Posted: 13.05.16

An analysis of ‘Sadiq Khan for London – a Manifesto for all Londoners’

9 March 2016 marked the publication of “Sadiq Khan for London” – subtitled “A Manifesto for all Londoners”.  This 80 page document – containing over 200 pledges across nine policy areas as well as a number of ideas for new bodies and posts

Labours-London-mayoral-candidate-Sadiq-Khan

9 March 2016 marked the publication of “Sadiq Khan for London” – subtitled “A Manifesto for all Londoners”.  This 80 page document – containing over 200 pledges across nine policy areas as well as a number of ideas for new bodies and posts – was the earliest and most detailed manifesto from any candidate since the Mayoral elections began in 2000.

I read it at the time and though it worth a re-read again now that he is the new Mayor of London.

The manifesto, which was the earliest published manifesto ever for a Labour or Conservative mayoral candidate, features 14 shots of Sadiq, some alone posed by an ambulance, on a bike or with a hard hat on, and others with a fishmonger and a police officer. Apart from reiterating how London helped him succeed and how his Dad drove a number 44 bus, he also reveals that he suffers from adult-onset asthma.

The tone of the manifesto is in places quite strident.  This is a man who likes using the word “fight” and “passionate”, words he used a lot on the campaign trail, clearly to good effect given the record mandate he achieved with over 1.3m votes after second preferences were counted.  And where there are positives about London, there are then the inevitable “buts” and where there is a case to be made the “need” is strongly identified.

Setting apart the tone and look, there are some significant points here.

Let’s start with the 211 pledges.

As with any political manifesto you can broadly break these down into three categories.

-              Those that the Mayor can deliver through the powers and funds he has.  Here the verbs used are proactive such as “sell, implement, guarantee, increase, invest in, direct, pay”.

-              Then there are those that the Mayor can deliver through the influence or power of patronage he has, and here the verbs are softer such as “establish, make, promote, improve, prioritise, develop, introduce”.

-              And finally those pledges where frankly the Mayor needs considerable help, normally from government to get them done (or not done) eg “work with, explore, support, campaign for, oppose, encourage, call for”.

Sadiq’s manifesto authors have done a skillful job here, avoiding endless use of the same loose verbs.  Nearly 90 different verbs are used across the 211 pledges and whilst “work with” is most used, followed by “establish, support and make”, there are lots of significant and powerful pledges.

Now let’s look at the sections:

Business – pages 10-17

In terms of priorities, despite housing being his “single biggest priority”, the manifesto leads with business, prosperity and opportunity.

Khan undoubtedly made in-roads into London’s business community during the campaign. He attended many business led events and followed up with personal emails to industry leaders, clearly sensing that he needed to come across as a business friendly Mayor. This has strong echoes of the Blair-Brown charm offensive to the City in advance of the 1997 General Election.

Khan has also already agreed with the PM to help deliver a strong “Remain” vote in London on 23 June, a pledge he made in his manifesto.  He has also made clear he will promote London overseas – “a passionate advocate at home and abroad”.  This is an area where he can strengthen those relations with industry, whether at the London Real Estate Forum here in London or MIPIM in Cannes, or on a Film London or London & Partners trip to places like New York, India or emerging economies.

But his powers and budget here are limited, especially when set against the economy of London as a whole.  His 23 promises in this section include establishing both a Business Advisory Board and Skills for Londoners (we hope the latter does not return us to the ineffectual days of the Learning and Skills Councils).  Who chairs and sits on these and what power and budget they have is something to watch, as well as how they will work with the London Enterprise Panel which is part of a national network.

He also wants to “prevent the loss of business space, promote the provision of small business and start up premises, provide live-work units and support communities who want to keep the character of their high streets intact” all of which will be of interest to planning committees across London and the development industry. And as we saw in the election campaign he will appoint a Chief Digital Officer and “improve our connectivity”.

Housing – pages 18-27

On Housing in his 26 pledges he has picked up a mantle of Livingstone’s from 2012 around the rental market with a London wide not for profit lettings agency.  Another “taskforce” is around homelessness and rough sleeping.  Worthy for sure, but what difference they will make remains to be seen.

Perhaps the most important new agency will be “Homes for Londoners”, a “new and powerful team at the heart of City Hall." consisting of local authorities, housing associations and developers and chaired personally by Sadiq.

For developers there is a clear message about 50% affordable and clear definitions about what he considers affordable to mean.  These are homes;

-              for social rent

-              for London living rent (one third of average local wages)

-              for first time buyers to part-buy and part-rent with specific focus on “first dibs” for Londoners on public land

-              to buy where we can give Londoners “first dibs”.

He makes clear that he does not see “affordable rent”, where tenants pay up to 80% of private rent, or “starter homes”, costing up to £450,000, as affordable.  And PRS is not referenced as a form of affordable housing although in the business section he hints that he may include “live work” in the definition.  And he wants greater transparency around viability assessments. Islington’s James Murray’s has been announced for now in a housing role.

He does not set a target for total homes delivered per annum but does say that London needs “over 50,000 new homes a year”.  He does however make clear that he will “set clear guidelines for which developments the Mayor will call in, including where planning has stalled and where opportunities to deliver more new or affordable homes are being missed”.   There are already clear guidelines here so we wonder what might change?

He also wants to “exercise use it or lose it powers to make sure developers who have planning permission build homes and do not land bank.”, a pledge often made by politicians but something  that would probably  need legislation to garner action.  Well it is worth noting that there are probably around 260,000 homes currently with planning permission that have not yet been built (see the GLA’s Barriers to Housing Delivery report from March 2016)  – enough for a first term in office.

On estate regeneration he states that he wants it to take place “only where there is resident support, based on full and transparent consultation, and that demolition is only permitted where it does not result in a loss of social housing, or where all other options have been exhausted, with full rights to return for displaced tenants and a fair deal for leaseholders.”  That’s a high bar for boroughs and developers but sentiments all should aspire to.

Transport – pages 28-37

Despite transport being less important at the election perhaps than housing, there are the most pledges in this section – nearly 40.

He has made clear that he will personally chair TfL – but no doubt will have a Deputy who will lead much of the detailed business. Current rumours are that this will be Lord Andrew Adonis although this would be a tricky fit alongside his role as chair of the National Infrastructure Commission.

Here most significantly he has called for a four year freeze on fares, which has opened him up to attacks around a possible black hole and needing to raise the GLA council tax precept to counter the revenue loss, something that Boris never did.  No surprise therefore that a whole page of the manifesto is devoted to rebutting this and here he uses his most colourful language describing TfL as “inefficient and flabby”.  Things may change a lot at TfL therefore, not just at Board level.

He backs a second runway at Gatwick and opposes a third one at Heathrow (a contrast to his position when he was Minister for Transport).  And he backs Crossrail 2, citing his experience as a Minister for the original Crossrail to “secure the funding package”, and will “fight to secure the upgrade of the West Anglia rail line…to improve journeys to Stansted”.

Significantly he will “abandon Boris Johnson’s policy of refusing to meet with representatives of TfL transport workers.” (We assume he means the Unions here.)  What difference this makes to industrial relations will be something Londoners will watch closely.

Safe and More secure London – pages 38-45

The section on a safe and secure London has perhaps the most compelling context section and even back in March appeared to anticipate the later, ‘dog whistle’, campaigning from the Zac Goldsmith camp.

He comes out with a very strong sentence “I’m concerned that, right now, not enough is being done to root out and stop the people who are spreading vile ideologies and promoting terror”. His signing in at Southwark Cathedral and then a visit to a synagogue spoke volumes here and he pledges to “direct the Met to adopt a strict zero tolerance approach to hate crime”.

He does reference the loss of police stations and reduction in what he calls front line policing (down 23%) and commits to restore “real” neighbourhood policing.  Where the financing of TfL is now more and more in his own hands, policing is still centrally granted by Government, so how well he campaigns for the funds he thinks are needed, will be a key test of his relationship with the Conservative government. It will also be fascinating to see who is appointed as the Deputy Mayor for Policing and the rumours are that this may not be a Member of the London Assembly but a heavy hitting figure with experience of policing matters.

There is reference to a review of the resources for the London Fire Brigade and a commitment to sell the much criticised water cannons and spend the money on projects to reduce gang crime.

In 2008 knife and gang crime and safety generally was the top issue for Boris Johnson.  Whilst it has not come back to the very top of the agenda, it has increased and he intends to “implement a tough knife crime strategy” and as part of seeking wider powers (see health later on) he says he will “fight for further powers over youth justice, probation and courts”.

Skills for Londoners – pages 46-53

Skills for Londoners gets its own section and a further 16 pledges (some duplicate here with business).  He drifts into areas where the Mayor has no direct control citing the fact that over 44,000 children are taught in classes of over 30 but can only say that he will “play a city wide strategic leadership role, seeking to make a big dent in the school places crisis.”

Another new body will be a London STEM commission and he calls for devolution of 16-19 funding to City Hall.  And for the development industry specifically he intends to “establish a construction academy scheme with the housebuilding industry to close the gap between our ambitious housing targets and the need for more skilled construction workers in London.”

What he means by “be a champion for London’s neglected FE sector” remains to be seen.

A fairer and more equal city – pages 54-61

One of our favourite sentences in the manifesto is that Khan will be “a proud feminist in City Hall” and later says that he will “work to smash the glass ceiling”. He has moved on this already by promising to find a prominent central London location for a statue of a suffragette.

No doubt drafted with concerns not to lose votes to Women’s Equalities Party there are no less than 23 pledges under a “fairer and more equal city” including another body – a new team in the Mayor’s Office dedicated to economic fairness. It will be interesting to see if Sophie Walker is offered a job in this area.  He also wants to “improve accessibility at rail and tube stations”.

He is “passionate about tackling low pay and improving working conditions”, something he spoke about a lot on the campaign trail.  He therefore will “strive to make London a Living Wage City” and will “use devolved financial powers to offer business-rate relief for small firms who pay the London Living Wage”.

A greener, cleaner London – pages 62-69

Perhaps coming later in the manifesto than we thought, a greener and cleaner London focuses on the environment, an issue which came up the agenda in the election early on in the campaign but looking back now, was nowhere near as prominent as we thought it would.  In his opinion this is an area where the previous administration had been “mediocre at best”.

There are 33 pledges here with lots on cleaner vehicles, tree planting, recycling, the National Park City, pedestrianising Oxford Street (something he agreed on with Goldsmith) and part pedestrianisation of Parliament Square, and even confirmation that he will use his powers to stop fracking in London.  Within a week of taking office he has announced a consultation on measures to tackle air pollution including extending the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and implementing an extra congestion charge on the most polluting vehicles.

He makes clear he is opposed to building on the Green Belt too.

Another body here will be Energy for Londoners, a not for profit company to help Londoners generate more low carbon energy and a job that might lack somewhat in media profile in the new hierarchy is the suggestion of a “pedestrian champion”.

Improving London’s health – pages 70-75

Health was never an area where the Mayor and GLA were given any direct power in the 1999 Greater London Authority Act, but they have a duty to consider it in all matters.

Not surprisingly this penultimate section is relatively thin with an emphasis on campaigning for better health services.  Perhaps unaware of recent work by the GLA on public health, he intends to “develop a comprehensive public health strategy”.

A focus on London’s mental health support is welcome for sure and launching a review into the provision of bus services to London’s hospitals perhaps demonstrates both how limited the Mayor is in this area but also that Sadiq has given it at least some thought – transport is something he can control and is an oft cited issue during discussions about health services.  The big question here is will we see the Manchester devolution of health spending in London during the next four year term?

Making the Most of the Arts – pages 76-79

And last is culture.  Why this is often last in such manifestos defeats us, especially given London’s incredible creative dynamism and the sheer contribution it makes to London’s economy and appeal as a top global city.

Here 15 or so pledges include producing a Cultural Infrastructure Plan to 2030, a “Night Czar” (which sounds like a great job to us) and a nice touch – establishing a London Borough of Culture every year.  We are sure that Barking & Dagenham’s great champion Darren Rodwell will be bidding for that in year one!

Our conclusion

So overall this is a very thorough and impressive manifesto in its scope and detail.  If anything there is perhaps too much and the sheer weight of promises and detail could prove to be something of a hostage to fortune for the new Mayor.  And in trying to be a Manifesto for all Londoners it perhaps fails to recognise clearly for the avid reader what the Mayor can actually do; what the Mayor needs to lobby government to get them to do; and what the Mayor would love to do if he or she had unlimited power and money.

Managing expectations running the greatest city in the world with so many competing interests is tough.  For Sadiq we think the focus must be on a “BtB strategy” – Better than Boris - more homes, more affordable homes, better Tubes, less pollution, more (neighbourhood) police.

We at www.londoncommunications.co.uk as a business which is plugged into London and constantly measures and monitors our capital city will be tracking things closely over the coming months and years.