London needs a mayor to govern for all

In our series on Labour's mayoral candidates, David Lammy explains his vision for the capital


London is a dynamic, vibrant, successful, open, tolerant and exciting world city – a city I love and one I’m proud to have always called home. But it is a city facing great challenges: a housing crisis, rising living costs, rampant inequality, and a decline in community spirt.

The sense of opportunity that led my parents to cross the world and settle in North London seeking a better life has been eroded. People still come to our city from all over the country and all over the world, but the jobs, the training, and the ability to buy a home have all vanished in recent years. It’s hard to argue that London is still a city of opportunity when the average age of a first time buyer in the capital will reach 52 in this generation, and when nearly one in three Londoners now lives in poverty.

The mission of the next Mayor is therefore to rebuild London as a city of opportunity for all. Doing so will require taking on the vested interests determined to maintain the status quo. But more importantly, it will mean bringing Londoners together to plan a shared way forward and jointly take the tough decisions we need to take on issues such as how and where to build new homes.

That means the next mayor must be one who governs for all Londoners, for all the capital’s communities and for people from all backgrounds. This is not the time for a tribal or divisive character, a party-political hack or a representative of one faction, but rather an independent, inclusive voice to unite London and take the capital forward together. Only as a united city, with a renewed sense of community spirit and joint purpose, can we rebuild London ready for the challenges of the 21st Century.

We’ve seen in the past what happens when London is broken down into an assortment of different groups, with some given favourable treatment and others dismissed for the sake of crude political calculation. There is no place for that kind of politics in a London that needs unity, and at a time we need to be forging new bonds between London’s communities rather than damaging those that already exist.

Recent events in Tower Hamlets are stark evidence of just how damaging divisive politics can be. The animosity and hostility between different groups in that borough does not belong in the London I want to see. It is a sign of what happens when politicians govern for one group rather than for all, and when leaders lose sight of their responsibility to act for all their constituents, not just those who vote for them.

But we should be clear that unity is not the same as uniformity. London is a diverse city, and the needs of Bexley are not the same as those of Barnet. London’s next mayor must recognise that, and give local boroughs and local communities more power over their area than they’ve ever had before. Over planning, public services and budgeting priorities, communities must be given a much stronger voice.

I feel strongly about the need for London, and London’s mayor, to work for all Londoners because this city has given me all I have. I grew up next to the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, studied at the University of London and practised as a barrister here. None of it would have been possible without the opportunity given to me as a result of the kindness and generosity that led four men from London’s Jewish community to put their faith in a young black boy from Tottenham and pay for me to study at Harvard when I was unable to afford the fees.

The act of neighbourly kindness that led four Londoners to help another that they barely knew shows this city at its very best. For me, it was the start of a long relationship with London’s Jewish community and, as a practising Christian, I be lucky enough to experience and enjoy the warmth of the capital’s strong inter-faith bonds. They are bonds we should be seeking to replicate across the city.

London is nothing without its people and its diverse communities. The next Mayor must recognise that, stand up for all those communities rather than just some, end the division and tribalism that have dominated London politics for too long, and finally give London what it needs – a Mayor for all Londoners.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive