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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.

Photo: Getty
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Forget planning for no deal. The government isn't really planning for Brexit at all

The British government is simply not in a position to handle life after the EU.

No deal is better than a bad deal? That phrase has essentially vanished from Theresa May’s lips since the loss of her parliamentary majority in June, but it lives on in the minds of her boosters in the commentariat and the most committed parts of the Brexit press. In fact, they have a new meme: criticising the civil service and ministers who backed a Remain vote for “not preparing” for a no deal Brexit.

Leaving without a deal would mean, among other things, dropping out of the Open Skies agreement which allows British aeroplanes to fly to the United States and European Union. It would lead very quickly to food shortages and also mean that radioactive isotopes, used among other things for cancer treatment, wouldn’t be able to cross into the UK anymore. “Planning for no deal” actually means “making a deal”.  (Where the Brexit elite may have a point is that the consequences of no deal are sufficiently disruptive on both sides that the British government shouldn’t  worry too much about the two-year time frame set out in Article 50, as both sides have too big an incentive to always agree to extra time. I don’t think this is likely for political reasons but there is a good economic case for it.)

For the most part, you can’t really plan for no deal. There are however some things the government could prepare for. They could, for instance, start hiring additional staff for customs checks and investing in a bigger IT system to be able to handle the increased volume of work that would need to take place at the British border. It would need to begin issuing compulsory purchases to build new customs posts at ports, particularly along the 300-mile stretch of the Irish border – where Northern Ireland, outside the European Union, would immediately have a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which would remain inside the bloc. But as Newsnight’s Christopher Cook details, the government is doing none of these things.

Now, in a way, you might say that this is a good decision on the government’s part. Frankly, these measures would only be about as useful as doing your seatbelt up before driving off the Grand Canyon. Buying up land and properties along the Irish border has the potential to cause political headaches that neither the British nor Irish governments need. However, as Cook notes, much of the government’s negotiating strategy seems to be based around convincing the EU27 that the United Kingdom might actually walk away without a deal, so not making even these inadequate plans makes a mockery of their own strategy. 

But the frothing about preparing for “no deal” ignores a far bigger problem: the government isn’t really preparing for any deal, and certainly not the one envisaged in May’s Lancaster House speech, where she set out the terms of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, or in her letter to the EU27 triggering Article 50. Just to reiterate: the government’s proposal is that the United Kingdom will leave both the single market and the customs union. Its regulations will no longer be set or enforced by the European Court of Justice or related bodies.

That means that, when Britain leaves the EU, it will need, at a minimum: to beef up the number of staff, the quality of its computer systems and the amount of physical space given over to customs checks and other assorted border work. It will need to hire its own food and standards inspectors to travel the globe checking the quality of products exported to the United Kingdom. It will need to increase the size of its own regulatory bodies.

The Foreign Office is doing some good and important work on preparing Britain’s re-entry into the World Trade Organisation as a nation with its own set of tariffs. But across the government, the level of preparation is simply not where it should be.

And all that’s assuming that May gets exactly what she wants. It’s not that the government isn’t preparing for no deal, or isn’t preparing for a bad deal. It can’t even be said to be preparing for what it believes is a great deal. 

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