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Our verdict on the Mayoral election: Not the contest London deserved

London Mayoral Elections 2024: Sadiq Khan and Susan Hall are the two favourites for the role
London Mayoral Elections 2024: Sadiq Khan and Susan Hall are the two favourites for the role

London is the best city in the world – and it has been failed by this electoral contest. When you come to cast your ballot on Thursday, you are forgiven for feeling uninspired.

That comes down, at heart, to the Conservatives’ choice of candidate. Sadiq Khan is beatable. His record is patchy. But rather than allowing someone who speaks to the hope and optimism that is the bedrock of the city’s success to take him on, they chose Susan Hall, a candidate whose only path to victory in this campaign is negativity and divisiveness.

No matter what you think of Khan’s handling of the Met Police, of Transport for London’s finances, of his penchant for publicity, the decision by the Tories to put forward a person who appears out of touch with vast swathes of modern London as the only realistic alternative should be seen as exactly what it is: a sign of how much this government really cares about the capital.

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That decision has robbed Londoners of a proper contest about the future of the capital, has replaced a genuine battle over London’s place in the world with a referendum on a £12.50 road charge. Combined with what has felt a time to be a complacent campaign by the incumbent, this Mayoral election has created that most miserable of political moods: apathy.

It shouldn’t be like this.

The Mayoralty still matters. Not only is there great cohering power in the role, there are jobs to be done: the Metropolitan Police has lost the faith of Londoners, and desperately needs reform. Transport for London’s finances are shaky, and not all of that is the fault of events beyond the current Mayor’s control.

Yet though Londoners care about these things, this campaign has felt remote to those concerns. The abiding lesson of this campaign is that it is time to give the Mayoralty more power – or ask what purpose it serves.

In other global cities, Mayoral elections are the only show in town, in some cases more relevant to the lives of folk living in them than broader, national elections. The powers afforded to our mayor are more limited than local leaders in New York and Tokyo and Paris, and that must change.

Revenue-raising and spending power. More decision-making power on planning and infrastructure, putting more power in City Hall and less of it in the Town Halls of our 32 boroughs. If this low-voltage, uninspiring campaign produces momentum for that, then it won’t all have been in vain.