Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

What London needs now

London is a divided city: east and west; rich and poor; home owners and renters. Labour must do something about it.

Boris Johnson is a showman. But with London’s population heading towards 10m what it needs is a leader with a plan – for more houses, more jobs and better communities.

Priority one is a modern, liveable city for all. No more families being unable to house their children, and no more of our young facing a lifetime of work without home-ownership.

Homebuilding in London, which stood at 18,000 completions last year, is less than half of the 40,000 a year that Johnson’s own 2020 Vision says is needed, and a third of the 52,000 estimated to keep up with growth in households. This largely explains why the average house price in the capital is heading north of £500,000.

The mayor needs to be promoting development agreements in key housing growth areas and managing their implementation relentlessly. Across most of London’s brownfield sites this simply isn’t happening at present.

Priority two is jobs. This means a massive expansion of apprenticeships: in engineering, in technology, in public services.

Tech City shouldn’t just be a few buildings off Old Street, but a part of every community.

The London living wage should become the wage floor. And the mayor should promote it aggressively, including through contracts and procurement.

Priority three is transport. Fares need to be frozen in the face of the cost of living crisis. Capacity on buses, tubes and trains needs to be increased to deal with congestion and population growth. I have been closely engaged in the design of Crossrail 2 – from Wimbledon, Clapham and Victoria through to Camden, Islington, Hackney and Haringey. It should be built immediately after Crossrail 1, linked to major housing and regeneration.

And east London badly needs new bridges and tunnels across the Thames. From Tower Bridge eastwards the river is a chasm, isolating communities and cutting off major jobs and housing growth in Southwark, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Bexley, Greenwhich and Barking and Dagenham.

London needs to do better for ordinary Londoners. Better schools, safer streets, more nurseries, play centres and things to do. All this requires leadership, delivery and vision.


Andrew Adonis is former secretary of state for transport and a Labour peer. He is speaking at tonight’s Progress Campaign for a Labour Majority event: How can we win a mandate from London in 2015?

You can read Andrew Adonis’s critique of Boris on housing and transport, and what he suggests needs to be done here.

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Andrew Adonis

is a former secretary of state for transport


  • One of the housing issues is compulsory purchase and building on or in empty commercial and residential sites – any London Labour Mayor worth their salt would be seeking to tackle that particular imbroglio (and it will take a candidate with some cojones and a brass neck to be able to resist the furious lobbying that would rather have us building on green belt land than actually tackle property companies who make substantial donations to political parties to avoid this).

  • And where are the houses being built? Not in the outer suburbs and less affluent parts of the capital but in wealthy Swiss Cottage, where the average two-bedroom flat sells for £600,000 or more.

  • Indeed – where a developer can make maximum profit. Note also developers total reluctance to countenance social rented housing provision in the vast majority of cases…

  • There are parts of the city – Tottenham, for instance – where there are masses of empty properties and brownfield sites that have not been inhabited for 70 years or more. St. Ken didn’t do anything about housing either. Camden has had to fight tooth and nail to get social housing added in to the development mix, and the developers are always trying to bait them down on the amount.

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