Show Hide image

Here's why I, and 324 councillors, are backing Tessa Jowell for London Mayor

We require three things of our next Mayor: the ability to win the confidence of Londoners; the determination to change our city for the better; and the experience of getting things done. 

I am one of 325 Labour councillors who are publicly supporting Tessa Jowell’s bid to be London Mayor. Here’s why.

London is a city of economic migration. With its nine million people and its 250 languages, today London is the very definition of diversity and tolerance.

Over the course of history, the patterns of movement to London weren’t just limited to people from beyond the UK, arriving at the docks of the East End or Heathrow to the West. Just as the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony described, when the chimneys of the industrial revolution rose into London’s skyline millions of workers arrived into the city from all parts of Britain, chasing a better quality of life.  Today’s modern equivalents are the thousands of young professionals arriving in London each year seeking out a decent job in an exciting city.

Getting a share of London’s affluence is what draws so many into its orbit. But in a city that is growing older and ever more expensive, not everyone is enjoying the opportunities that should be on offer in a global city. London has become a city of economic extremes; there are those with very much, and there are many more with very little.

But salary and income aren’t the only things that divide Londoners. The extent of the conditions that 19th Century workers experienced in polluted and overcrowded streets may well be a thing of the past. But still even today, where you live in London has a large part in determining how long you will live, how long you will stay healthy and what life chances your children will have. London’s big challenges might be understood globally, but they are felt locally.

As Councillors representing areas in all parts of London, each of us has the experience of seeing these divisions in the streets we represent, often advocating for neighbours who may live next to each other, but whose lives and family circumstances could not be further apart. Local government is increasingly being called upon to stitch together London’s social fabric with ever diminishing resources. In this era of financial constraint, we can build a few homes while our housing waiting lists keep growing; we can keep our council tax frozen while the costs of living in London keep increasing; and we can keep our Children’s Centres open while the inequality gap grows wider and wider.

But if we are going to be able to crack many of the daunting challenges we face across the city, we require three things of our next Mayor: the ability to win the confidence of Londoners; the determination to change our city for the better; and the experience of getting things done. That’s why so many of us in town halls across London are backing Tessa Jowell’s bid for City Hall.

In diverse outer London Boroughs like Ealing, where I am a councillor, Labour has the experience of winning against the odds. It wasn’t easy to win back control of our council in the dying days of the last Labour Government, and to elect a Labour MP – Rupa Huq – in May 2015. But if you look further afield, to Harrow and Barnet – where Labour must win if we are to recapture the Mayoralty – the true scale of the task facing us next year becomes apparent.

Tessa has led the debate on the big issues of this selection – a new ‘Homes for Londoners’ agency directly building the homes Londoners desperately need; reinventing and reinvesting in Sure Start to secure the future for the next generation of Londoners; and ensuring transport is affordable for all through ‘one zone weekends’ and one-hour bus tickets.

But her greatest strength is her ability to deliver on these ideas. As the Minister who set up Sure Start for the country, and the Secretary of State who secured the Olympics for London, there can be no doubting her ability to keep on delivering for our City.

With the unifying message of One London, Tessa’s great empathy and experience uniquely places her as the candidate to expand Labour’s support beyond the collection of heartlands and marginals each of us represents. Polls have consistently demonstrated that Tessa is the candidate who has the confidence of Londoners. She can inspire confidence that under her leadership, London can become a fairer place. Under Tessa, all Londoners could find it that bit easier to enjoy everything the city has to offer. That is why we as councillors are proud to back her.

Read a full list of London councillors supporting Tessa Jowell.

Peter Mason is a local councillor for Hanwell in the London Borough of Ealing. He tweets @pejmason.

Getty
Show Hide image

The Women's March against Trump matters – but only if we keep fighting

We won’t win the battle for progressive ideas if we don’t battle in the first place.

Arron Banks, UKIP-funder, Brexit cheerleader and Gibraltar-based insurance salesman, took time out from Trump's inauguration to tweet me about my role in tomorrow's Women’s March Conservative values are in the ascendancy worldwide. Thankfully your values are finished. . . good”.

Just what about the idea of women and men marching for human rights causes such ill will? The sense it is somehow cheeky to say we will champion equality whoever is in office in America or around the world. After all, if progressives like me have lost the battle of ideas, what difference does it make whether we are marching, holding meetings or just moaning on the internet?

The only anti-democratic perspective is to argue that when someone has lost the argument they have to stop making one. When political parties lose elections they reflect, they listen, they learn but if they stand for something, they don’t disband. The same is true, now, for the broader context. We should not dismiss the necessity to learn, to listen, to reflect on the rise of Trump – or indeed reflect on the rise of the right in the UK  but reject the idea that we have to take a vow of silence if we want to win power again.

To march is not to ignore the challenges progressives face. It is to start to ask what are we prepared to do about it.

Historically, conservatives have had no such qualms about regrouping and remaining steadfast in the confidence they have something worth saying. In contrast, the left has always been good at absolving itself of the need to renew.

We spend our time seeking the perfect candidates, the perfect policy, the perfect campaign, as a precondition for action. It justifies doing nothing except sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the state of society.

We also seem to think that changing the world should be easier than reality suggests. The backlash we are now seeing against progressive policies was inevitable once we appeared to take these gains for granted and became arrogant and exclusive about the inevitability of our worldview. Our values demand the rebalancing of power, whether economic, social or cultural, and that means challenging those who currently have it. We may believe that a more equal world is one in which more will thrive, but that doesn’t mean those with entrenched privilege will give up their favoured status without a fight or that the public should express perpetual gratitude for our efforts via the ballot box either.  

Amongst the conferences, tweets and general rumblings there seem three schools of thought about what to do next. The first is Marxist  as in Groucho revisionism: to rise again we must water down our principles to accommodate where we believe the centre ground of politics to now be. Tone down our ideals in the hope that by such acquiescence we can eventually win back public support for our brand – if not our purpose. The very essence of a hollow victory.

The second is to stick to our guns and stick our heads in the sand, believing that eventually, when World War Three breaks out, the public will come grovelling back to us. To luxuriate in an unwillingness to see we are losing not just elected offices but the fight for our shared future.

But what if there really was a third way? It's not going to be easy, and it requires more than a hashtag or funny t-shirt. It’s about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and starting to renew our call to arms in a way that makes sense for the modern world.

For the avoidance of doubt, if we march tomorrow and then go home satisfied we have made our point then we may as well not have marched at all. But if we march and continue to organise out of the networks we make, well, then that’s worth a Saturday in the cold. After all, we won’t win the battle of ideas, if we don’t battle.

We do have to change the way we work. We do have to have the courage not to live in our echo chambers alone. To go with respect and humility to debate and discuss the future of our communities and of our country.

And we have to come together to show there is a willingness not to ask a few brave souls to do that on their own. Not just at election times, but every day and in every corner of Britain, no matter how difficult it may feel.

Saturday is one part of that process of finding others willing not just to walk a mile with a placard, but to put in the hard yards to win the argument again for progressive values and vision. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe not many will keep going. But whilst there are folk with faith in each other, and in that alternative future, they’ll find a friend in me ready to work with them and will them on  and then Mr Banks really should be worried.