Choose hope over fear

It is no surprise that the mayoral election has been a contest of competing visions for London.

But, rather than a contrast between competing ideas for the capital’s transport or policing, while we have set out our plans to improve London, the Tories’ vision has focused decidedly on the gutter.

And they are wallowing there. The Tories’ divisive dog-whistle politics have sharpened with their desperation.

From wheeling out Michael Fallon and his dead cat (all a bit last year, frankly) to poorly executed scare letters, the Tory campaign has descended all too quickly into pointing and shouting, ‘look, a Muslim’.

Even veteran rightwing commentator Peter Oborne calls Goldsmith’s campaign ‘the most repulsive I have ever seen as a political reporter’.

The reason this approach has garnered such criticism but had little traction is because Sadiq Khan is utterly his own man, running his campaign the way he wants to govern – inclusively.

He said he would deliver a 32-borough campaign, and he has. His campaign has been relentlessly upbeat, talking to the rich variety of London life, coming out loud a clear for staying in the European Union and pledging to be the most pro-business mayor ever.

Personally, I have been struck by how he has gone above and beyond in his efforts to reach out to, and learn about, the issues and concerns of Jewish Londoners. When speaking out against extremism, he has been clear in his intolerance of antisemitism, anywhere in society, including our party.

Meanwhile, on the doorstep the conversation remains focused on the issues which concern Londoners – fares, community policing and, above all else, housing.

As a list candidate for the assembly, I have campaigned across the city, from fairly leafy suburbs to estates in central London. One thing is true of pretty much every person I have talked to: they want a mayor to take action on the housing crisis. If it isn’t a present issue for them, they know it will be for their children and grandchildren.

Their concerns about community cohesion have more to do with eight years of Tory inaction on housing than disreputable allegations about Sadiq. They are worried that their children and grandchildren will not be able to live where they grew up because they are priced out of their home city.

So, as we enter the home straight, it is important to ignore the encouraging signals the polls are sending and double down on our efforts to secure the mayoralty.

Not just because the only time Labour has won City Hall was in 2004 and the last time Labour won an election was in 2005.

Not just because London is at a tipping point.

It matters because we need to make the case for governing, for delivering, in a big way. That, for progressives, having ideals is pointless if you cannot put them to good use.

And it matters because we need to defeat the Tories on their nasty, divisive rhetoric.

Their campaign is miles from the London we know and love. These dog-whistle politics have no place in our politics. Hopefully Zac Goldsmith will spend a long time in political obscurity regretting he ever let himself be the fall guy for a party that is wholly out of touch with a diverse, brilliant 21st century London.

Our city deserves better. It deserves a mayor who is ready to deal with the manifest challenges it faces. As Doreen Lawrence said yesterday, “Londoners will choose unity, over division, hope over fear”.

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Mike Katz is one of Labour’s list candidates for the London Assembly and is national vice-chair of the Jewish Labour Movement. He tweets @MikeKatz

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Photo: Martin Pettitt

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