Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London
One of the things that strikes me as I go around meeting Londoners is just how much of our beautiful city we don’t see on our tellies or in our newspapers.
London is – without a doubt – the global city the world knows and loves, but for most of us it’s just ‘home’. Yes, it’s the place of the Palace of Westminster, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Square Mile, but it’s also home to quiet neighbourhood parks, local chippies, crowded train platforms, and backed-up roundabouts that do our heads in.
Most of us living in London just don’t experience the city the world reads about. Other than a long commute to work, most of our day-to-day doesn’t reach much beyond our hood. The London experience of someone living in Harrow can be significantly different to someone living in Romford. The same goes for Sutton and Walthamstow. Or Bexley and Barnet, for that matter.
London sure felt like a small place when I was growing up. I had the estates around Ladbroke Grove and not much beyond that. We’d wander up and down the Grand Union Canal and take the Number 7 bus to Oxford Circus every once in a while, but my ends were my world. I didn’t know much about the City, or the historic redevelopment of Canary Wharf. And South London? You might as well have been talking about another country.
No, my concerns back then were closer to home. And it’s the same principle that applies to local elections now. Our concerns aren’t in Europe, or America. They’re local. They’re at the end of our road. Londoners are worried about the dire state of crime, housing and air quality. The upcoming election is about the cost and quality of our daily lives.
Since Sadiq Khan’s election, London has become more dangerous, commuting to work has become more expensive, and homes have become harder to find and even harder to afford. It’s these everyday concerns that have made Londoners anxious for their futures.
Violent crime now haunts every borough in Greater London. Knife crime is at its highest for a decade. Gangs are out of control. Londoners are worried about their personal security, and the safety of their children. Everyday it feels like we read about yet another young life lost to knife attacks.
London is also growing and that’s putting intense pressure on our transport services. Despite what was promised, tube fares have gone up for 4.5 million Londoners, while ridership has gone down. Bus routes are being cut and tube improvements are being cancelled. The Elizabeth Line is now two years behind schedule and billions over budget. All told, Transport for London is losing nearly a billion pounds per year, meaning Londoners will be paying the bill for Sadiq Khan’s poor leadership for years to come.
As a result, the city’s volume of road traffic is up and our road congestion is worse. Our air is far too dirty. The millions of trees that were promised aren’t being planted. Asthmatics like me are finding it harder to function, and the health of our youth and our elderly are being impacted.
In short, Londoners are finding it harder to get by and get around. They’re finding it harder to find a home and raise a family. The cost of living is up, and quality of life down. While those with the means are rightly enjoying all that London has to offer, most ordinary Londoners on ordinary wages are struggling.
Put simply, London just isn’t working for everyone. And Khan doesn’t have a plan to make it work. Instead of getting on with solving London’s problems, Khan is satisfied with shifting the blame. Because Khan never takes responsibility. Ever. In Khan’s world, his lack of delivery is always someone else’s fault.
That’s just not good enough for the people of Barnet. Or Harrow. Or Romford. Or Bexley. Or whatever piece of this wonderful city you call home. If London doesn’t work for all of us, then that’s on the Mayor, and no-one else.
And it’s on me, too, as I develop my plan for London. I look forward to sharing it with you over the coming months.