London’s mayor matters. As the world’s preeminent city, London possesses an enormous wealth of assets: energetic and enterprising people, successful businesses, a strong public sector, good infrastructure and more parks and green spaces than any other capital city.
Yet these aren’t put to work to promote the health of Londoners. Indeed, quite the opposite: right now, London faces a public health emergency.
More than a million Londoners still smoke tobacco, with 67 children lighting up for the first time every day. London’s air quality is silently killing us. We have the dirtiest air in Europe, causing more than 4,000 premature deaths every year.
Nearly four million Londoners are obese or overweight – and just 13% of us walk or cycle to school or work, despite half of us living close enough to do so. All Londoners should be ashamed that we have the highest rate of childhood obesity of any major global city.
It’s often been said that we don’t value our health until we lose it. As a cancer surgeon, I am certain that is true. And I know that London can do better.
For that reason, twice in the past decade, I’ve led movements of Londoners working together to improve health and to improve the NHS. Healthcare for London gave our prescription for a better NHS in the capital. And Better Health for London showed how Londoners could be helped to better health, as well as better healthcare.
In my time championing health in London, I’ve never met a politician more committed to doing the right thing for Londoners’ health than Tessa Jowell. That’s why I’m backing her as Labour’s choice for mayor. We need a mayor who will deliver real change, and Tessa will be that mayor.
When she invited me to discuss Better Health for London, she had the courage to commit to doing what is right, no matter how hard the politics. Above all, she wanted to know how many lives would be saved or improved, and what she could do to help.
In Tessa, I see extraordinary passion, boundless energy and unwavering determination to help others.
For all Londoners, the healthiest choice isn’t always easy and isn’t always obvious. Every day, we make hundreds of choices that affect our health – how we get to and from school or work, what we choose to eat, how we spend our free time.
As mayor, Tessa Jowell will help Londoners by making each of those individual decisions that bit easier. And in that difference is everything: making small changes individually will make a huge difference collectively.
Tessa is committed to helping London’s children in their early years – just as she did in government by delivering Sure Start. Tessa will tackle London’s childhood obesity epidemic by getting children moving just as she did with the Olympics. Tessa will make London a walking city – helping all of us to healthier lifestyles.
And yes, she’s got the guts to make our parks and public places smoke free, helping adults to choose to stop smoking and preventing children from starting.
The real test of leadership is not to dream up great ideas or make grand speeches. It is to build coalitions to make change happen. It is to deliver real improvements to daily life. Only Tessa has the track record of delivery – from the Olympics to Sure Start.
Like many in our capital, I am a Londoner by choice. I am here because I believe that London is the greatest city in the world – and is bursting with potential to be even greater.
The Labour party now has a crucial choice to make. London needs Labour to choose Tessa, to give Londoners the chance to choose better health.