London has to reinvent itself after the traumas of the coronavirus and Brexit

Wherever roads cross, the sea cannot be conceived, where the fugitive always returns … / where desire travels in elevators, girls don’t want to be princesses and boys take to chasing, the sea inside a glass from Geneva … / the birds visit the psychiatrist, the stars forget to go out, death passes in ambulances, life is a subway about to leave ”… Joaquín Sabina dedicated this story of love and hate to Madrid that he votes today, but if it had been other times and he had lived in the English capital, he could have written something similar about the London that votes on Thursday. Super Thursday.

If Madrid has changed in the last twenty years with the governments of the PP, the concentration of political and economic power, the property bombings and low taxation, London has become unrecognizable in the fourteen months since the pandemic broke out. The multicultural giant who never slept has never taken a long nap from which it is not known in what mood and in what state he will wake up. The great metropolis with a GDP of 560,000 million euros (more than many countries) has shrunk. The city of nine million inhabitants where all the languages ​​of the planet are spoken has remained speechless. The 34 million tourists who came each year have found the borders closed. The subway, which used to record three billion trips a year, is half-empty. The City looks like a ghost town. Harrods and all the department stores have been closed for months.

he mayoral elections last year were postponed, like life itself, and are disputed on Thursday, along with the Scottish and Welsh regional elections, the municipal elections in much of England and the seat in the Commons for Hartlepool, one of those towns in the red wall (former Labor strongholds) that Johnson has torn down. It is the first test against a prime minister plagued by corruption scandals and with a terrible initial management of the pandemic, but who has vaccinated his citizens before anyone else, and he is thanked.

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It has problems such as the lack of popular housing, pollution, crime and the financing of the subway

If in the country as a whole it seems that the Government is going to avoid the typical punishment of voters in the midterm elections, and Labor is going to take a new disappointment, in London the polls point to a clear victory for the Labor mayor Sadiq Khan, a moderate Muslim son of a Pakistani bus driver, a centrist in the line of Tony Blair who has joined the environmental wave that is also surfing the mayors of Paris and Barcelona.

The question is not so much if Khan will continue (the answer is yes), but what he will do with his second term to reinvent the city after Brexit and the virus, waiting for how touched the City is (the financial sector) due to EU restrictions on operations on the continent and the flight of jobs and capital in banking. Whether tourists return, and in what way. To what extent telework is imposed. How many shops and restaurants have closed forever. What about the thousands of offices that have been left empty and those that were being built. Whether the pandemic has gone down in history or has a second part. Whether the European workers who served coffees or worked as babysitters return or not.

London has spent this long year in an induced coma. Crime has dropped and so has pollution, the shortage of affordable housing has gone unnoticed, unemployment has been alleviated with ERTEs, the state has paid workers as if Johnson were Biden and house prices have risen by the lower taxes. But the time has come to get out of the bubble, and all those problems – to begin with the financing of public transport, which is very deficient – will reappear magnified in what was the capital of modernity and empathy, the European New York.

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Labor Mayor Sadiq Khan, of Pakistani origin, is the big favorite to be re-elected for three years

Some candidates have promised more police on the streets, others free bikes on weekends. One is an actor (Laurence Fox), another a lunatic who describes himself as “an interplanetary space warrior” (Count Binface). There are conservatives, youtubers, greens and liberals, professional provocateurs, virus deniers, ayusistas who sell pubs and freedom, supporters of returning to the EU and even Jeremy Corbyn’s brother. But the one in charge of solving the London hieroglyph will be Khan, with the largest democratic mandate in the country but very little political power. Let’s say I’m talking about Madrid, said Sabina. Let’s say I’m talking about London, says Khan.

Another Olympics in 2040?

The campaign buses – in some cases more modest versions like a red Volkswagen – have in recent weeks traveled the streets of the capital with the images and slogans of the candidates. The last hook was launched yesterday by Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is twenty points ahead of conservative Shaun Bailey in the polls: trying to get another Olympic Games for the year 2036 or 2040 as a symbol of the new city that has to come out of the current crisis . The operation is backed by businessmen and Olympic medal winners, and delves into the idealized memory of 2012, when Boris Johnson was mayor, and used them as a platform for his larger political aspirations. In the nine years since then, Brexit has made the city less universal and more provincial, and the pandemic has called into question its economic model, based on the City, the financial sector and tourism as engines. The Games in fifteen or twenty years time would not only be in the capital, but with “branches” in other corners of England so that the benefits would be shared in a country increasingly aware of the differences between the poor north and the rich south. . “The 2012 Games showcased the best of London and Londoners, their diversity and inclusive heart. This is where we want to go back, ”says Khan.

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