Liz Kendall addresses a hustings. Photo: Getty Images
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Liz Kendall's the right choice for local government, for London, and for Labour

Eight council leaders from the capital explain why they're backing Liz Kendall to lead Labour back into power.

As leaders of Labour-run London councils, we know the difference that Labour makes to so many lives. That’s not just about what happens in Westminster – important though that is – but what happens at a local and regional level too.

That’s especially true in London. Labour councils in the capital have faced some of the toughest budget cuts at the hands of the Tories. Whilst we can – and do - achieve a great deal for our local areas in tough circumstances, we could do so much more with Labour in government nationally.

That’s why we’re backing Liz Kendall to take Labour forwards.

She offers a fresh start for the Labour Party, and understands not only the advantages but the necessity of shifting power away from the centre and into the hands of those who need it most. In recent years we have been forced to face some tough decisions, and we’ve had to take innovative action that works for the communities we seek to represent.

Liz Kendall understands the choices we’ve had to make. She understands that a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Too often the Labour leadership hasn’t trusted local councils – under Liz Kendall that won’t be the case.

We believe that Liz understands that decisions should be taken as close to people as possible. She understands that the future of the country isn’t about what happens in Whitehall, it’s about shifting power to town halls, and more importantly, to local communities – sharing power with those who have none, and using government, be it national or local, to help people help themselves and one another.

We share Liz’s desire to involve people in designing the public services they use; to give employees a stronger say in their workplaces; and to ensure that local businesses help shape the educational provision they need to create vibrant local economies.

Liz is no recent convert to devolution – over the past three years she has impressed us by her unstinting commitment to finding more local solutions for health and social care. This commitment to devolution goes further than health and social care - it’s at the heart of her plan for the Labour Party and the country.

We know that when Labour is led well – locally or nationally – it’s to the benefit of our country, our party and crucially our communities. But when Labour fails to connect with the people we seek to serve and lacks understanding of why people don’t give us their support, councillors are often the first to find out – and the first to lose their seats.

With Liz Kendall as Labour leader, the party can begin to regain the trust of the British people, putting power back in their hands and pushing power away from the centre and towards our the people themselves. And with a crucial London Mayoral contest next year, Labour can’t wait to start that process.

If Labour wants to begin the process of reconnecting with our communities – and those areas far beyond where the party needs to win to help us deliver for our communities – then Liz Kendall is the right choice.

For local government.

For London.

And for Labour.

 

 

Cllr Sarah Hayward, Leader, Camden Council

Cllr Julian Bell, Leader, Ealing Council

Steve Curran, Hounslow Council

Cllr Claire Kober, Leader, Haringey Council

Cllr Lib Peck, Leader, Lambeth Council

Mayor Steve Bullock, Lewisham Council

Cllr Stephen Alambritis, Leader, Merton Council

Cllr Peter John, Leader, Southwark Council

 

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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