The Labour candidate looks to have smashed the mayoral race – we revisit his plans to make the city a better place
London has been unfalteringly knocking on the door of societal oblivion for decades: our clubs, cultural mainstays, are shutting their doors, the Draconian transport system does no one any favours and slobbering real estate developers gnaw at the carcass of a housing crisis. It’s pushing thousands of people out every year, and the rest of us are left tired and disillusioned by a city we throw everything into and get nothing back.
This week saw the last push to the finish line for candidates in the mayoral election, and Labour’s Sadiq Khan looks to have come out on top. Born and bred in the capital and a vocal advocate for the cultural, social and political revitalization of London, we chart the promises Khan has made to our city, and ones we hope he fulfills.
Khan spoke to Dazed last month about his commitment to the rejuvenation of our “iconic club scene”. Our pillars of nightlife have slowly had the life squeezed out of them: relentless wrist slaps from grumbling council officers for noise became unworkable curfews and ridiculous licensing laws. Gentrification and hungry developers pushed rent sky high, and the space to party in London remains in a dangerous place.
He referenced the vibrant cities of Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague, which know how to use their flourishing nightlife scene to benefit their cities, generating jobs and celebrating rather than punishing and forcing activity underground or abroad. He spoke of how he would face these head on, and his future, concrete plans:
“Too many bars and clubs have been forced to close because they can’t afford to soundproof their premises once new residential developments have been built nearby. By introducing something called the ‘agent of change’ principle, the cost of soundproofing will fall on housing developers rather than venues,” he said. “This is a simple measure but will have a massive effect on smaller, independent bars and clubs who often aren’t able to afford the costs involved.”
He explained further: “I will learn from Mirik Milan in Amsterdam. The work he is doing to unite businesses, residents and local authorities to support the night-time economy in a way that benefits everyone is something I want to replicate in London. I will therefore appoint a ‘Night Czar’ who will be a strong voice of support in City Hall for London’s vibrant night-time economy.”
“London is famous for its diverse and varied offering of music venues, gay bars and historic pubs. During my campaign, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern put on a Kylie themed fundraiser called Khan’t Get You Out of My Head. It was a great night but even the RVT, the oldest gay venue in London, was under threat of closure until a campaign saved it. I know that this is a common occurrence. A third of London’s small music venues have closed since 2007, damaging our city’s cultural offering and having a negative effect on jobs and the economy. I will make it more difficult for redevelopment to result in the closure of heritage and cultural venues by strengthening the London Plan.”
Khan plans to shake up the outdated London transport system. He served as Transport Minister in the last Labour Government, and worked towards setting up Crossrail. He’s promised to “put a hold on the rocketing fares” with a four year freeze on TfL fares and Mayor Cycle Hire, a huge relief – during Boris Johnson’s reign as zip-lining peroxide premier, they increased over 40 per cent. He’ll also introduce ‘The Hopper’: an unlimited changes ticket to last one hour at the same price as a single fare. He’s also planning to build affordable housing and commercial space on spare land TfL owns.
In his manifesto, he promised: “I’ll personally chair Transport for London, working with businesses and boroughs to plan the transport capacity we need for London’s future, while modernising TfL, turning it into a more efficient, and more profitable public sector organisation.”
Khan has stressed that to make London reach its potential, it needs to be a “24-hour city”, so he’s vowed to see the night tube in. When speaking of its benefits to London’s nightlife, he told Dazed: “We have waited too long for the promises made by the previous Mayor to become a reality, but ensuring it is up and running as quickly as possible once I am in City Hall will be invaluable in helping to save London’s night life.”
He’s praised the transport in countries like the Netherlands, France and Germany, which run commercial services worldwide. He has detailed in his manifesto: “I will use the savings and profits that a modernised TfL delivers to continue investment in new capacity on our network while keeping fares down.”
We’ll also hopefully see increased spending on making cycling safe, given that 610,000 of us cycle every day. He also promises to continue the Cycle Superhighway Programme, which invests in new routes, and bring in more space and storage.
EMPLOYMENT AND EDUCATION
Khan hopes to make London a “living wage city”, promoting small businesses and widening access to apprenticeships. He explains in his manifesto: “I’ll use devolved financial powers to offer business-rate relief for small firms who pay the London Living Wage, use GLA and TfL procurement to lead by example, and work with the new Living Wage Commission to ensure the formula reflects the real costs of housing in London, which should see the LLW rise to £10 and beyond during my first term as Mayor.”
He also pledges to “smash the glass ceiling” by working on the under representation of women in senior business roles and abolish zero hour contracts. He’s also passionate about the Skills For Londoners scheme and the promotion of Adult Learning Loans. Khan has also called for the devolution of funding for 16-19 education to tackle youth unemployment.
London is a microcosm of creativity, but it’s under threat. The housing crisis threatens rental space for artists, and public arts funding was cut by 40 per cent last year. In a talk at the Creative Industries Federation last month, he said: “The time is ripe to open up a new wave of giving to the city’s arts and culture. Public money alone isn’t sufficient, and is increasingly scarce in these straitened times... (we need to) use City Hall to bring together the city’s wealthiest residents with the aim of increasing giving and donations, so that we can invigorate our arts and culture for future challenges.” He plans to produce a Cultural Infrastructure Plan to be completed for 2030 to cement London’s future as a “creative capital”, while also establishing a London Borough of Culture. Plans to support theatres, galleries and museums are also imminent. Let’s just hope it’s not a case of too little, too late.
As MP for Tooting, Khan has consistently stood up for the voiceless population of refugees: when London welcomed just 43 refugees, he called it a “badge of shame” and urged the assembly to accept more. In his top ten priorities is the promise to “Make London a fairer and more tolerant city, open and accessible to all, and one in which all can live and prosper free from prejudice.” He’s remained a pillar in the “Refugees Welcome” campaign, and repeatedly called the Conservative government out for their failings in handling the millions of displaced people.
As of the 2011 census, there are almost a million more women than men in the UK. Cuts in London are set to swiftly take 710,000 public sector jobs by 2017, and with 65 per cent of women making up that workforce, it’s going to push them into the private sector. According to the Fawcett Society, this will further widen the pay gap.
Khan calls himself a feminist, and has promised to prioritise closing the wage gap. He has also pledged to put more police officers on transport networks to combat sexual assault against women.
His manifesto also details a "zero tolerance" approach to hate crimes, to tackle the marginalization of the LGBT community, and provide greater access for people with disabilities. “Although London has made great strides over the years in tackling sexism, racism, homophobia and discrimination against people with disabilities, there is still a great deal of work to do," he explains. "I will always stand up against prejudice and hatred."
As generation rent-a-chicken-coop-in-Stratford-for-half-your-salary know, housing in London has got exponentially shit. Khan plans to have 50 per cent of housing in London as “affordable”, with a minimum of 80,000 new homes next year. He hopes to create a “London Living Rent” which is a third of the average salary, and name and shame terrible landlords (most likely like these ones).