Sadiq vs. Zac

The Evening Standard’s final debate in the mayoral contest

The Evening Standard’s final debate in the mayoral contest

Housing, council tax, and the referendum, all are hot topics of discussion in this year’s mayoral race. With the capital two weeks away from voting in the successor to Mayor Boris Johnson, Weber Shandwick attended the head-to-head debate hosted by Evening Standard with the two front runners Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan.

Both candidates were met by huge applause upon entering the venue, and Kirsty Wark took no time before allowing the two candidates to begin firing at one another with the first question being, ‘what policy of your opponent scares you the most?’ Sadiq responded by bringing up the government’s £450,000 cap on affordable housing, and stated that he fears his children will never have chance to own a home in London. For Zac the biggest risk posed by Sadiq was his inability to work with the Government, and feared that London would be stuck in political gridlock, as “London depends on Government for almost everything.”

It didn’t take much time for the debate to be flooded by the other big election of the year, the EU referendum.  Whilst at the moment London demonstrates a strong economy with thousands of new start-ups, jobs, a surge of investment, and tourism being at an all-time high, Zac and Sadiq were questioned on their positions on the upcoming referendum. Sadiq explained that he’s concerned about London jobs dependent on British membership of the EU, and if elected Mayor, will work with David Cameron, George Osborne, and others to keep our country in the EU. Zac responded by saying the referendum is hugely important and he will be voting to leave, and that he believes on balance we would have a better future outside of the EU. He also stated that if elected mayor his job would be to make work whatever the British people decide, and not campaign or urge people to vote either way.

Tensions heated up over Zac’s negative campaign against Sadiq, where he highlighted instances where Sadiq had shared platforms with people with extreme views, most notably Suliman Gani. Sadiq argued that the Tory campaign has been focused on negativity with senior Labour figures labelling it “racist”. Nevertheless, in recent months Sadiq has been finding it increasingly difficult to separate himself from these allegations within the press so to some extent this has stuck to him. Zac said that he was raising the issue of Sadiq’s judgement and that this is what was being called into question.

Gender inequality in London was raised and flagged as a top issue to be dealt by the future mayor of London. Both candidates acknowledged there is a lack of women in public office and pledged that, if elected mayor, they would make city hall look more like the London it represents in both gender and ethnicity. Indeed, Sadiq said that women would fill 50% of the positions on his Business Advisory Group. Questions were also raised with regards to mayoral council tax, with Zac pledging a freeze on council tax in his term as mayor; Sadiq was heckled after admitting he could not match that promise on the assumption of possible cuts in funding from the government.

Overall is seemed an even debate with no clear winner. Both candidates made strong closing statements with Sadiq pledging to be a mayor for all Londoners, and Zac calling out his record for delivering for his constituents and keeping the pledges he has made to Londoners.

The Evening Standard’s latest poll has Sadiq 11 points ahead of Zac at 31/ 20. Nevertheless, such a lead was not reflected in either candidate’s performance on the night.

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