Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.
For the past three years, the political discourse in this country has been focused on Brexit. Now that we have a deal in principle, I hope it is not an issue that dominates any more of the London Mayoral election, or the London Mayor’s time, as it has done. Especially as violent crime has risen to unthinkable levels, families are being priced out of the housing market, and our transport infrastructure is in disarray. Londoners cannot afford to let the Mayoral election get sucked into the Brexit debate, even if it continues to dominate the political landscape.
Contrary to what my Liberal Democrat, Labour, and Green Party opponents claim, London is NOT simply a remain city. Taking sides in this polarising debate as they have all done, only exacerbates the divides in our city and does nothing to unite us.
London, like the rest of the United Kingdom, is a divided city. There are 1.5 million Brexit voters in London. That is 1.5 million people ignored by my opponents and ignored by the incumbent Mayor. To put that number into perspective, more people in London voted to leave the EU than voted for Sadiq Khan in the last Mayoral election. That is a huge pool of people who currently have no voice in London. To make matters worse, grandstanding on Brexit means other important issues are being overshadowed.
Our city needs a Mayor who unifies our great city and gives everyone a stake in society, regardless of race, colour, creed, leave or remain. Facing up to the challenges in London requires City Hall to show leadership. What it does not need, is to play to the dangerous identity politics that has gripped almost every other facet of our politics.
Having failed to deliver on even one of his 2016 campaign pledges, a topic I plan on covering in detail another week, I can understand why the incumbent Mayor has little else to talk about. He hasn’t delivered anything for London, and he knows it. A cynic could argue that the longer Brexit is delayed, and the resulting uncertainty continues to impact our economy, the easier it is for Khan to blame everyone but himself for his own failures.
As long as the Mayor can get away with grandstanding over Brexit don’t expect to see him talking up the two million trees he was going to plant because he didn’t. Don’t expect to see him talking about the success of Crossrail because it’s been delayed yet again. And don’t expect to see Khan talking about the record numbers of affordable homes he’s built, because they don’t exist. And definitely don’t expect to hear the Mayor talk about how he has tackled crime. Instead, what we get is Khan waxing lyrical about Brexit or starting Twitter wars with Donald Trump.
After 15 stabbings, an acid attack, and the Extinction Rebellion chaos in the last two weeks alone, where is the London Mayor?
What really frustrates me, is why every single one of my fellow candidates has taken the bait. Far from trying to debate Khan on his record, what this Mayoral election is fast turning into is a Remain-off – and virtue signalling in all its modern and perverse glory. We saw this to a lesser extent with the Extinction Rebellion protests over the last few weeks. Instead of showing leadership and standing up for the millions of Londoners unfairly impacted by the disruption caused across central London, the Mayor was virtually silent whilst the Liberal Democrat candidate was too busy talking to EU officials.
As a result, not only did none of them point out that the UK is doing more than almost any other country to address climate change, but none of my opponents, as I was doing, engaged any of the protestors in any meaningful conversations about what London can and should be doing to address this issue. And these issues are clearly important. The state of our environment is directly linked to the clean air crisis we face in the city. Which is why I have long argued, and plan to implement, policies to electrify the entire bus fleet in London. This is a tangible policy that could be delivered in my first term in office, this would not only help the environment, but would clean up the capital’s air quality. This policy alone would have the same impact as removing one and a half million cars from our streets.
Even though it seems like a one-man fight to refocus the conversation, I am confident that Londoners will not fall for my opponent’s tactics to turn this election into another phase of the Brexit saga. When Londoners turn up to the polls in seven months, they will vote for the candidate with a foolproof plan to bring crime levels down and build the homes we desperately need. A Mayor who looks forward to the future; not back to 2016. Every Londoner, young or old, needs hope, opportunity, and access to everything that makes our city great.
The current Mayor has failed to deliver on every single one of his campaign pledges; he has no record to defend. With a deal in principle agreed, now more than ever, London needs leadership, unity and above all else, Londoners need answers.