Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Not speeches, but solutions

The London mayoral election will be no shoo-in for Labour, warns Tessa Jowell

Last month, Labour lost. We lost badly. It was an awful experience. But it should also galvanise us. Labour has to learn how to win again, not out of self-interest but because that is the only way we can act for and represent the people we seek to serve. Last month’s defeat should make us absolutely determined to win the next one.

The next challenging election is in fact not very far away. In under a year Labour has the chance to win back London’s City Hall for the first time since 2004. But make no mistake – it will be hard.

Anyone who thinks London is inevitably a Labour city should think again. We have no divine right to hold power in our capital – in fact, we usually lose. Labour has won the mayoralty just once in four attempts, (remember that Ken Livingstone stood as an independent in 2000). We must not fool ourselves into thinking Labour’s UK-wide disconnection this year did not breach the M25. True, we had 300,000 votes more than the Tories, but when the second preferences of United Kingdom Independence party supporters and other voters are taken into account, that lead looks flimsy. And do not forget that the Conservative party has increased its vote share in every general election since 2001. That is not the performance of a defeated opponent.

The Conservatives are good at winning. I wish that was not true, but it is. And you can be absolutely sure that the Tories will be dead-set on winning the London mayoralty in 2016. Anyone who thinks that they cannot do so is deluding themselves.

Four years ago, people were confidently predicting that an unpopular government would surely see the defeat of the Tory candidate in the coming mayoral election – and they were proved wrong. Boris Johnson romped home. He won because he was able to appeal beyond the core Tory vote. The difference between him winning and losing in 2012 was his ability to get Labour supporters to vote for him.

Too often Labour loses because we fail to reach out beyond our traditional support – and we let the Tories reach beyond their own. We win when we speak to everyone. We win when we offer a vision that chimes with everyone’s hopes and ambitions. We win when our politics is open and we speak from the centre-ground.

This open politics leaves behind the tribalist divisions of left and right. Those tags make very little sense to most people these days. We must remain anchored to our progressive values, and we must be advocates for fairness, decency, opportunity and inclusive economic success. But we have to build the appeal of our values and go beyond a dismal core vote strategy.

You can be absolutely sure that the Tories will be dead-set on winning the London mayoralty in 2016

This politics means that we keep ourselves open to the rest of the world. If we want everyone to share in the prosperity of London then it must remain an open city, able to generate the jobs and opportunities which Londoners need. The Greater London Authority’s own estimates suggest London could lose over a million jobs if we leave the European Union. That would be a disaster for our city and all who live here. That is why I am determined to champion our membership of the EU and to fight plans to limit migration of the talented people we need.

Above all, open politics means speaking to all of London, and having one conversation – not one for the Labour party and another with those beyond our party. That is how we will win next year. We have to seek the broadest possible mandate.

I am standing to be mayor of London because I know I can offer this open politics. I want to build One London, where everyone gets to share in the city’s success. It is a vision that speaks to everyone’s concerns, and everyone’s ambitions.

We all know what is wrong with London. We have a housing crisis that is spiralling out of control and making it ever harder to live and work in our great city. We have a transport system that is buckling under pressure and costing Londoners too much. And growing inequality is leading to a terrible waste of Londoners’ potential.

Londoners live with these problems every day. The mayoral election will be about providing solutions to these problems. The question is – who can deliver not just speeches but the sustained and effective action which is needed?

On housing, on transport, on opportunities, I have the ideas and plan which will build a united city – One London, where everyone can succeed.

One London means Londoners having a home, at a price they can afford, where they feel safe and where they can put down roots. But for too many Londoners, that simple idea is out of reach. As mayor of London, I will make housing my number one priority. I will establish Homes for Londoners – a housing equivalent of Transport for London – to finally get a grip of the housing crisis and get our city building the homes we need.

One London requires better, more affordable transport which meets the city’s huge population growth. After housing, fares are one of the biggest costs most families face. Over recent years, the mayor has piled on the pressure, repeatedly increasing bus and tube fares. For all Londoners, but particularly those on low pay, there is nothing fair about rising fares. I will act to address this by freezing fares on the bus, tube and rail networks, introducing one zone at the weekends, and ending the two-bus rip-off with a one-hour timed ticket.

One London means everyone sharing in the city’s success, but today, too many Londoners feel like the opportunity in our city is not for them. London has some of the highest rates of child poverty in Britain – over half a million London children are growing up in hardship, and one in five grow up in households which cannot afford to have their friends round to tea. In too many cases, that hard start in life determines the course of a lifetime. One in four of our young people lack the experience and skills they need to get a job, and then get a better job. And far too many Londoners go out to work each day and bring home a wage that does not pay enough to get by.

I will deal with the inequality entrenched in childhood by restoring Sure Start in London, to give every child every chance. I will tackle young Londoners’ skills shortage by investing in apprenticeships. And I will end poverty pay in London by making our capital a living wage city.

I believe these are the ideas which will successfully tackle the city’s problems and help to build One London. But good ideas are worse than useless unless you can deliver them. From Sure Start to the Olympics, I have delivered for London. And I will do it again.

The first step towards delivery is, of course, winning the election. The Olympics taught me all about winning. Unheard-of amateurs achieving amazing victories through talent and determination. Superstar performers meeting insanely high expectations. And, of course, there was the triumph of winning the Games for London in the first place. I know how to win, and I plan to do it again – first this summer, and then next year.

That is my offer to Labour. I have the ideas, I can deliver them – and I can win. And if anyone is in any doubt about the importance of winning next year, I ask them to cast their minds back to 10.01pm on Thursday 7 May this year. Remember that? That is what losing feels like. Let’s make sure we do not feel that way again this time next year.


Tessa Jowell is standing to be Labour candidate for mayor of London


Photo: Felissy

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Tessa Jowell

is former member of parliament for Dulwich and West Norwood and former secretary of state for culture, media and sport


  • I was with you Tessa…then I went to the Camden hustings. You are past your prime. I found you sluggish and uninspiring. I don’t think you can beat Zac

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