much beyond our hood. The London experience of someone living in Harrow can be significantly different to someone living in Romford. The same goes for Sutton and Walthamstow. Or Bexley and Barnet, for that matter.

London sure felt like a small place when I was growing up. I had the estates around Ladbroke Grove and not much beyond that. We’d wander up and down the Grand Union Canal and take the Number 7 bus to Oxford Circus every once in a while, but my ends were my world. I didn’t know much about the City, or the historic redevelopment of Canary Wharf. And South London? You might as well have been talking about another country.

No, my concerns back then were closer to home. And it’s the same principle that applies to local elections now. Our concerns aren’t in Europe, or America. They’re local. They’re at the end of our road. Londoners are worried about the dire state of crime, housing and air quality. The upcoming election is about the cost and quality of our daily lives.

Since Sadiq Khan’s election, London has become more dangerous, commuting to work has become more expensive, and homes have become harder to find and even harder to afford. It’s these everyday concerns that have made Londoners anxious for their futures.

Violent crime now haunts every borough in Greater London. Knife crime is at its highest for a decade. Gangs are out of control. Londoners are worried about their personal security, and the safety of their children. Everyday it feels like we read about yet another young life lost to knife attacks.

London is also growing and that’s putting intense pressure on our transport services. Despite what was promised, tube fares have gone up for 4.5 million Londoners, while ridership has gone down. Bus routes are being cut and tube improvements are being cancelled. The Elizabeth Line is now two years behind schedule and billions over budget. All told, Transport for London is losing nearly a billion pounds per year, meaning Londoners will be paying the bill for Sadiq Khan’s poor leadership for years to come.

As a result, the city’s volume of road traffic is up and our road congestion is worse. Our air is far too dirty. The millions of trees that were promised aren’t being planted. Asthmatics like me are finding it harder to function, and the health of our youth and our elderly are being impacted.

In short, Londoners are finding it harder to get by and get around. They’re finding it harder to find a home and raise a family. The cost of living is up, and quality of life down. While those with the means are rightly enjoying all that London has to offer, most ordinary Londoners on ordinary wages are struggling.

Put simply, London just isn’t working for everyone. And Khan doesn’t have a plan to make it work. Instead of getting on with solving London’s problems, Khan is satisfied with shifting the blame. Because Khan never takes responsibility. Ever. In Khan’s world, his lack of delivery is always someone else’s fault.

That’s just not good enough for the people of Barnet. Or Harrow. Or Romford. Or Bexley. Or whatever piece of this wonderful city you call home. If London doesn’t work for all of us, then that’s on the Mayor, and no-one else.

And it’s on me, too, as I develop my plan for London. I look forward to sharing it with you over the coming months.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Stephen Greenhalgh: The Conservatives need a stronger crime-fighting agenda for the capital

Stephen Greenhalgh was the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London, and has also served as Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

After yet another bloody weekend in the capital, Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced another in his long line of timid pilot projects.  This one to tag, using the Global Positioning System, only 100 habitual knife-crime criminals in just four London boroughs when they leave prison in order to reduce their re-offending. In The Times, Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has called for collective action to prevent violent crime from “scarring our society, terrorising our communities, and, most devastatingly, destroying the lives of our next generation.”

The Home Secretary has made a commitment to do everything in his power to give those on the front line of the fight, the tools they need to end the bloodshed. He has backed this up with the announcement of the knife crime prevention orders in response to the police wanting more powers to help them divert young people away from the dangers of knife crime.

So why is the London Mayor not using GPS tagging in combination with these new civil orders? Perhaps the Home Secretary can put this to the Mayor, in the cross-party serious violence taskforce that he is convening today. This is yet another example of the Mayor focusing on PR rather than the measures that will do something to stem the bloodshed on London’s streets. GPS tagging has been around for years and should be rolled out far more widely – not just to reduce re-offending but also with preventative measures such as these new knife crime prevention orders, gang injunctions, and criminal behaviour orders. With the murder rate and knife crime at a 10 year high, Londoners deserve a Mayor who prioritises the prevention of knife crime.

However, we also need more police officers in our capital city. This Home Secretary has risen to the challenge and is providing the biggest increase in police budgets since 2010. Police and Crime Commissioners all over the country are planning to recruit thousands more officers. However, the Mayor of London has let police officers fall to below 30,000 from at or around 32,000 when Mayor Johnson left office in 2016.  This is despite receiving a flat cash settlement from the Home Office. The Mayor needs to have a budget plan to increase officer numbers dramatically and this will not emerge with more pointless PR. Under Mayor Johnson we had a plan to release under-utilised police buildings, reduce overhead, and reform the policing model to keep police officer numbers high in spite of having £100 million less to spend each year.

Finally, if we are going to stem this mindless violence, our candidate for Mayor, Shaun Bailey, should pledge to bring in the technology developed by British scientists that allows frontline officers to carry scanners which enable them to detect knives and guns beneath clothing. These portable scanners can differentiate knives from everyday items such as keys. A widespread roll-out of this technology will give the police another tool that will enable the Met to ramp up intelligence-led and targeted stop and search so that we can get the knives off the streets of our capital city.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Sanjoy Sen: Motorists and manufacturers need more coherent vehicle regulation

Sanjoy Sen is a chemical engineer in North Sea oil. He contested Aberdeen North at the 2015 general election and was a candidate in the Kilburn Ward on Camden in the 2018 London council elections.

Major change awaits at the end of March. Clearly, I’ve been aware of it for some time but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

I realise I’m not going to be directly affected that much but that doesn’t stop me from taking it all personally. If only I could get the decision reversed.

I’m referring, of course, to the impending date at which my hybrid car loses its exemption from the London Congestion Charge. Avid readers will remember my 2017 piece on how I ditched an aged three-litre gas guzzler and implored the ConHome faithful to follow my righteous example. (It was a quaint article written in the days when folks talked about stuff other than Brexit.)

A ratcheting up of the exemption criteria (which essentially now applies solely to plug-in hybrids and ‘pure’ electric vehicles) has finally squeezed me out. Worse still, the explanatory e-mail reads something along the lines of “The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has decided your vehicle no longer…” Little wonder I feel singled out.

I’m whipping up the personal angle for dramatic effect here. My area of London is blessed with great public transport links so the Congestion Charge exemption was a bonus I’ve rarely taken advantage of. But others won’t be so lucky – and what will hitting them harder really achieve?

What I want to do here is examine both the fairness and effectiveness of congestion charging. And, more significantly, the wider implications of such devolved policies. First, the fairness angle.

My hybrid isn’t one of those ubiquitous Priuses but it is a reasonably common sight in London these days. My sense is that a fair few buyers will have plumped for it to bag the Congestion Charge exemption and will have traded in a dirtier vehicle to do so. It seems a tad harsh to now clobber them so soon after they’ve been ‘nudged’ into spending their own money to do the right thing.

Moreover, goalpost-shifting quickly creates a knock-on effect on industry: we’re already seeing buyers holding off replacing their vehicles. Worse still, in this age of cynicism towards politicians, the public can become frustrated at perceived stealth taxes. (Exhibit A: France.)

What also adds to the uncertainty is the sheer complexity of charging schemes. In London, we now have the Congestion Charge, the T-Charge, and soon the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, all in constant evolution and applying to different areas, vehicles and times. And don’t go disregarding all this if you live beyond the capital. Similar schemes won’t be far behind elsewhere in the UK and already exist in Europe.

But how effective are the latest changes?

Charging to enter any given zone isn’t an answer in itself: pollution is pollution whether it’s paid for or not. In this instance, ‘nudging’ a few hybrids to remain outside the CC zone might improve traffic flow (it is a congestion charge, after all) and help trim overall emissions, but does it won’t significantly address the health and environmental issues now being raised.

My suspicion is that the chief culprits aren’t those pesky hybrids (typically Prius Uber taxis) whistling by on battery mode. Instead, it’s all those diesels.

But tackling their emissions is already proving contentious. The new ULEZ charges will hit owners of pre-2016 (i.e. not necessarily ancient smokers) diesel commercial vehicles hard, especially those forced to enter the city daily for work. Spurred on by push-back on the economic impact of these charges, the Mayor of London has launched a van scrappage scheme aimed at micro-businesses. However replacements, especially electric ones, remain rare and expensive.

So, is using taxpayer money to remove a handful of Transits an effective means of slashing emissions? Perhaps not, given that the major polluters remain the big commercial users, chiefly buses, lorries and taxis. Failure to prioritise these risks punishing certain groups whilst not tackling the main issues.

As described in another ConHome piece of mine, with fully-electric alternatives not yet established for vehicles of this size, a potential solution might be to prioritise the switchover of these large diesels to hydrogen.

Fuel-cell transportation is still at an early stage of development but progress is being made – the Japanese are embracing the hydrogen economy whilst the UK will see its first hydrogen trains in 2022. And at the exhibition hall at the party conference in Birmingham, it was encouraging to hear Royal Mail’s plans for its extensive fleet.

What of the wider implications?

Last week’s sad news of lay-offs at Jaguar Land-Rover (JLR) was met by a range of theories. Those opposing Brexit saw it as a sign of things to come. Others noted that key factors (Chinese market downturn, low-cost Slovakian labour) exist irrespective of whether (or how) we quit the EU. And whilst other UK-based manufacturers, such as Nissan, continue to invest in small, low-emissions vehicles, JLR may reflect that they were slow to move on. With UK emissions regulations in a flux, many buyers are now avoiding their big diesels.

But the long-term threat to established car manufacturers is driverless technology. If you can summon up a vehicle at any time via a ‘phone app, why bother buying a depreciating lump of metal to sit idle on your driveway for 99 per cent of the time? Little wonder that it’s Google and Uber who are shaping the future of personal transportation.

(Incidentally, my first experience of one was the prototype outside the party conference. As it glided off silently, a woman on her mobile dashed across the road right in front of it; the brakes came on instantly and disaster was averted. Many worry about the safety of autonomous vehicles but they’ll probably soon be better drivers than us.)

Urban air quality looks set to rocket up the agenda: the 2011 death of schoolgirl Ella Kissi-Debrah may be subject to a fresh inquest, with elevated pollution levels on the nearby South Circular Road now cited as a factor. But politicians legislating in this area need to remember they’re largely tidying up their own mess. Such was the drive to reduce the nation’s CO2 footprint, they encouraged diesel usage. Yet, in doing so, they seemingly dis-regarded the impact on urban emissions (and public health) of elevated soot and nitrous oxide (NOx) levels.

With a Conservative Government, a Labour mayor in City Hall, and an SNP administration in Holyrood, it would be optimistic to expect perfect alignment but let’s hope for a slightly more joined-up approach in future.

We have international examples to follow: California has been setting tougher vehicle emission standards than the federal government since the 1960s; today, almost twenty other US states now use its world-leading regulations.

Cities and devolved administrations may well have their own priorities but if they continuously chop and change their regulations, consumers get confused and industry pays the price.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Gareth Bacon: Khan pushed up Council Tax – but he fails to give priority to fighting crime

Gareth Bacon is the Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly.

Sadiq Khan is fast approaching the last year of his term in office. What has he achieved so far? He is consistently behind his own affordable housing targets. He has driven TfL into financial crisis. Violent crime continues to be on our front pages on a daily basis. Crossrail will open at least 18 months late and nearly £2 billion over budget. Meanwhile, he has increased the number of bureaucrats at City Hall by a staggering 37 per cent and spent a large amount of time and resources attempting to overturn Brexit.

London’s Mayor is overseeing an administration typified by virtue signalling, financial incompetence, and wasteful spending. For example, it is laughable that when London faces such significant challenges in crime, housing, and transport a Mayor could choose – as Sadiq Khan did – to spend over £400,000 on a beach party and £10 million for police officers to take a test designed to assign their personality a colour. To give another example, he has decided to freeze TfL fares for his term in office – a choice that will cost TfL £640 million, and a policy that TfL has identified in their latest business plan as impossible to continue with if he is re-elected.

Sadiq Khan presented his draft budget for the next financial year to the London Assembly last week, and we are concerned that some of his proposed spending decisions do not stack up with the real priorities of Londoners.

Crime is a top issue for Londoners and Khan should be taking every possible action as Mayor of London to tackle this epidemic. Violent crime in London has been on the rise for some time now: the murder rate has increased by 23.3 percent over the past two years and knife crime has increased by 32.1 percent over the past three years.

The Mayor has endlessly claimed that violent crime is a direct result of government cuts to police budgets and that he has done everything in his power to keep police numbers as high as possible.

But this simply isn’t true.

The reality is that the Mayor has choices available to him, but has made the wrong ones. Characteristically, in his draft budget, Khan has yet again prioritised PR over police officers and show over substance.

In response to Sadiq Khan’s draft budget, the GLA Conservatives submitted a balanced and fully costed amendment which cuts waste and inefficiency at City Hall, whilst reducing some of his more bloated budgets back down to the levels they were at when he first entered office. With our plan, Khan could fund 1,378 extra police officers funded by savings of nearly £83 million in other areas. On top of this, our proposal would provide enough extra money to freeze the non-policing tax precept, (which Khan intends to increase by 2.99 per cent) – a real terms tax cut for millions of Londoners.

Amongst other proposals, we have suggested that the Mayor could reduce his vastly increased staffing budget, withdraw the £13 million annual contribution that he gives to London and Partners (the Mayor’s PR company), and reduce the amount that TfL pays for employees to work on union duties, which has increased from £4.9 million to £10.8 million over the course of his mayoralty.

There is a cross-party consensus in the Assembly that the Metropolitan Police needs more resources and we do not disagree. However, in spite of this, the Labour, Green, and Lib Dem Assembly Members collectively dismissed our amendment and voted it down. We are disappointed that opposition parties decided to oppose extra police officers for London, but we hope that the Mayor reconsiders and includes our proposals before he finalises his budget at the end of February.

Sadiq Khan’s term of office has so far been characterised by a great deal of boasting but very little in the way of real achievement. It is dismal record from a man who last week publicly described himself as “a brilliant Mayor.” In reality, this is a Mayor who has taken his eye off the ball. This is a Mayor who isn’t listening to Londoners about their priorities. This is a Mayor who is more interested in pontificating about Brexit – an issue over which he has no control – than concentrating on the day job.

It is time he started focusing on what Londoners expect their Mayor to be doing. He can start by accepting our amendment and putting another 1,400 bobbies on the beat.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Simon Marcus: Marxist ideology. Lax courts – and May’s legacy. All have helped to create the new era of gang crime.

Simon Marcus is co-founder of the Boxing Academy, is a former adviser to the Coalition Government and contested Hampstead and Kilburn at the 2015 election.

The solutions to gang crime are straightforward and proven to work. The problem is that our political establishment, now captured by left-wing ideology, doesn’t want to hear about them. So while politicians remain in denial, the death toll grows.

Sadiq Khan helps to illustrate the problem. In a recent attempt to tackle gang crime he embraced the strategy of Glasgow’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), which cut knife crime through a collaborative approach with police, schools, hospitals and other public services.

All well and good. But Khan missed out the other half. Knife crime in Galsgow fell to 40 year lows because Stop and Search reached levels of one in five men, police numbers stayed at all time highs, and arrest levels were higher than in England, as were sentences for repeat offenders. It was this, combined with the VRU, that delivered results.

But that’s out of the question in London. Last year, when Khan suggested a small increase in ‘targeted’ stop and search, he was accused of playing ‘political football’ by David Lammy and rebuked by race campaigners. So, instead, the demanded that the police overhaul their gang crime database or ‘Matrix,’ because 80 per cent of those on it were black, and some were as young as 12.

He shouldn’t have.  Ninety-six per cent of those on the ‘Matrix’ had been sanctioned for a criminal offence – 79 per cent for ‘violence, weapons or robbery.’ Tragically, little has changed since 2003, when Diane Abbott bravely noted that 80 per cent of gun crime in London was black on black. Indeed, a recent freedom of information request showed half of all murder suspects and victims in London are still black, even though the black population of London is only 13 per cent.

Yet many, like Lammy, say that Stop and Search is “dispropportionate” and entertains a “racist fantasy”. He plays a high standard of ‘political football’ too, blaming gang violence on Eastern European mafias and “Tory cuts”. He should know better. Following the riots of 2011, which began on his patch, Stop and Search went through the roof; there were more arrests; longer sentences for repeat offenders, and London saw big falls in crime. These falls were reversed when many of those offenders were let out a year or two later.

Forgetting the lessons of the past is no accident in this case. It arises from a mindset shaped by the leftist ideology that has marched through our institutions. At its root is the Marxist principle that crime is caused by inequality and injustice inherent in the capitalist system. The Equality Trust for example, believes that our violent crime wave is rooted in  ‘inequality, deprivation and massive status anxiety,’ and tells us that ‘we need to admit that every…police officer…prison officer and trauma surgeon with a specialism in treating knife or gunshot wounds is, at root, a measure of our failure as a society.’

University departments produce countless research papers supporting this view, the Guardian newspaper repeats it almost every day and even some police commanders are keen to agree.

This is dangerous, because it apportions moral status based on relative power and social position. The ‘oppressed’ can do no wrong and the ‘oppressor’ can do no right. It also means that criminals have a built-in excuse: to punish them is to blame the victim, and the police are seen as the problem and more public spending the solution.

A simple observation bursts this ideological bubble – namely, that the vast majority of those in poverty commit no crimes at all. In fact, many work very hard to build strong and happy communities and they are not worried about their status.  The link between poverty and crime becomes even less clear when figures show that crime went down during the last recession and that, since then, inequality has fallen, with unemployment at historical lows. Indeed, our current gang crime epidemic has become entrenched during one of the biggest economic booms in history.

The charity sector also enjoyed the good times but, despite a record income of £75 billion last year, it has failed to find the solutions to gang crime. Instead, too many within it still prefer the virtue-signalling explanations of blame, victimhood and race politics.

The Conservative Party is also moving that way, judging by the reaction to Sajid Javid’s recent knife crime announcements. He wanted those who breached their Knife Prevention Orders to face jail. Common sense, you might think. But David Gauke belittled the suggestion: a “Whitehall source” claimed that Javid was “grandstanding on knife crime” and the Howard League for Penal Reform said that he was “playing politics”.

Strangely, Javid’s critics neither acknowledged that knife crime was out of control nor that strong action was required. But it was the tone of derision and refusal to engage that gave the game away. Ad hominem attacks are designed to silence debate and a sure sign of ideological groupthink, which is why almost no one in the Conservative Party defended Javid.

Why would they? When Theresa May was Home Secretary, she managed to cut police numbers, Stop and Search, arrest levels, prison sentences, and violence reduction projects all at the same time. It was a win-win for all the wrong reasons. May gained favour with the Treasury, looked tough on police corruption and signalled her anti-racist credentials. Labour were happy for the police to be clobbered – until crime went through the roof and it became a convenient ‘political football’.

The law courts do their bit, too, and last year 19,634 violent offenders with ten or more previous convictions or cautions avoided jail.  Most of these will re-offend and damage countless lives, but if we are a “failure as a society’”, perhaps we deserve it? We don’t – and nor do the black boys stabbed to death in London, because left-wing ideology has stopped the police from doing their job.

But this is where we are.  While white boys are being saved in Glasgow, a new era of gang crime has become rationalised in London and it will continue until our leaders come to their senses. Yes, we need collaborative approaches, and Stop and Search needs to be accountable. But if you stop the police from doing their job, cut numbers, let violent repeat offenders go free and hide behind dodgy research then don’t ask why crime goes through the roof and the very people you claim to care about are the ones dying.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Theodora Dickinson: The Conservative campaign machine in London is in a dire state

Theodora Dickinson worked for Vote Leave and has run local and general election campaigns for the Conservative Party. She now runs a social media and political communications consultancy, while campaigning for MPs to honour the referendum result.

The dire state of the Conservative Party’s campaign operation in London may cost us the Mayoral election. Something must be done quickly.

Across London – from Waterloo to Walthamstow – Labour MPs, councillors, and activists kicked off the new year by joining the Mayor of London and Jeremy Corbyn to campaign against the so-called ‘Tory Rail Mayhem’. Sadiq Khan claims that they were campaigning at over 200 stations across the city. That is certainly an impressive feat, and not something that we as Conservatives in the capital could come close to matching, given the Party’s current state. But we didn’t even try.

This piece is not the place to debate the merits of our rail and infrastructure policies. Though, I must admit I don’t quite understand why the government has decided to subsidise rail travel for 16- and 17-year-olds at the expense of working commuters who have seen rail fares rise by over a third since the start of the decade.

But it beggars belief that there has been zero effort to sell our policies to the public.

The campaign to take back control of City Hall should have started months ago. As it stands, it has barely got off the ground. Many, especially on this website, recommended that CCHQ should have organised an earlier selection of our Mayoral candidate. It is at least welcome that we haven’t made the same mistake as in the 2016 campaign when Zac Goldsmith was only selected seven months before election day.

Yet, inexplicably, this earlier selection has not been followed up with any real campaigning effort. There is no point in selecting someone 19 months in advance if we are not going to spend that 19 months shedding blood, sweat, and tears to actually win.

As Tony Devenish wrote on this website in December 2017, our London mayoral candidate must demonstrate “an outstanding work ethic”.

“That’s public service. Two years’ of breakfast with business leaders, lunches/dinners with community leaders (Monday-Thursday minimum). You can have Friday night off. A candidate has to be fully up to speed on a huge variety of issues (or expect to suffer accordingly). Minimum 12-14 hour day with half days each Saturday/Sunday (90 hour + weeks’ during the last six months). 7am ice cold tube drops and 10am/3pm door knocking in the rain.”

This is what candidates sign up for – whether you are campaigning in a marginal seat for a General Election or running for Mayor of London.

Any successful campaign – as was the case of Vote Leave’s surprise victory in the EU referendum – must be a combination of campaigning on the ground as well as online. At present neither of these bases are being covered.

There is really no excuse for such scant evidence of campaign activity, especially when Borough Campaign Managers have been appointed across London. All of London’s 32 boroughs are supposed to have their own campaign manager, with each being paid an annual salary of around £25,000. With national insurance contributions, pensions and training factored in, the total cost to the party must be above £1 million per year. I have yet to see any bang for this buck.

In boroughs which overlap with key marginal Parliamentary seats – such as Hammersmith & Fulham, Kingston, and Barnet – surprisingly little campaigning has taken place since last year’s local elections. Morale amongst activists is a rock bottom, however there is no excuse for local councillors, MPs, Assembly Members, and candidates not to be leading the charge and making sure they get themselves elected.

CCHQ is correct to have started appointing these campaign managers, especially as there might be another General Election within months or even weeks. We cannot afford to make the same needless mistakes as in 2017 and hand the keys to Number 10 to Jeremy Corbyn and his far-left comrades. As reported in the Sun yesterday, Central Office is “woefully unprepared” to fight a snap election. Leaked internal Conservative Party projections “put Jeremy Corbyn in No 10, at the helm of a rainbow coalition government including the SNP and the Lib Dems”. According to the leaked report, CCHQ’s data on our voters nationwide is “badly out of date” and our “grassroots membership is badly demoralised”.

However, there needs to be an overhaul of CCHQ’s approach to hiring, training, and retaining competent staff members. As Mark Wallace reported on this website, shortly before the 2017 election, “inexperienced” campaign managers were centrally appointed who didn’t understand “elections, activists or campaigning”. They unquestioningly followed central advice, such as “telling activists not to call on [Conservative] pledges”.

This followed on from CCHQ’s poor treatment of their campaign managers after the 2015 election. Of the 120 who were appointed, trained, and who gained experience of how a successful election campaign is run, 100 were let go. This was a catastrophe for our party. As our Party’s Deputy Chairman has been highlighting, we cannot afford to campaign only at election time. That means we cannot afford to lose people who have valuable campaign experience.

Aside from the issue of motivation, we also have an embarrassing lack of members and activists. When the Conservative Mayoral candidate was selected in October it was indicated that our total membership in London is just 15,000. By contrast, in the six months following Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2016, 81,000 Londoners joined the Labour Party, suggesting their total number of members is easily well above 100,000 – more than the total Conservative membership in the UK. A priority for Shaun Bailey and the London Conservative team must be to recruit more members.

Conservative Campaign Headquarters has also been gutted. The dribble of talent which has been noticeable since the 2015 election has become a flood, with stars such as Gareth Milner and Carrie Symonds taking up well-earned promotions elsewhere.

Our London Mayoral campaign is failing at an elementary level. If you search for ‘Shaun Bailey’ on Google, his website doesn’t show in the results until the middle of the second page. Once you find the website, things continue downhill. The news section of his website hasn’t been updated for over a month, and only FOUR news items have been added since Shaun was announced as our candidate at the Party Conference in September. There is an ‘events’ section, but no events actually listed.

Shaun is a good and regular user of Twitter, however on Facebook – which is much more important for political campaigning – the posts are irregular, and nothing was posted for nearly a month over Christmas. The party is also not paying for adverts, which are essential in order to reach voters and activists. Organic reach on social media platforms is declining. Only one in every 200 people who likes a Facebook page will see its content unless you pay to promote it.

According to a YouGov survey last month more than half of Londoners would vote for Sadiq Khan in the 2020 mayoral election. This led the New Statesman to say the London Mayoral race is “over before it starts”.

A total of 55 per cent of respondents to YouGov’s survey said they would vote for Khan despite concerns over soaring crime rates, chaos at TfL (thanks to the Labour mayor’s botched fares freeze), and inertia in the face of London’s housing crisis.

There is an opportunity for a Conservative London Mayoral candidate to outperform the party as a whole. Khan performs better than the Labour Party in London (YouGov’s poll has Labour on 49 per cent in the capital compared to the 44 per cent they polled at last year’s local elections). If these numbers are repeated on polling day Khan will become the first politician ever to win outright in the first round of a London mayoral contest.

The figures for Shaun Bailey, by contrast, are worrying. He polls a mere 28 per cent in London, whereas the Conservative Party as a whole are on 33 per cent.

There is no reason why London should be considered a Labour city. We had a Conservative Mayor of London for two terms from 2008 to 2016. We finished further ahead of Labour in London at the 1987 and 1992 general elections than we did nationwide. And we have not won a comfortable majority in Parliament for over four decades without finishing ahead of Labour in London.

London is an aspirational city to whom a message of opportunity from our party should cut through. We can win these voters back. We just need to try.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Shaun Bailey: Mayor Khan has taken his eye of the ball on Crossrail

Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London

Yes, the retail bit of campaigning is important, but it’s only part of the job of winning the 2020 London Mayoral election. A lot of my effort over the coming months will be dedicated to my day job of holding Sadiq Khan to account at the London Assembly. Khan will ultimately have to run on his record. If Khan doesn’t deliver during his first mandate – and he really hasn’t – it will be harder for him to promise to do better the second time around and still have Londoners believe him.

Fortunately the London Assembly is blessed with talented representatives from all sides of the political spectrum who hold Khan to account every day. And today we have a big job: we need to continue with our efforts to pin Khan down on Crossrail (a.k.a. the Elizabeth Line). When it comes to infrastructure that is absolutely needed for London’s future, it’s hard to beat Crossrail. The city will soon be home to 10 million people and our aging transport network will struggle to cope.  And if Crossrail doesn’t go smoothly it means London might not get a crack at Crossrail 2, another infrastructure project this great city needs to stay competitive.

Unfortunately, Khan has taken his eye of the ball on Crossrail. It was on time and on budget when Boris Johnson left office, but the opening has now been pushed back from December of last year to August 2020. The central government has also had to provide a third bailout to keep the project going. There is also a dispute as to what Khan knew – and when – about the delay, including what he told the members of the London Assembly about it.  Khan claims he was only told in late August, while briefing documents appear to suggest he was told a month earlier, and waited until late August to inform the public. (Note: the facts behind this timeline dispute are summarised nicely in this forensic post from London Reconnections.)

Now, I think all Londoners accept that Crossrail is a complicated project and that a delay is not a huge surprise. But I also think Londoners expect their Mayor to be straight with them about the state of play. That’s why Khan was summoned back to the Assembly’s Transport Committee before Christmas to explain himself. And to no-one’s surprise, Khan admitted no fault (he never does), instead pinning the blame on Sir Terry Morgan, the former head of Crossrail.

Fortunately, we’ll have Sir Terry at committee today, along with Deputy Mayor Heidi Alexander and Khan’s chief of staff. Here are some of the questions we’ll want answered:

  • How did the Mayor’s Office react when Transport for London described the planned December opening as ‘not possible’ in their printed materials for their July 20, 2018 meeting?
  • What did Transport for London officials brief verbally to the Deputy Mayor and Mayor’s office about the possibility of a delay to the planned December opening in their July 20 meeting
  • What did Sir Terry tell Khan at the meeting of July 26 about the possibility of a delay to the planned December 2018 opening? Is it as Sir Terry described it in a recent interview with LBC radio, or as the Mayor described it in his December appearance before the transport committee?
  • Does the Mayor’s office accept the briefing materials from Crossrail make it quite clear the line would not open in December 2018? Or is a 10% chance of opening in February or March of 2019 – as Crossrail described – the same thing as a 100% chance of opening in December 2018 in their eyes?
  • What was Khan’s response to being told his marquee project would not open on time?
  • Who decided that Sir Terry Morgan would resign as Chair of Crossrail Ltd after the delay became a PR nightmare? And how was that decision made?

I don’t mean to bore you with any of this detail, but this is the stuff of local government. It’s not leading the parade at anti-Brexit marches, or traveling around Europe, it’s about keeping your eye on the ball and making sure things get done on your patch.

We’ll also be looking for some reassurances on cost, because ultimately it’s Londoners who will be footing the bill for Crossrail’s delays:

  • Is Crossrail now fully funded and able to be completed?
  • How confident are you that the new budget will not be overspent?
  • Has the scope of Crossrail been reduced in order to save money? If so, how?
  • What will be the impact on London businesses be with respect to the tax increases required to cover the project cost?
  • Have the chances of Crossrail 2 being approved gone down considering Crossrail 1’s budget increases and years-delayed delivery?

Part of serving people is giving them a better understanding of local issues. I hope this update has given you an appreciation of the hard work we all do – Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, and UKIP – on the London Assembly.

So please tune in this morning to see if we get answers from Sir Terry Morgan or the Mayor’s staff…

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Murad Gassanly: Why I left the Labour Party

Cllr Murad Gassanly represents Churchill Ward on Westminster City Council.

I joined the Conservatives because I believe we are the party of the democratic centre-ground in British politics. I was elected to Westminster City Council in 2014 as a Labour councillor for Churchill Ward, Pimlico, a stone’s throw away from Victoria Station. But my disillusionment with the direction Labour was taking nationally and locally led to my resignation in 2016.

It was not just because ‘Corbyn’s Bolsheviks’ colonised and destroyed Labour. I realised that rather than serving residents, the local Westminster Labour Party are only interested in ‘opposition for opposition’s sake’.

I was appalled at Labour’s consistent undermining of Westminster Council’s housing projects, which I see as a betrayal of the very people who need affordable homes the most. In 2017, I crossed the floor of Westminster City Council and took the Tory whip. As Labour councillors took to addressing each other as ‘comrades’, I could not help reflecting on my life story – I know from my parents, born in the former USSR, the dangers of state socialism and authoritarianism. Corbyn’s Regime represents real danger in equal measure to the liberty and prosperity of our country. It must be resisted, and the Conservatives are the Party to meet this challenge.

It is my family’s experience of life in Britain that shaped my understanding of conservatism and led me on the journey to join the Conservative Party. My parents are first generation immigrants from Azerbaijan who worked hard to provide for me and my brother, and taught us the values of self-reliance, thrift, enterprise, and aspiration. Their relentless focus on education formed my understanding and expectation of success.

I attended North Westminster Community School – an ordinary, inner-city comprehensive. Having graduated from LSE, I embarked on postgraduate study at Cardiff University, gaining a PhD in energy politics in the Caspian region. Yet I consider being a Westminster City councillor my greatest personal achievement – a testament to the freedoms and opportunities that Britain offers and a unique chance to fulfil my civic duty to give back to our country – I believe that citizenship is earned, not simply acquired.

Many were surprised when I re-won my council seat as a Conservative in May 2018, with a 7.5 per cent swing and a higher popular vote share than I got in 2014. Labour targeted Westminster, throwing the kitchen sink at the effort to “unseat” Conservatives. Corbyn and Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, visited my ward and launched their demagogic housing policy in a PR stunt on the Churchill Gardens estate, where I live.

Unlike Labour’s (middle) class-warriors, I live in council house and know what people around here really think. As the Prime Minister put it in her Observer article back in October:

“The British people are not bound by ideology and there has never been a time when party labels have counted for less”.

She couldn’t have been more right. Regardless of the debates around Brexit, Tories are now the party of the democratic centre-ground.

Our party is changing, and it is exciting to be part of this transformation. The Conservatives can be the party not for the few, not even for the many, but for everyone in our country who works hard and plays by the rules. Here in Westminster, our Council leader, Cllr Nickie Aiken, set out a practical vision of how this is to be achieved – we call it City for All.

We are keeping council tax as low as possible whilst inviting those who can to make an additional voluntary contribution to the Council’s budget. We are building more social housing, but also increasing supply of affordable accommodation for those on middle-incomes who don’t qualify for social rent. We operate twice-weekly bin collections and keep our roads and pavements impeccably clean and well-maintained. We ensure that all our projects are fiscally viable and that we act responsibly with public finances – it is not the Council’s money, but the taxpayers’ money.

The Conservative Party is the natural political home for those who want to see fairness and prosperity, who want to preserve what works and improve what can be, who value national identity and are open to the world, who believe in Britain’s future as an independent global trading nation where opportunity is shared equally by all, and where everyone’s protected by the safety net of the welfare state but is free to rise high above it and achieve their full potential. We must remember that it is not Brexit that poses greatest threat to our security and prosperity – it’s the Corbyn regime.

Let’s fulfil our duty.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com