Full outdoor areas in front of the pubs and hustle and bustle in the reopened shops – anyone looking to London at the moment gets the impression that the city has already survived the worst. But this picture is deceptive. For the nine million metropolis on the Thames, which will elect a new mayor on May 6, the consequences of Corona and Brexit may not yet be fully visible.
“If we are not careful, London will be exposed to a perfect storm from Brexit and this terrible Covid pandemic,” warns Mayor Sadiq Khan of the Labor Party, who is trying to get re-election, in an interview with the dpa press agency. Chances are that London’s first Muslim Mayor will get another term. The 50-year-old leads the polls miles ahead of Conservative challenger Shaun Bailey.
“Boy from the social estate”
Khan is well received by the Londoners – and he has ambitious goals. He wants to make the city center car-free and massively expand the cycle paths. Since Khan took office in 2016, the number of cycle paths has tripled. The openly displayed hostility of Khan to ex-US President Donald Trump has also benefited the British of Pakistani origin.
The role of the political outsider suits the ex-human rights lawyer and longtime MP: “I’ll be the boy from the social housing estate who fixes the housing shortage, the bus driver’s son who makes public transport cheaper, and the British Muslim who fights extremists “was Kahn’s announcement five years ago when he was elected mayor. The dirty election campaign of his opponent at the time, Zac Goldsmith, could not prevent that.
It has not been easy for Khan before – now the crisis is hitting London hard. Shops, hotels and restaurants are estimated to have lost around £ 13 billion in 2020. That was how much tourists and commuters had spent the year before. The entertainment industry in the West End has been particularly hard hit.
Hope now rests on the fact that, in view of the low number of infections and the fast vaccination rate, all restrictions can fall on June 21 as planned. In addition to the consequences of the pandemic, the important financial sector did not experience the great exodus it feared as a result of Brexit, but it did suffer a noticeable outflow of companies. According to a new study by the New Financial think tank, 400 companies moved activity and capital to the EU – and it may not have been the last.
A third live in poverty
Khan’s concept against the crisis: “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs”. But it won’t be easy. No other region in the UK lost so many jobs. Nowhere else have so many people been released from work with the Furlough system – comparable to our short-time work. Many are unlikely to return to their old jobs when the support stops. And all of this in a city where the average monthly rent for an apartment costs 2,200 euros – a grievance that Kahn has not been able to remedy during his tenure so far.
Almost a third of Londoners are estimated to live in relative poverty. The streets in inner city districts such as Kensington, Chelsea or Westminster, which are often used as film sets, are only a small part of this 1,500 square kilometer sea of brick and concrete houses. The facades of the skyscrapers in the city or the old port area of Canary Wharf are juxtaposed with concrete residential towers that are spread across the city. The people there live cheaper because it is often social housing, but also in an oppressive confinement.
The gigantic local transport network is also under pressure – the transport company TfL is largely dependent on ticket sales. However, these collapsed by 90 percent in the pandemic.
Khan’s adversary, Bailey, promises to bring more police onto the streets. The incumbent, on the other hand, relies on a mix of specialized emergency services, educational and sports opportunities for young people and a mentoring program.
Police operation “unacceptable”
Relations between the police and the mayor are tense. On March 13, protesters held a vigil at a bandstand in Clapham Common Park in the south of the British capital for Sarah Everard, who was kidnapped and killed on her way home. A 48-year-old police officer who is now in custody is suspected.
A police operation occurred due to non-compliance with the Corona rules, and officials could be seen on the Internet forcibly dragging several women away from the bandstand. Scotland Yard justified the move – Khan called it “unacceptable”. The action was “neither appropriate nor proportionate”. London police then complained of a “lack of respect” towards the executive branch.
London’s notoriously bad air continues to be a major election campaign issue. The death of a nine-year-old girl after an asthma attack was attributed, among other things, to air pollution in her place of residence.
But London wouldn’t be London if it didn’t keep its humor. A certain Count Binface also competes in the election. “Graf Garbage Can Face”, behind which a comedian hides, demands, for example, that a hand dryer be installed in the men’s room of a pub in the suburb of Uxbridge.(dpa/red)