We Made The Boring, Not Boring: London Mayor

Voters decided today that it will be Conservative Zac Goldsmith facing Labour’s Sadiq Khan in the election for Mayor of London in 2016.

As of this morning, we knew only two things about Zac Goldsmith.

  1. Goldsmith, Boris Johnson (the man he hopes to succeed as Mayor) and one of our editors have the same messy blonde hair.
  2. Our boss fancies him just a little bit.
Boris Johnson, Zak Goldsmith and SoR Editor

Yes, that is our office.

Put those two things together and you have a pretty awkward work situation on your hands. Moving on.

This wasn’t really good enough – seeing as our job is to break it all down simply so no one else has to. We’ve spent the day enlightening ourselves on why we have a mayor in the first place, what they’ve done for us in the past and what these two fresh mayoral candidates are offering.

Why do we have mayors?

City mayors didn’t exist in the UK, at least not the kind we actually vote for, until the year 2000. We have had Lord Mayors for hundreds of years, and that’s a whole different heap of old-timey crazy.

Since the year 2000, local authorities have been able to ask their residents whether or not they would like to have an elected mayor.

This was part of a decision to devolve powers to local government.

Devolution is a fancy word meaning the transfer of powers and responsibilities from central government in London to local authorities all over the UK – like if your mum put you in charge of some rabbits, and you had to make sure they all had fairly nice hutches but you also had to make sure the rabbits didn’t build any more hutches without your permission, make sure they can all get around to their rabbit-jobs efficiently and don’t commit too many rabbit-crimes.


Did the rabbit thing help?

Basically, a mayor is the head of a local authority who take over government responsibilities like housing and planning, waste and environment management, transport, policing, and economic growth. Did the rabbit thing make that any easier to understand?

If town residents vote in favour of having an elected mayor – which is what happened in London, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Lewisham, North Tyneside, Salford, Torbay and a bunch of other places – then the next step is to actually elect one.

In London, Labour’s Ken Livingstone was elected mayor for the first eight years, followed by Conservative and love-hateable maniac Boris Johnson for the next eight years.

Changes are a-coming, though. Come 2016 the London Mayor won’t be Ken or Boris but will either be Zak or Sadiq. It sounds like the lads from One Direction are taking over City Hall. There are other candidates from other parties, but TBH nobody expects them to get a look in.

Whoever is elected London Mayor in 2016 can expect a salary similar to a cabinet minister – currently just over £140,000.

What have mayors ever done for us?

The stuff brought in by the last two London mayors is actually stuff Londoners use every day.

Trying to cut down on London’s carbon emissions, Ken Livingstone introduced the congestion charge requiring road users in Central London on week days.

He also introduced the Oyster card and made it possible for same-sex couples to register their partnership. This last initiative paved the way towards UK-wide civil partnerships. Woop.

Boris Johnson banned alcohol on London transport – and there was a big party the night before this law came into effect.

He also completed Ken’s plan of introducing a public cycle hire scheme of 5,000 bikes across London – known as Boris bikes.

Bo-Jo also set up the Outer London Fund, offering a pot of money up to £50m to help create better local high streets.

Who will be our next mayor?

One of these two gents.

Sadiq Khan Portrait

Sadiq Khan MP

Sadiq Khan is Labour MP for Tooting, and won 59% of the vote which took place in tandem with the Labour leader selection. The ballot included full members of the Labour party, registered supporters and affiliated sections (trade unions and the like). Khan managed to win a decisive majority across all three of these sections.

Zac Goldsmith is Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, and won 70.6% of the vote in a ballot which any Londoner over 18 could vote in for £1.

Zac Goldsmith MP

Zac Goldsmith MP

What issues are they pushing forward?

They’re both ploughing right in with housing and green policies as top of their agenda.

Both are bothered about swollen house prices pushing regular Londoners out of their own city – with this creating a divided and unequal situation like Paris or New York where the rich live in the centre and the poor live at the fringes.

Zac says we need to build more houses and change the way we build them.

Sadiq says we need to make sure Londoners get ‘dibs’ on new houses and backs a ‘London Living Rent’ which would see a certain number of properties in any new build charging rent equal to a third of the average wage in the area.

They’re both serious environmentalists. Both completely oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport and put improving green spaces and the air Londoners breathe at the top of their if-elected to-do lists.

One thing they disagree on is the building of the Garden Bridge Boris Johnson has planned, which Sadiq Khan reckons is too hefty a cost on the public wallet. Zak reckons it’s OK. Woah guys this is way too much drama.

It’s mega early days, but right now the two candidates don’t seem all that different. At least in the sense that they’re focusing on exactly the same problems.

Yoda meme - patience you must have

We’ll have to see how this plays out.

To be fair, though, seeing as nearly 10,000 die each year in London because of air pollution and mental London house prices being twice the national average, neither candidate could really ignore these things.

The difference will probably be in how they tackle these issues. Again, though, early days.

Spot the difference

There are for sure lots of differences between these two guys. The BIGGEST difference is their backgrounds.

Sadiq Khan, was the son of a bus driver and seamstress, grew up on a south London council estate and slept in a bunk bed at his parents’ house while he trained to be a lawyer.

Zac Goldsmith is son of aristocracy, inherited £200 million from his father and was expelled from Eton for possessing cannabis.

So. Yeah. Different. Let’s see how this plays out.

What now?

Now you’re decoded on the London Mayor and the new candidates you can join the debate. If you don’t live in London, call up a mate who does and lecture them on devolution, cos YOLO. For those who live in London you can vote in the actual mayoral election as long as your are over 18 on the day of the election in May 2016 and can register to vote.

Registering to vote takes about 5 minutes – do it here.

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