THE BLOG

London: The Next Political Battleground

20/05/2015 10:14 BST | Updated 19/05/2016 10:59 BST

The after shock from the general election is still rumbling round the British Labour Party. Prophets of doom variously predict 10 or maybe 15 years of opposition and some even suggest that the party will never recover. Others have begun the post-mortem and taken the first steps towards rebuilding with the start of the national leadership contest.

Amidst all this heat and noise the London mayoral ballot, for which applications close today, is in danger of being overlooked. That would be a missed opportunity, certainly for London but also for the left across the UK.

If, as still seems most likely, a Labour candidate is elected by this left-leaning city next year they will hold the most significant public office of any non-Conservative English politician and carry responsibility not only for leading London well, but also for reminding Britain what progressive governance can achieve and for showing the left the way to succeed. The Labour party needs the right candidate and, most of all, the candidate need the right platform.

"Changing London - a rough guide for the next mayor" is a compilation of the radical but practical suggestions of the people of London captured over the last 18 months in a pioneering and collaborative approach to politics. Published today, the book has been sent to all six candidates contesting the Primaries along with the open letter reproduced below and signed by 70 of its contributors.

"Is the political class ready for this kind of radical democratic politics?" asks Jon Cruddas, principal architect of the last Labour manifesto, in his trenchant foreword. Then he answers his own question "it doesn't matter. Don't wait for permission or nothing will change."

Dear Christian, David, Diane, Gareth, Sadiq and Tessa,

We are counting on you.

Now more than ever Labour needs to set London alight with a bright, bold and brand new approach to the Mayoral contest.

The 2016 election will be the first opportunity for the progressive cause to win again, our first chance to take back the UK's biggest directly elected mandate and to reclaim the national megaphone that comes with the job. Labour did well in London on May 7th but we will never know what it might have achieved in government. If elected by this left-leaning city next year you will hold the most significant public office of any non-Conservative English politician and carry responsibility for leading London well, for showing Britain what progressive governance can achieve and for showing the left the way to succeed.

Just 38% voted in the last mayoral bout. Turnout was higher at the general election but still one in three stayed at home. Same old vs same old in the next London poll will not ignite the passions of an electorate that is young, substantially unaligned and demonstrably unimpressed by politics as usual. The mayoral primaries that begin this week are an opportunity to talk about important issues from a fresh perspective. They must be the testing ground and the launchpad for new ideas.

Some will be found in "Changing London: a rough guide for the next London Mayor" released today. It brings together ideas that we and other Londoners have suggested and offers five big visions for our city - visions based on active participation, fairness and the building and sustaining of relationships. Each would realise the potential of the mayoralty and reach the parts never reached by mantras from the Westminster playbook.

We also feature in the book stories from around the world where mayors have transformed their communities with radical but practical and popular programmes. Cities, more nimble than nation states, but stronger and more influential than smaller municipalities are important in themselves and fertile territory for the seeding of new ideas and a new approach to politics. Many of these achievements elsewhere, like many of the suggestions in Changing London, defy what New York Mayor de Blasio has called the "lazy logic of false choices". These are ideas that embrace a bigger vision, deploy a different language and feel of another age from the weary conventions of centralism versus extremism that are already framing and fatally constraining our national post poll analysis.

If we want to live in a city, indeed a country, where everybody counts, one that better meets our needs, that has the audacity to imagine and the capacity to deliver and if we want to own that place, play a part, speak and be heard, we need a London mayor, indeed a Prime Minister, who won't think down the same narrow tramlines, do the same things over and over again and promise different results.

As contributors to Changing London we envisage a politics of ideas, of collaboration and of compassion in a city where aspirations are high and rising and where the achievable ambitions for one are achievable for us all.

And for the avoidance of doubt: at a time when London's richest citizens may outlive the Japanese, the healthiest nation on earth, but our poorest have a similar life expectancy to the people of Guatemala, ranked 143, when a third of our cities children grow up in poverty and when a newly mandated government is manifestly committed to policies that will widen the gaps, our top priority is non negotiable. A ferocious assault on inequalities, wherever they hurt would be good for us all.

You ask for our vote. We ask, now more than ever, for reasons to believe. Give us bold ideas. Give us the opportunity to contribute. Give us back the energy of hope.

Thank you

David Robinson, Will Horwitz, Rebekkah Abraham, Namaa Al-Mahdi, Andrew Attfield, Nicola Bacon, Kate Bagley, Sean Baine, Pete Baker, Hilary Barnard, James Beckles, Harry Booty, Tony Breslin, Radhika Bynon, Steve Bynon, David Christie, Steve Clare, Sam Clark, Frances Clarke, George Clarke, Hilary Cottam, Lucy de Groot, Robbie de Santos, Andrew Dick, Ann Easter, Mary Jane Edwards, Ossie Fikret, Stephen Frost, Sally Goldsworthy, Stan Harris, Alisa Helbitz, Paul Hocker, WeiHsi Hu, Andrew Hull, Pierpaolo Inga, Ernest James, Claire Jeffery, Athena Lamnisos, Neal Lawson, Eleanor Lines, Harley Manning, Maeve McGoldrick, Richard McKeever, Esther Murray, Toni Nash, Mark Parker, Luke Price, Fiona Riley, Dominic Robinson, Ellie Robinson, Jessie Robinson, Eleanor Rosenbach, Peter Sebastian, Frank Sheppard, Lorraine Slee, Nick Stanhope, Ruth Stokes, Jan Tallis, Sam Thomas, Andy Thornton, Clare Tickell, Paul Twivy, Yasmin Waljee, David Warner, Mandy Wilkins, Nicolo Wojewoda, Linda Woolston, Derek Wyatt.

(70 signatures)

For more information and to buy the book visit www.change-london.org.uk