Michael Liebreich is an entrepreneur, clean energy and transport expert, member of the Board of Trade, former member of the London Transport Board and an Olympic skier. In this series, he explains what it will take for a Conservative candidate to secure an unexpected victory in the 2024 mayoralty of London.
So far I have shown that the 2024 London mayoral race may be closer than many people think and developed an overall campaign position (not a slogan) for the Conservative candidate to appeal to both traditionalist and progressive voters – “A better – a glorious future. Run the city with.” This stems from Boris Johnson’s adviser Alex Crowley’s analysis of previous election results during his two London victories.
Alex and I have not yet begun to examine specific policy proposals. However, I am developing some ideas in a number of policy areas to encourage debate and discussion early in the process. Considering the economy and the environment, here we will look at safety, security and housing.
London faces a security crisis – the extent of which is not realized by the current mayor. The next mayor will need to deliver a coordinated approach to the physical safety of Londoners and the city’s resilience.
One of the most pressing issues for the next mayor will be driving through route and branch reform of the Metropolitan Police, working with new commissioner Sir Mark Rowley. This reform is not “someone else’s problem”: the Mayor of London is the equivalent of the city’s police and crime commissioner, and must play a leadership role. The Casey Review’s interim report revealed that the Met ranks include hundreds of racist, misogynistic and corrupt officers and, according to Rowley, there are hundreds of officers who should be kicked out of the force. The same with the London Fire Brigade – the next mayor will also have to take responsibility for its reform in the wake of a devastating racism and hooliganism scandal.
It’s not just about the Met and the fire brigade: the next mayor will have to tackle the deterioration of our streets and the whole range of criminal and anti-social activity that harms Londoners and visitors. Property crimes in London are almost never investigated. Minorities are harassed by the police instead of serving them. Women feel insecure. Exhaust catalysts stolen in broad daylight on suburban streets. Online scammers prey on the old and vulnerable. Nothing of this should be tolerated; The next mayor will have to say so and act accordingly.
The solution is not to make the police more vigilant, but to make them more effective. Modern IT, digital policing, less paperwork. Streamlined use of information and images from the public. Faster prosecutions, better-presented evidence, better coordination with courts and prosecutors. Less dancing at the carnival, more catching bad guys. London’s minority communities need effective policing more than anything else, it’s time to listen to them and meet their needs.
Security must also be ensured for the most vulnerable and marginalized. There are an estimated 133,000 undocumented children and young people in London. These Londoners can be victims of violence, modern slavery, exploitation and sex crimes. London has a long and honorable history of sheltering people in their time of need; The next mayor must prioritize their protection and integration.
Safety also means safety. It is a scandal that London’s roads are the least safe of any major European city, with 24,000 collisions and 5,000 falls involving London Transport buses each year, killing a dozen people and hospitalising 1,500. It is a scandal that around 20 per cent of London’s roadworks do not comply with safety regulations.
In his usual cynical manner, Khan announced Vision Zero – no deaths or serious injuries on London’s streets by 2041 – but did little or nothing to deliver it. His lack of commitment to the safety of Londoners is perfectly summed up by the fact that TfL’s head of safety, whom he appointed in the wake of the Sandilands accident without advertising the role, had no qualifications or previous experience in safety management.
A Conservative offer for London will prioritize the safety, security and wellbeing of all Londoners and provide an integrated package of meaningful funding policies to improve this.
in front of the house
Housing remains one of the most pressing concerns for Londoners. Many Londoners spend a large proportion of their income on property, many of which are of poor quality. London needs more homes, but also better homes.
Khan’s plan on housing is about affordable housing and rent control. The whole building of “affordable housing” does little but inhibit development: it slows down the planning process and destroys the economics of projects – resulting in less affordable housing, not more. As for rent control, this is a policy that the mayor has no power to deliver, and has been described as “the best way to destroy a city without bombing it”.
What is needed instead is a ruthless focus on two things: building more homes of excellent quality and enforcing the regulations we have.
London’s prime amenity areas, with large developers’ land banks and brownfield sites abound. Every mayor talks about releasing buildable land from the vast public holdings of the GLA and TFL – enough talk. There’s no need to build green belts and send Londoners horribly into extra-Paris-style tower blocks. Crossrail 2 must go ahead because it will not only make existing journeys easier, it will also enable thousands of new homes to be built.
Responsible foreign ownership of housing needs to be encouraged, not exasperated – as long as some of the built is needed by Londoners and doesn’t sit empty. Land-banking to be stopped – Any developer who fails to deliver within a reasonable time frame of developments that have received planning permission should have subsequent projects suspended or rejected. If you want to do business with the next mayor, respect London’s priorities and you’ll do well. If not, find a different city to run your business.
In the face of inadequate housing, what is needed is not virtue signaling or public shaming, not websites, not anonymous ratings of landlords; What is needed are resources dedicated to enforcing the regulations. And we need to allow Londoners to build higher, so they no longer have to tunnel and live in basements deeper below ground.
London has always been a city of dense, liveable streets, interspersed with green spaces and beautiful public buildings. A conservative offer for London must include an assumption in favor of building, as long as the resulting homes are of a quality any of us would be proud to live in.