The London Mayor campaign is shaping up to be less exciting than national politics. While the two leading parties, Conservative and Labour parties, are more ideologically opposite than they have been in 30 years, the two favourite candidates for London Mayor share quite similar policies. Both Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan oppose Heathrow expansion, even campaigning together on the issue. Both share the desire to build more, cheaper homes to deal with London's housing crisis. They have an equal focus on improving the environment and both have committed to delivering Boris Johnson's nearly £1bn, 10 year plan for improving London for cyclists.
It's no surprise they agree on these issues. Housing and the environment are by far the biggest problems London faces and Heathrow and cycling are both seen as part of the solution. But so far, our candidates are missing a trick on what could be an amazing, energetic and truly exciting race of the office of Mayor. And that is vision.
I've not seen a compelling vision for London from which Londoners can see how their lives will be different in 5 or 10 years' time, depending on how they vote on election-day. I don't mean promising Londoners free, or cheaper things. I'm not keen on bribes in elections, which are ineffective. For example, do we really think the £8bn for the NHS offered by the Conservatives at the last minute in the general election made any difference to the vote? No. It was the overall message of economic vision (and lack of one from Labour) that swung it.
So here are four visionary policies the candidates should be implementing:
1. Preparing for automated, all electric vehicles: While TFL are obsessing over Uber and the threat of a cheap, popular and competitive taxi service which serves on demand for consumers, they missed the fact that in 3-5 years' time there won't be any taxi drivers in London. Driverless, robotic cars (e.g., the Google car) will be on our streets, serving customers instantly, safely and cleanly. Mayoral candidates should be proposing a network of electric charging points in preparation for these driverless vehicles, working towards the removal of diesel vehicles from our streets. The same prep could be taking place for driverless tube trains and, one day, buses. Now that, would change the city into being a green and pleasant place.
2. Mandating new buildings to generate 10% of their own energy requirement: New buildings should include energy making capabilities inside their plans. Sustainable energy facades, such as solar panels or wind turbines on roofs, could significantly cut our energy requirement and make for a greener London.
3. A real vision for air transport: I've seen opposition to Heathrow but no real, long term alternative proposed. Boris Johnson's 'Boris Island' was the only, true alternative that would serve our requirements for the next 100 years. Let's put it this way; Amsterdam has six runways and planning a seventh. That's a vision. A third runway in Heathrow? That's just stupid.
4. A truly superfast data network: The digital economy is in its infancy around the world, but London is already behind the curve. Technology powerhouses exist in other countries and billions of pounds is spent in Silicon Valley every year, with British inventors choosing to build there instead of here. Why? Because we haven't invested in a true superfast data network.
Candidates need to stop playing it safe and start playing it exciting, challenging and risky. Build a vision and sell it to Londoners and they'll vote in droves. Keep it dull and safe, and you'll not pull in the vote.