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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.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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