There is no escaping the fact that over the last five years we have lived through one of the most difficult and painful periods in London’s modern history. It has included the heartbreaking fire that killed my friend Khadija Saye and 71 others in Grenfell Tower, years of division and confusion over Brexit, a series of monstrous terrorist attacks, an increase in violent crime resulting from a decade of Conservative austerity, and of course the pandemic. The virus has devastated London, just as it has hit every community in this country, taking far too many lives, destroying livelihoods and leading to a secondary epidemic of loneliness and isolation.
At times like this, our city has needed leadership. While three Conservative Prime Ministers have failed to provide anything more than chaos, disunity and incompetence, London has depended on my good friend and Labour colleague Sadiq Khan. As mayor, Sadiq has not only kept a cool head and been measured in the face of intense pressure and unprecedented adversity – he’s also ensured that our city’s response to every single one of these events has been guided by our values of compassion, unity and respect for diversity.
Whereas others have sought to inflame tensions, pour fuel on the culture wars and denigrate and demonise our minorities, Sadiq has instead always been a voice of calm and reason, seeking to build bridges, not walls, and endeavouring to find practical ways of helping Londoners in their daily lives. From freezing TfL fares and introducing the Hopper bus fare, saving the average London family around £200, to procuring hotel accommodation for homeless Londoners during the pandemic, tackling rogue landlords and providing crucial advice to EU citizens about their rights post-Brexit. Throughout his first term in office, Sadiq has been firmly focused on uniting Londoners and making a positive difference to the welfare and wellbeing of all of our city’s communities.
His first term shows what Labour can do in power. On Sadiq’s watch, London has started building record numbers of genuinely affordable homes, including more new council homes than in any year since 1983. Toxic air pollution in central London has been cut by almost a half thanks to the introduction of some of the boldest and most ambitious environmental policies of any major city in the world. Tens of millions of pounds have been invested in the Metropolitan Police and in positive opportunities for young Londoners as part of an approach that is about getting tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, as well as repairing the huge damage that’s been done to London’s social fabric by a decade of Tory cuts to youth clubs, frontline policing and local government services.
At the same time as delivering so much for London, Sadiq has also been a torchbearer for our city’s modern, inclusive and liberal democratic values. He has been an outspoken ally of London’s LGBTQ+ community, strived to bring different faith communities together and campaigned tirelessly for gender equality, investing significant sums in the vital fight to protect women and girls from violence.
Sadiq also hasn’t shied away from standing up for London’s values on the international stage, calling out Donald Trump’s racism while others stayed silent, demanding the big tech companies do more to curb hate speech and warning about the menacing rise of far-right nativist populism around the world. In so doing, he has not only stood on the right side of history but helped to cement London’s global reputation as a shining beacon of equality, openness and integration. A place where people don’t just tolerate each other’s differences, but truly respect, celebrate and embrace one another.
The contrast with his Tory opponent in the London mayoral election tomorrow could not be starker. While Sadiq has led the way in being a champion for London and our city’s values, the Tory candidate has a long history of highly offensive and misogynistic comments, talking down women, talking down working-class communities and talking down our diversity. That’s why in this two-horse race, voters have a clear choice between Sadiq who is standing up for London and the Conservative candidate who insists on talking our city down.
As we confront a profound economic crisis triggered by the fallout from Covid – and begin the urgent task of making London a fairer, greener and more equal city after the pandemic than it was before – it is evident that there’s only one person in this contest who has the profile, experience and track record required to lead our city forward and overcome the challenges ahead.
That’s why it’s more important than ever that we vote for London by voting for Labour and backing Sadiq. With his plans to support the creation of 175,000 high quality green jobs, put key workers first for genuinely affordable housing and back London’s businesses, both large and small, Sadiq has shown that he has the ideas, vision and values to build a better London and a brighter future for everyone who calls this amazing city home. That’s why I will be proud to vote for him this Thursday.