Labour’s candidates for London Mayor, or at least most of them, come to Croydon on Monday for a suburban hustings. But only one of them will be able to do so with the endorsement described by the New Statesman as “peak open letter”.
“No one is going to top the endorsement we are about to publish,” the editor of the magazine’s online politics pages said this week, minutes before posting an article by Will Self, the internationally acclaimed novelist, as well as NS columnist, who in his own forceful style endorsed the one non-career politician on the shortlist, Christian Wolmar, as the right choice to be Labour’s next Mayor of London.
I wish it to be known that I unequivocally support Christian Wolmar’s campaign to become the Labour mayoral candidate in the forthcoming election. I have indeed registered as a Labour Party supporter purely in order to be able to take part in the selection process.
I’ve known Christian as a colleague for over thirty years – at a personal level he has always struck me as a principled and honest man without a scintilla of vanity, pride, self-righteousness or narcissism (the besetting character flaws of the career politician).
Professionally, Christian is one of the foremost experts on London’s transport infrastructure – if not the foremost. Over decades, in a myriad of articles, media appearances and several books he has calmly catalogued the transport history of the capital, and suggested ways its current operation and ownership can be modified in order to fulfil ever-burgeoning demand in an equitable and affordable manner. In his courageous writing on rail and Tube privatisation he has consistently exposed the flaws in the neoliberal argument that public ownership always entails inefficiency.
My belief is that if you want to understand local politics in Britain (or any other polity for that matter), follow the money. The effective tax revenue base for the London Mayoralty and the GLA is, once Transport for London revenues are set to one side, pitifully small compared to that of other metropolitan administrations worldwide. The purse-strings relating to London’s governance remain tightly in the hands of Westminster politicians. As things stand, with a few concessions such as the power to overrule planning decisions (which both the current and previous mayors have conspicuously abused), and to grandstand on ‘security issues’ via its oversight of the Metropolitan Police, the mayoral post remains essentially a lopsided combination of glorified transport manager and international marketing executive for ‘London plc’.
The justness of a Wolmar mayoralty will be that Christian is both the ideal incumbent for the current fiscal dispensation, and the perfect person to push the mayoralty in the direction of greater power commensurate with its democratic mandate.
I believe his status as a relative political outsider will prevent the mayoralty from becoming – still more than it already is – just another political football on the Westminster pitch. Unlike other potential Labour candidates for the post, Christian doesn’t have to live-down previous debacles – such as the woeful ‘legacy’ of the Olympic Games – nor is he shackled by expedient alliances.
We need a London mayor who has a truly socialistic outlook: one which encompasses all Londoners, wherever they may have originated, or where they may live in this great city. We need a London mayor impervious to the blandishments of traditional powerbrokers, and capable of resisting the turbulence occasioned by the international capital flows cascading through the City. In Christian Wolmar I believe Labour – and Londoners in general – have such a candidate.
Christian Wolmar has known the editor of this website for almost as long as he has known Will Self.
Wolmar will be joining four other Labour Mayoral candidates (David Lammy, Diane Abbott, Sadiq Khan and Gareth Thomas; Tessa Jowell, the front-runner, has so far failed to confirm her attendance) will be speaking at hustings in Ruskin House on Monday evening from 7.30pm. To book your place to attend this free event, click here.
The hustings are just two days before Labour closes its registration process for those who – like Self – wish to pay £3 to become “supporters”, and so get to vote in the party’s open primary to select its London Mayor candidate for next May’s elections. It can be done online or via text message. Supporters, like Labour Party members and affiliates, each get one vote in that contest as well as the ballots to choose the party leader and deputy leader.
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