THE BLOG

Is Sadiq Khan The Mayor For Broken Promises?

07/02/2017 13:03 GMT | Updated 07/02/2017 13:04 GMT
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What matters most to Sadiq Khan? Is his primary motivation as London Mayor to leave a lasting, positive legacy? Or is his real focus to gain short-term popularity and establish a rival powerbase within the Labour Party to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn? Does he wish to serve London for 8 years as his two predecessors did, or is he planning to cut and run after 4 years?

Unfortunately, it really doesn't take much more than a cursory reading of Sadiq Khan's policies, decisions and public statements to see that there's far more evidence to support the 'cut and run' thesis than the legacy hypothesis.

Exhibit one would be the litany of broken promises we have seen over the last nine months. From his promise that Londoners would not "pay a penny more in 2020" on fares, to his pre-election 50% affordable housing target; from his pledge to plant 2 million trees, to his guarantee that Londoners would suffer "zero days of strikes" under his Mayoralty, a consistent pattern has emerged. Sadiq Khan has been shown time and time again to have been completely willing to say what he thought the public wanted to hear before the election, to then renege on these promises once they had served their purpose.

The very nature of his decisions does not suggest a Mayor who plans to stick around. Even the partial fares freeze that Sadiq Khan is implementing means taking £640 million from Transport for London's budget at a time when London's population is expanding rapidly and the need to upgrade and build more transport infrastructure is ever-present. It's a mistake that he might get away with for four years but which will force his successor to make some very unpopular decisions.

This brings us to the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Sadiq Khan inherited from Boris Johnson a policy that was well-considered and that would have made a real difference to London's air quality. The ULEZ was planned to start in September 2020, covering the same area as the Congestion Charge Zone and would have been a valuable step in improving London's air quality. Unfortunately in his desire to put his own stamp on the policy, Sadiq Khan wants to make the ULEZ bigger - covering the entire area within the North and South Circulars - and he plans to introduce it 16 months earlier. Unfortunately these superficially attractive changes would make the ULEZ less effective and far more expensive.

Last week, my GLA Conservatives' colleague Gareth Bacon, released a report entitled "A Breath of Fresh Air". It offers a frank assessment of the failings of Sadiq Khan's plans, making clear that expanding the ULEZ will cost an additional £780 million compared to using the Congestion Charge Zone boundaries. It also describes how a more targeted approach could deliver better significantly better outcomes and how it would be more effective to spend the funds on replacing London's most polluted buses with hybrids and offering a loan scheme to help finance the conversion of taxis to using LPG fuel.

So Sadiq Khan has a choice. He can stick to his guns and bring in a flashy but deeply flawed scheme. Or he can accept the changes that would fix the ULEZ and make it work for Londoners. I suspect the public might respect a Mayor who admitted his mistakes and who displayed the political confidence to accept a proposal initiated by a political opponent. Whether that logic is enough to convince Sadiq Khan is, sadly, questionable. It seems more likely that he will, once again, sacrifice an effective policy - and waste Londoner's hard earned money - on the altar of political expedience. I hope he proves me wrong.