Sadiq Khan: the worst Mayor ever?
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BY SUSAN HALL
What does business want from the Mayor of London? There are two schools of thought.
If you subscribe to the Reaganite view that “the most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help”, then you might hope for a form of benign neglect. If so then the logic would probably be that a Mayor trying to ‘help business’ might look to pick winners or have an overly defined view of how businesses ought to operate. To those who recognise the importance of free markets avoiding such unhelpful interventions should be seen as a major boon.
The second school of thought is that much of what is good for business would be good for all Londoners. So London’s businesses will benefit from fast, reliable public transport and broadband, decent homes, low tax and low crime, as well as a few things that are less relevant for the average Londoner such as readily available office space. A Mayor who can help to deliver on those areas would have achieved genuine benefits for London business.
During his 2016 Mayoral campaign Sadiq Khan repeatedly promised he would “be the most pro-business mayor London has ever had.” In reality he is by far the worst of the three Mayors London has had – and one of those Mayors was Ken Livingstone. If you look at the three areas where London Mayors have the most influence – policing, housing and transport – then by any metric you might care to choose Sadiq Khan’s Mayoralty has been a spectacular failure.
London has seen crime increase drastically since Sadiq Khan became Mayor in 2016. This includes a 24% increase in homicides, a 52.3% increase in knife crime, residential burglary has increased by 36.9% and robbery has increased by 59.3%. In February this year, the Mayor rejected the GLA Conservatives’ Budget Amendment that would have cut waste and reallocated misplaced resources to find £82.7 million for the Metropolitan Police – enough for 1,378 police officers. It really doesn’t sound like the record of a pro-business Mayor.
On housing Sadiq Khan was given £4.82 billion by the Government to build 116,000 affordable homes by April 2022. Fewer than 35,000 homes have been started. He’s built fewer homes than Boris for each of the first three years of their respective Mayoralties. Meanwhile in transport the current Mayor has built up a near £1 billion annual deficit at TfL and, by taking his eye off the ball has overseen – or should that be underseen? – delays and budget overruns at Crossrail of over 2 years and upwards of £2.15 billion respectively. The failings go on and on.
So if Sadiq Khan’s Mayoralty is a failure whichever way you look at it, what does he argue he’s doing for business in London? Well depressingly, but unsurprisingly, the worse things get for the Mayor the more he has focused in trying to fight against Britain leaving the EU. Whereas in July 2016 – a month after the Referendum – he had argued that “the establishment needs to respect the result”, by October last year he was travelling to Brussels to tell Michel Barnier: “Listen, you need to start preparing for the possibility of extending article 50 because if that is the case we will need time to have a [second] referendum.”
All the while Sadiq Khan has sought to claim that he is acting in the best interest of London business. Unfortunately there is no evidence that he understands business in any way, shape or form. He doesn’t recognise that the uncertainty caused by delays to our leaving the EU is damaging. He doesn’t recognise the damage to the UK’s reputation if we were to decide not to respect the biggest vote in our country’s history. And he has never said or done anything to suggest that he recognises the opportunities of Brexit for London.
When 90% of world growth over the next decade will be outside the EU, London is ideally placed to expand trade with the rest of the world. Sadiq Khan is not the only politician who sees leaving the EU as a risk to be minimised or, if possible, avoided. However it is particularly damaging for the Mayor of London to be a man who seemingly has no comprehension of the opportunities it creates, because he doesn’t truly understand them.
London & Partners is the Mayor’s agency, designed to promote London to businesses. Since Sadiq Khan became Mayor in May 2016 it has spent £50 million of taxpayers’ money. If such an organisation was genuinely beneficial to business then businesses in London would pay for it.
The current Mayor sees successful businesses as the result of a ‘partnership’ between the businesses themselves and the state. He should focus on his day job and help to deliver the infrastructure and the conditions in which London’s businesses can and will continue to thrive. Until then they will just have to continue to go from strength to strength despite London having the least pro-business Mayor in its history.
Susan Hall is a London Assembly Member and Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group. Follow her on twitter: @Councillorsuzie