Susan Hall is the Economy spokesman for the Conservatives on the London Assembly.
Historically, the Conservative Party has been far more pro-business than its rivals – a fact that continues to be the case today. As Conservatives we understand that London and the rest of the UK prospers when business succeeds. That is why one of the most important actions the Mayor of London can undertake is to create the conditions in which private enterprise can thrive.
Instead of promoting economic growth in London though, Khan’s record so far is distinctly anti-business. He has spent taxpayer’s money – over £40,000 of it – commissioning a downbeat report about how Brexit, regardless of negotiations, will damage London.
He has refused to renew Uber’s licence, damaging the capital’s business credentials in the eyes of entrepreneurs across the world. His assault on the private hire industry through hiked licence fees and threats of daily air quality charges pose a risk to the entire industry, jeopardising thousands of jobs across London.
He is introducing a new Ultra Low Emission Zone which, the Chamber of Commerce and others suggest, puts thousands of small businesses at risk. The Mayor claims he wants London to be open for business, but his actions say otherwise. He is failing in his statutory responsibility to promote London’s economic development.
Before he was elected however, it was a different story. Khan painted a very positive picture for firms in the capital, consistently claiming he would be the “most pro-business Mayor ever”. As with many of his promises though, it fell flat the moment he got through the door at City Hall – yet another example of him delivering messages to suit particular audiences.
In his absence, the Conservatives must put forward the pro-business case. With the far-Left emboldened it is especially important to highlight the integral role businesses play and the positive impact they have on the economy. We as Conservatives must advocate the positive case for capitalism and business. We need to demonstrate that a hive of industry leads to innovation, economic growth, increased employment, better paid jobs and greater funding for public services.
The message being sent nationally from Labour is no better than what we are seeing in London. Jeremy Corbyn has frequently used his position to attack free enterprise. In his recent speech at the EEF manufacturers’ organisation, he vowed to make finance the servant of industry and curb the power of the City. In the past he has admitted he is a threat to banks. Corbyn fails to understand that businesses are a national asset, and Khan appears to be following the same ideals.
Apart from gesture politics and spin, Khan has little of substance to say. He refuses to stand up for the City and push back against Corbyn’s dangerous comments. As someone who should be advocating for the city he represents, this may seem a strange stance, but consider Khan’s ambition for the Labour leadership and things become a little clearer. He does not wish to do anything that will annoy the Corbynites, a faction of the Labour party he knows could be key in any future leadership contest. This would also provide an explanation for why is he is far more interested in national and international issues outside of his mayoral portfolio, like Brexit and overseas trade.
There is much focus on the upcoming elections in May and where the vote will swing between Labour and the Conservatives. Of perhaps far more significance though is the growing influence of Momentum on London’s Labour Party. We have already seen in Haringey a perfectly respectable council leader, Claire Kober, resign over the pressure put on her by the extreme Left within her party. A greater influence by Momentum could encourage Khan to drift further to the left – and in opposition to business – in order placate them. As Conservatives, we must stand up for business in the face of this growing Socialist agenda in London. That is why I aim to make the concerns of business a priority and stand up for the entrepreneurs and small businesses who have and continue to contribute so much to London.