LONDON – Even in the United Kingdom, as in many other countries, the Covid 19 pandemic has led to the rescheduling of elections initially scheduled for 2020. Among these there is also the challenge to London. On 6 May, in fact, 6 million Londoners will decide who will be the new mayor and the twenty-five members of the Assembly. According to the latest polls, the current mayor, Sadiq Khan, a Labor member, has such an edge that he could even to win in the first round, in contrast with the rest of England, which sees the conservative party ahead.
The annus horribilis of London
To challenge Kahn – class 70, human rights lawyer and former parliamentarian, Muslim of Pakistani origins – no less than 19 candidates, but the real rival is certainly the conservative Shaun Bailey, class 71, of Jamaican origin and former special adviser to former prime minister David Cameron. As mentioned, the former would have such a margin of advantage over the latter (over 40% of the votes) that he does not have to be overly worried.
The duel is however very interesting, because it comes after a dramatic year, which has heavily damaged a capital with a very strong tourist vocation, which has paid an enormous cost in human lives. “There have been 300,000 jobs lost and more than a million Londoners are on unpaid leave,” Khan explained, resurfacing the spectrum of unemployment levels since the 1980s. Those who could have left the city in favor of the countryside or the city of origin. The whole area of the City has taken on a ghostly atmosphere, which still maintains that the reopening is now at an advanced stage. Those who can continue to work remotely, with inevitable repercussions on the related activities linked to the activities of the offices. In many cases, paradoxically, those who have remained in the city struggle to find, despite everything, a fair rent and do the bills in their pockets every day.
Therefore, the elections of May 6 will lead to the election of a mayor who, based on the goodness of his action, could determine a period of decline for the largest city in Europe or the possibility of doing things better.
Crime at the center of the debate
The first battleground between the two candidates is that of crime. In a recent televised debate, they both agreed on the need for “more education” for young men to ensure greater security for women. A theme particularly felt after the brutal murder of Sarah Everard: a 33-year-old kidnapped and then killed by a police officer. Her killing earlier this year disconcerted public opinion and provoked street demonstrations (the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, also paid tribute to her in the place where she disappeared). The Sparks however, they flew between the two rivals when the topic of crime in general was touched upon. Bailey blamed the mayor for an increase in the rate of violence. Khan recalled that even before the pandemic, violent crime had risen across England by 19% and that Bailey was the youth and crime advisor not only for Cameron but also George Osborne during the years of austerity. in which – Khan recalled – “the cuts to the police and youth services have begun”.
The management of the pandemic
The opinion on the appropriateness of closures due to the pandemic was also different. The mayor in office called his rival a “lockdown skeptic”. In particular, Bailey had opposed a second closure in the early fall. The conservative exponent accused Khan of instilling in citizens the fear of using public transport, with serious repercussions on business. Revenue from local public transport has plummeted by 90 percent in the past year. Khan recalled that he set up a £ 544 million recovery plan for the city.
The priorities of the two candidates
Central to Khan’s campaign is occupation. The outgoing mayor has promised to help the 300,000 Londoners who have been unemployed in the last year, focusing on promoting tourism, increasing municipal spending and making new investments to help small businesses.
The conservative candidate, on the other hand, focuses heavily on security. He promised, in case of victory, to recruit 8,000 new Metropolitan Police agents, to increase stop-and search (the possibility of stopping and searching people on the street, a practice contrary to the culture of a country that does not have the identity) and even to implement technology capable of detecting the presence of metals in the most difficult areas of the city. All in an attempt to counteract the crimes with blade, which have grown significantly in recent years.
As the recent street demonstrations demonstrate (called “Kill the bill” because an attempt is being made to oppose a bill that would give more powers to the police), the practice of stop and search is however particularly contested: it is a statistic that a person of color has, in England, 4 times more chance of being stopped than a white one.
Bailey also vowed to come up with a plan to build 100,000 homes in “shared ownership” (shared ownership), costing £ 100,000 each.