London’s young people need a Labour mayor

Turn up at London Labour’s new headquarters on a Monday night, and you will find a room filled with young members from right across the city, and the party spectrum. It is only a six or seven minute walk from parliament, but the atmosphere could not be any more different. Young Labour members are turning up in the hoards to campaign for Sadiq Khan.

Last week I was elected chair of London Young Labour, and its 13,000 members, with 64.9 per cent of the vote. I had not opted for Corbyn in the leadership election, so it came as a surprise to some who believed Labour was fundamentally changed. In truth our party is as broad a church as it has ever been.

Many young people joined Labour in 2015 inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s style of politics – but now they are in they want to see us deliver the change.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the capital. The feeling among London members is one of real unity – there is the chance we can win a major election. We have a candidate who is considerably more visionary than the sitting mayor, and who is fighting on the ground most Londoners consider relevant: transport costs, housing and the economy.

We will not win if we spend these precious months before the election talking to ourselves, though. We need to remember – when we’re so close to actual power, as we are right now – why we want it.

More than 750 Londoners will spend tonight on the streets. In cities as large as ours, we can slip into seeing homelessness as just part of the metropolitan furniture. But six years ago, before the eve of Cameron’s premiership, there were fewer than half the number of men and women on our streets. Labour made a difference.

The cost of a single bus ride has more than doubled since Labour lost City Hall. The transport most necessary for the lowest paid to get to work and contribute to London’s economy has risen faster than almost any other. If we gain power, then Sadiq Khan can change those people’s lives by introducing an hourly bus ticket usable across multiple buses.

London has for decades been one of the world’s great hubs for creativity. Last week’s news was dominated by the death of one of our own, David Bowie, a Brixton boy himself. However, the next David Bowie will not be a Londoner. You need at least £600 a month to take a room in Brixton these days – hardly affordable for a start out creative. It is why we need Sadiq’s plan to build on Transport for London land and build more affordable housing.

Rents and transport costs are crippling, and it is no accident. London is no place to be young and free. After eight years of Tory grip on City Hall the big money developers have got all the investment opportunities they could dream of, at the expense of opportunities for young people in London.

That’s why Sadiq Khan’s campaign sessions are full with young Londoners. There is not the time to argue over parliamentary egos while your rent is rising and the tube is almost unaffordable. The thousands of people who have joined Young Labour in recent months have done so because they want to change the status quo. So let’s quit the family rows for once. We’ve got a Labour mayor to elect.

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Benjamin Butterworth is chair of London Young Labour. He tweets @BenjaminButter

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