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.