London Mayoral Election: Evening Standard Hustings

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Boris, the right to strike, and a lack of opportunities for the young. By and large, the hopefuls trying to win the Labour candidacy for Mayor of London sound quite similar on a lot of issues (bash, defend, bemoan). But a few wedge issues showed themselves at the Evening Standard’s Hustings on the 5th of August.

The third runway at Heathrow spilt the candidates. Diane Abbott pointed out that she has always been against it, a swipe at Sadiq Khan who flipped flopped on the issue – he’d been Transport Minister when the third runway was Labour Policy but has come out against it in his campaign. Dame Tessa Jowell and David Lammy left themselves open to supporting it, with conditions about air quality attached. Gareth Thomas backs it and Christian Wolmar doesn’t think it will happen.

Heathrow came up because all agree action needs to be taken about London’s air quality. Abbott wants to build cross party support for action about the issue. Thomas wants to expand the congestion charge zone and encourage people onto the tube by freezing and cutting fares, but Lammy says a blanket fare freeze will halt transport upgrades. Wolmar would pedestrianize Oxford Street.

Following a question about fixed odd betting machines, Jowell found herself facing a united front of criticism from the rest of the panel. While in Government, Jowell introduced the 2005 Gambling Act, which some argue is the reason there are increasing amounts of betting shops on high streets. Jowell defended the Act and stated the Gambling Commission, introduced at the same time, has all the powers needed to act on the issue, it was just that this Government was unwilling to act. Everyone else said it was a mistake and that Jowell had got it wrong. All agreed that something needed to be done, with ideas ranging from making it easier for local authorities to turn down planning permission for new betting shops, to reducing the maximum stake from £100 to £2.

The last polling, done in late June/early July by YouGov, shows that Jowell is leading the pack, with 37% of Labour voters backing her, up from 32% in late April/early May. Lammy and Khan are neck and neck at 22% and 21% respectively, though Lammy gained the most ground from the earlier poll which had him at 15%. Most of that came from a drop in support for Abbott, who went from 23% to 13%. Thomas and Wolmar trail far behind the front runners with 6% split between them.

One thing that became evident was why Lammy has gained so much ground. He was easily the most electrifying of the panel, and seemed to garner the most audience support, something which matches accounts of other Hustings. If he can maintain his momentum and take votes from Jowell he could be in with a shot of grabbing the nomination, due to be announced on the weekend of the 12th and 13th of September.

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