Thousands of people join the TUC's Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstration in London today. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

When it comes to pay, Londoners need real change

We need a mayor who works to help Londoners with second jobs, not those with second homes. 

Just yesterday, as I walked towards the tube on my way out of Parliament, I walked past HMRC to see a crowd of people on the street. When I looked closer, I saw it was a group of Whitehall cleaners, protesting to be paid a living wage, with "don’t wash your hands of us" written on their palms. It turns out that the cleaners had requested to meet with the HMRC chief executive to discuss their low pay, but had been denied an audience. They’d sent a letter to him earlier this year which said:

"We work hard to keep the offices clean, but we are paid less than it costs to live. Due to our low pay many of us have two or even three jobs to make ends meet, working long hours, leaving the house at 4.30am and not returning until past 9pm."

I could tell Staggers readers that this resonates with stories I hear every week at my advice surgeries in Tooting, but it doesn't. The reason why? They are all at work! The constituents I hear these stories from are people like Adowa, who I met at a Sunday church service, who leaves Tooting via the night bus during the week at 4am to get to north London for the first of her two cleaning jobs. And people like Stephen, who gets the 44 bus (which my Dad used to drive) to get to work in central London. Stephen leaves his young son and daughter sleeping when he leaves the house, only to return past their bedtime when he gets home after a double shift. And that’s on a good day when he is given work - his employer has hundreds of people like him on zero hour contracts, leaving Stephen and his family unable to plan week to week, let alone for the long term future.

It's stories like this that really make me stop and think about what our city has become. A recent report by Changing London showed just how unequal London has become. One in five jobs in London are now "low paid" and this number has rocketed under Boris Johnson. Nearly a third of Londoners now live in poverty and, even more staggeringly, two thirds of them are actually in work. The number of people in "in-work poverty" has risen by almost half a million since 2001. I was shocked, but not surprised, when I read the Global Wealth Report which landed on my desk this week. It found that the UK is the only G7 country in which the gap between rich and poor is rising this century.

Having a job no longer guarantees that you can afford to live in the capital. It’s just not right that Londoners can go to work every day, work long hours and still live in poverty, struggling to bring up their families. Londoners like Adowa and Stephen both need and deserve real change. Those who live and work in our city should be paid enough not to have to work two jobs, and to keep families out of poverty. Let’s get it straight - wages have completely failed to keep pace with the cost-of living in London. As housing and bills takes up an ever higher percentage of Londoner’s salaries, tens of thousands of hard working families have been pushed into poverty.

I want London to be a more equal city, and evidence shows that this would be better for all of us. That's why I joined more than 80,000 people who took part in the @PayRise4Britain march today. From teachers to nurses, to postal works to civil servants, I spoke to people from across our city who are feeling the stresses and strains of just getting by day to day. Moving forward, when it comes to pay, Londoners need real change. We need a mayor who works to help Londoners with second jobs, not those with second homes. The living wage is not a luxury in London, it allows families to pay their bills and stay afloat. By massively increasing the minimum wage and making the living wage a reality for millions more Londoners, we can make a real difference, ensuring that all Londoners share our city's successes, and that no one is left behind.

Sadiq Khan is Labour's shadow London minister. He joined the TUC's Pay Rise for Britain march in central London today.

Sadiq Khan is MP for Tooting, shadow justice secretary and shadow minister for London.
Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The Home Office made Theresa May. But it could still destroy her

Even politicians who leave the Home Office a success may find themselves dogged by it. 

Good morning. When Theresa May left the Home Office for the last time, she told civil servants that there would always be a little bit of the Home Office inside her.

She meant in terms of its enduring effect on her, but today is a reminder of its enduring ability to do damage on her reputation in the present day.

The case of Jamal al-Harith, released from Guantanamo Bay under David Blunkett but handed a £1m compensation payout under Theresa May, who last week died in a suicide bomb attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul, where he was fighting on behalf of Isis. 

For all Blunkett left in the wake of a scandal, his handling of the department was seen to be effective and his reputation was enhanced, rather than diminished, by his tenure. May's reputation as a "safe pair of hands" in the country, as "one of us" on immigration as far as the Conservative right is concerned and her credibility as not just another headbanger on stop and search all come from her long tenure at the Home Office. 

The event was the cue for the Mail to engage in its preferred sport of Blair-bashing. It’s all his fault for the payout – which in addition to buying al-Harith a house may also have fattened the pockets of IS – and the release. Not so fast, replied Blair in a punchy statement: didn’t you campaign for him to be released, and wasn’t the payout approved by your old pal Theresa May? (I paraphrase slightly.)

That resulted in a difficult Q&A for Downing Street’s spokesman yesterday, which HuffPo’s Paul Waugh has posted in full here. As it was May’s old department which has the job of keeping tabs on domestic terror threats the row rebounds onto her. 

Blair is right to say that every government has to “balance proper concern for civil liberties with desire to protect our security”. And it would be an act of spectacular revisionism to declare that Blair’s government was overly concerned with civil liberty rather than internal security.

Whether al-Harith should never have been freed or, as his family believe, was picked up by mistake before being radicalised in prison is an open question. Certainly the journey from wrongly-incarcerated fellow traveller to hardened terrorist is one that we’ve seen before in Northern Ireland and may have occurred here.

Regardless, the presumption of innocence is an important one but it means that occasionally, that means that someone goes on to commit crimes again. (The case of Ian Stewart, convicted of murdering the author Helen Bailey yesterday, and who may have murdered his first wife Diane Stewart as well, is another example of this.)

Nonetheless, May won’t have got that right every time. Her tenure at the Home Office, so crucial to her reputation as a “safe pair of hands”, may yet be weaponised by a clever rival, whether from inside or outside the Conservative Party. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.