First, the declaration of interest. I have known Christian Wolmar since 1986, when we both experienced what it was like to work for Robber Maxwell.
But when I suggest that all of Croydon (perhaps with the exception of serving Tory councillors) should get behind Wolmar and vote for him in Labour’s open primary to select the party’s London Mayoral candidate, this is far beyond an old pals’ act.
Inside Croydon doesn’t always endorse candidates. Only when there’s a special case. This is one such instance.
If we have learned anything over the past 18 months of local and national politics, it is that ordinary people – those who don’t measure their politics by the number of leaflets delivered or “away days” attended – are tired of the same-old, same-old, and they want change. And they want change now.
Look what happened in Scotland over the referendum and then at the General Election. Look at what is happening around Jeremy Corbyn’s candidature for the leadership of the Labour Party.
In some respects, Corbyn and Wolmar’s candidacies are similar. Both were written off even before the start of the process. Both were very nearly not even included on the ballot paper. Remember the furore about whether or not Labour MPs sould provide enough nominations for Corbyn to go forward? And imagine how anti-democratic the whole thing might have been has he not got past that Parliamentary party block.
Indeed, there is one senior Croydon Labour official who has been blocked on social media by a Liz Kendall-supporting MP simply because they had the temerity to appeal to them to endorse Corbyn to get him on the ballot. Democracy’s a wonderful thing, ain’t it?
Wolmar encountered some of that. As someone who has been a lifelong Labour Party member, but never stood for election as a councillor or MP, he decided during the 2012 Mayoral campaign that he was fed up with the yah-boo sucks style of politics that went on between Ken and Boris, which served no one any good, especially not Londoners. So he would stand.
There are some candidates seeking selection to run for Mayor, Tories and Labour, who had barely declared their intention to stand three months ago, never mind three years ago.
And Wolmar has worked at it ever since, attending meetings and every hustings, taking expert advice to help develop and mould policies which look ahead not just to the next election campaign, but two or three decades into London’s future.
Noted as a transport expert, since the work of Transport for London amounts to around two-thirds of the Mayor’s budgets and responsibilities, Wolmar is better qualified than all his rivals to serve the city.
I was on the platform at East Croydon Station one day in February when on my way to a meeting with Wolmar. I bumped into a leading figure from local politics who laughed when I told them who I was seeing. “He hasn’t got a chance,” they told me. “He won’t even make the shortlist.”
With no rich donors, without the backing of any trades unions, their cash or political machines, nor the support of parliamentary aides and networks, Christian Wolmar has defied such (well-founded) scepticism and is now a real, alternative option for all Londoners to support to become a candidate running for election next year as London Mayor.
How would I sum up what Wolmar has to offer London in one word? Integrity.
Wolmar offers London someone who really understands the role of Mayor, and who can approach the job with a clean slate.
He does not have political and personal baggage that comes from a career spent climbing the greasy pole at Westminster, nor is his candidacy simply the next convenient political career move. He does not have favours or duties to repay to bodies within the Labour movement, nor is he a multi-millionaire with rich and influential friends in The City (some might argue that this is not a bad thing, but I don’t).
With a raft of thought-through and costed policies in areas in which City Hall does actually have some powers, and a bag-full of fresh and innovative ideas on the environment, housing and transport, as a Labour Mayor of London, Christian Wolmar will be answerable to Londoners first and foremost.
All Londoners can take part in the Labour selection process. If you are not already a Labour Party or affiliate member, or signed up as a supporter, at a cost of £3, if you text “Labour” to 78555 today, you can be included in the vote this week. But you do need to register today.
Editor, Inside Croydon
- To check out Christian Wolmar’s policies, click here
- Croydon hustings where a Dame turned into a Pantomime villain
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