Since being shortlisted, I have been busy talking about Conservative solutions to the big problems being faced by Londoners.
In the last election, housing topped the polls as the most important issue. While I believe this will be surpassed by violent crime next time, it is evident to me that housing is still going to be a hugely important issue in 2020 and we must have a compelling policy mix if young voters are going to trust us to run City Hall again.
We need to articulate a message on private renting. With private renters now outnumbering home owners in London, a Conservative Mayor can work with some of the world’s largest institutional investors, who have hundreds of billions of pounds to invest between them, to offer the kind of rental conditions people want. I have spoken to some of these investors and I know that many of them want to offer longer term tenancies, with rents that track inflation - offering a greater degree of certainty to tenants. Labour’s solution is to strong arm landlords with artificial rent caps. I believe we need to be loud and proud in shouting about the Conservative solutions.
In addition to this, however, we need to ensure that we get more housing built so that people don’t feel they have to move out of London in order to realise the dream of owning their own home. Under Sadiq Khan, housing starts have dropped. He’ll no doubt blame Brexit, but with housing starts having remained largely stable across the rest of the UK, it’s hard not to conclude that his own unrealistic targets for developers have played a part in deterring investment in building the homes Londoners need.
Rather than beating developers with a stick, I want to see a Conservative administration in City Hall that works with local councils to build the homes London needs.
First and foremost, we need to make full use of the audit of public land that was commissioned by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. We need to put appropriate sites to use to provide the homes Londoners want, not least because it was estimated in 2016 that the land identified could be used to build up to 130,000 homes.
But it’s not just about publicly owned land. Retailers such as Lidl have identified possibilities to build up to 3,000 new homes in London. Tesco have also expressed a strong interest in developing this way and it’s estimated that using already developed land in this way could see anything up to an extra 180,000 homes being built.
A Conservative Mayor in City Hall should ensure that this process is as easy and painless as possible for companies looking to make use of their land to build new homes for Londoners.
If I were elected Mayor, I’d hold a summit at City Hall with the largest private landowners in London and Borough councils to discuss how we can work in partnership to bring new land into the equation as well as ensuring that the planning process is as quick, simple and straightforward for any private developers who have the willingness to make their land available for development.
Ultimately, the Conservatives will only beat Labour in London by standing on a Conservative platform that shows that the private sector – when working in partnership with councils – is the solution to the problems we face and not the root cause of the problem itself.