Christian Wolmar is standing as a candidate in Labour's mayoral race. Photo: Getty Images
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Will Self endorses Christian Wolmar to be Labour's candidate for Mayor of London

Will Self, the respected novelist and NS contributor, has backed Christian Wolmar's bid for the London mayoralty.

Will Self has endorsed Christian Wolmar's bid for Labour's mayoral nomination in an open letter to the New Statesman

The respected author, whose 2012 work, Umbrella, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, praises the transport expert, who Self has known for "over thirty years". He describes Wolmar as "one of the foremost experts on London’s transport infrastructure – if not the foremost", and lauds him as  "a principled and honest man without a scintilla of vanity, pride, self-righteousness or narcissism". 

Revealing his hope that a Wolmar victory would prevent the London mayoralty becoming "just another political football on the Westminster pitch", Self describes him as "the ideal incumbent", both for London's straitened finances and to lobby for further powers for City Hall.

Self, who is not a Labour member, says he has registered as a £3 supporter purely to vote for Wolmar. The longshot candidate for Mayor - who faces heavyweight opposition in the shape of Tessa Jowell, David Lammy, Sadiq Khan and Diane Abbott - is a respected member of the cycling community, and is attempting to recruit 10,000 cyclists to assist his shot at the nomination.

 

The full letter is below:

 

To Whom it May Concern:

I wish it to be known that I unequivocally support Christian Wolmar’s campaign to become the Labour mayoral candidate in the forthcoming election. I have indeed registered as a Labour Party supporter purely in order to be able to take part in the selection process. I’ve known Christian as a colleague for over thirty years – at a personal level he has always struck me as a principled and honest man without a scintilla of vanity, pride, self-righteousness or narcissism (the besetting character flaws of the career politician).

Professionally, Christian is one of the foremost experts on London’s transport infrastructure – if not the foremost. Over decades, in a myriad of articles, media appearances and several books he has calmly catalogued the transport history of the capital, and suggested ways its current operation and ownership can be modified in order to fulfil ever-burgeoning demand in an equitable and affordable manner. In his courageous writing on rail and tube privatisation he has consistently exposed the flaws in the neoliberal argument that public ownership always entails inefficiency.

My belief is that if you want to understand local politics in Britain (or any other polity for that matter), follow the money. The effective tax revenue base for the London Mayoralty and the GLA is, once Transport for London revenues are set to one side, pitifully small compared to that of other metropolitan administrations worldwide. The purse-strings relating to London’s governance remain tightly in the hands of Westminster politicians. As things stand, with a few concessions such as the power to overrule planning decisions (which both the current and previous mayors have conspicuously abused), and to grandstand on ‘security issues’ via its oversight of the Metropolitan Police, the mayoral post remains essentially a lopsided combination of glorified transport manager and international marketing executive for ‘London plc’.

The justness of a Wolmar mayoralty will be that Christian is both the ideal incumbent for the current fiscal dispensation, and the perfect person to push the mayoralty in the direction of greater power commensurate with its democratic mandate. I believe his status as a relative political outsider will prevent the mayoralty from becoming – still more than it already is – just another political football on the Westminster pitch. Unlike other potential Labour candidates for the post, Christian doesn’t have to live-down previous debacles – such as the woeful ‘legacy’ of the Olympic Games – nor is he shackled by expedient alliances.

We need a London mayor who has a truly socialistic outlook: one which encompasses all Londoners, wherever they may have originated, or where they may live in this great city. We need a London mayor impervious to the blandishments of traditional powerbrokers, and capable of resisting the turbulence occasioned by the international capital flows cascading through the City. In Christian Wolmar I believe Labour – and Londoners in general – have such a candidate.

Yours faithfully,     

 

Will Self

Stockwell, London

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

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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