Thousands of people join the TUC's Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstration in London today. Photograph: Getty Images.
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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.
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Why I'll miss Sean Spicer, the tragic hero who couldn't cope with Trump

He was all of us when we have a sociopath for a boss.

From the first day he walked up to the White House press podium, in his ill fitting suit like an intern on his first day in the office, my heart went out to Sean Spicer. He did that classic thing you do when you have a very strong brief from your new boss and no idea what you're doing. He went completely overboard. Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd wasn't only huge, contrary to actual photo, video and eye witness reports, it was exceptionally huge. In fact, it was the biggest in history. Period!

We all had the same thought. This guy? This is who you pick to be White House press secretary? He crashed on to the scene all stutters and swivel eyes and redundant suit material. It was a fitting debut for the Trump’s administration.  

It was the start of a show that would give us Sean Spicer’s ABCs, a montage that poked fun at his tendency to mispronounce words and foreign leaders’ names. His greatest hits include saying "sometimes we can disagree with the facts". He brought on to the stage two piles of paper, one large and one small, pointing to the larger one as evidence of what "big government does", like he was on Sesame Street showing the kids the difference between BIG and SMALL. He said even "someone as despicable as Hitler didn’t sink to using chemical weapons". Just face palm, head-desk stuff everyday. His press briefings descended into laughter from the press and cries "oh come on Sean. Sean??" as he stormed off in the middle of a briefing.

But somehow, you couldn’t get mad at him. Or mad enough. Sean Spicer is that man who collapses late into the meeting he is supposed to be leading, sweating, nervous, spilt coffee down his tie and a distinct air of having stress-induced heartburn, before overcompensating for it by talking over everyone and throwing his weight around. More than anything, Spicer just seemed scared. His bursts of irritation and anger masking a deep seated sense of inadequacy probably much exacerbated by Trump reportedly chewing him out everytime he didn't come across as slick enough.  

Despite working for a dishonest and dissembling White House, Spicer never felt like the actual bully. He was the bullied. The kid who wanted in with the big boys and did their bidding but actually wasn't that bad inside so never did it with much effect. Indeed, he was all of us when we have a sociopath for a boss, a recent promotion, and a mortgage. All of us when just trying to get through the day when we don’t believe what we’re selling and are crippled by impostor syndrome. He was a tragic hero. Someone who just wanted to be taken seriously but somehow had missed out on all the genes that would enable that. The man who shoveled elephant excrement at the Big Top but stuck with it because he wanted to work in show business. A modern day clown who hated people laughing at him and cried after the show. And then there was Melissa McCarthy’s Saturday Night Live rendition which drove the final nail in the coffin of his hope to ever develop any gravitas. But it was as affectionate as it was brutal.

None of this excuses any of his complicity of course. I over embellish for effect. He went out there and lied day in and day out, but as his tenure went on, his suits got better, but one felt that he wasn’t coping. People who could work for Donald Trump and not have a nervous breakdown probably fall into two camps; those who agree with him and all his tactics, and those who don’t but are careerists. To be in the latter and be able to sleep at night requires a pretty high functioning ability to compartmentalise and, let’s be honest - kill your soul.

In a recent interview, Tom Ricks, the veteran journalist said:

"It's a crushing burden to be in political power in Washington these days, and you see people almost lose their souls. I think Sean Spicer, the president's spokesman in recent weeks has been pushed almost to the edge of a nervous breakdown from his public appearance. And he's kind of lost a big part of his soul, and I think that's true of some other people. And watching H.R. McMaster, an officer I do admire, over the last few weeks, I feel like I've seen him come out and give up a slice of his soul a few times. And I wonder how many more times he can do that before he just says I am becoming part of the problem, not part of the solution here."

That’s what it felt Spicer was doing everytime he came on. Giving up a slice of his soul. This might be a charitable explanation and he’s just really bad at his job. But when Sarah Huckabee Sanders began job sharing with him, it looked like her relative competence was less attributable to the fact that she was a better press secretary, and more that she was a soulless stone cold liar who felt no dissonance.

As Anthony Scaramucci came onto the podium to accept his position as White House Communications Director, the appointment that Spicer allegedly resigned over, it was clear that it could get a lot worse than Spicer. Scaramucci put on a sickening display where he said he "loved" and was "loyal" to the president about ten times, as Huckabee, now fully wearing the late Sean Spicer’s shoes as White House Press Secretary, looked on dead-eyed from the sidelines.

Sean Spicer still has a chance to completely blacken his name and lose any fondness he may have fostered by leaving the White House, joining the cable TV circuit  and continuing to shill for the Trump administration. This is a highly probably scenario. But until then, here’s to Sean Spicer. You were the best White House press secretary ever. Period!