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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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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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