Centre for London hosted the first London mayoral hustings this week. What were the best quotes?
Image: Centre for London
1) “I’m not the candidate with the big money or the big machine” – Diane Abbott
Things got personal quite quickly as candidates looked to gain the edge on their opponents. While Tessa Jowell emphasised her record of delivery for Londoners, Diane Abbott talked up her independence from the party line – best evidenced by her opposition to the Iraq War – and was the candidate who was “not afraid to cause offence” in doing what’s best for London. David Lammy went for the jugular in accusing Sadiq Khan of continuing to push ‘the same old politics of Ed Miliband’ that lost Labour the election. Not very comradely, even at this stage of the selection, and an indication that the debate over the summer is likely to be increasingly heated. Given Labour has extended the timetable to align with the leadership election candidates now have even more time to argue the toss.
2) “I might not have his looks and his money but I have the policies to see off Zac” – Christian Wolmar
Zac Goldsmith loomed large in the discussion, fresh off the back of an Evening Standard poll which suggested that Tessa Jowell might be the Labour candidate with the best chance of defeating him should he be selected as the Conservative candidate. While Zac got several namechecks through the evening, no other potential Tory candidates even got a mention. Gareth Thomas also pointed out that he was the only candidate from outer London, having fought and won a marginal seat “against Zac Goldsmith’s party”.
3) “Only 7% of taxes raised are spent in London” – Sadiq Khan
“We have to be honest with the people of London that we do not have the mayoral powers we need to solve the housing crisis” – Gareth Thomas
Two quotes for the price of one here. Devolution was the watchword of this debate, with candidates questioning why the Government’s Cities Devolution Bill – intended to deliver the Northern Powerhouse and Manchester devolution – did not include more control for London. Business taxation, skills and employment, and health and social care were all raised in this context. Gareth Thomas is making a particular play for further devolution to London as part of his candidacy, but whoever is selected we can expect this to be important in the election campaign.
4) “I am willing to set a target – but one that can be delivered, not just one for a woolly speech” – Tessa Jowell
Unsurprisingly, housing was another key topic for debate. David Lammy provoked this from Jowell, when he accused her of failing to have the necessary scale of ambition in housing. Enforcement and licensing of rogue landlords and rent stabilisation were advocated by Diane Abbott, who criticised “developer-led” housing in the capital. Lammy claimed to be the only candidate with a plan around housing finance (using housing bonds) and was the only candidate to argue for building on the green belt. Meanwhile, Christian Wolmar accused the other candidates of stealing his idea for a London Housing Delivery Agency. Tessa Jowell criticised “buy-to-leave” foreign investors, “using London as a gold bar in the bank”.
5) “Sadiq was for Heathrow expansion in 2008, he was for it when he was transport secretary in 2009, he was for it on the Sunday Politics just a few months ago. Zac Goldmsith’s announced he’s running and suddenly Sadiq is against it.” – David Lammy
Airport expansion was another major discussion point particularly relevant to business. Sadiq Khan has recently come out against Heathrow expansion, and this quote by David Lammy demonstrates well his combative style towards the other candidates during the evening. Tessa Jowell has voted for more Heathrow capacity in the past, but has recently said she will review the Davies Commission conclusions making a judgement. There were several critical comments aimed at the Government about the delays in making a decision about the future of the capital’s airport capacity. Gareth Thomas made the point that many Londoners actually want to see an extra runway at Heathrow.
So who won?
Difficult to say at this stage in the contest, but the majority of audience members in the room seemed most impressed by Khan and Jowell when it came to the show of hands at the end of the discussion.