Khan vs Goldsmith - Boris' last flop


Tomorrow, Sadiq Khan will comfortably beat Zac Goldsmith in the race to become Mayor of London. Lewisham voters will back the Labour candidate in their droves. So it is written.

In their lacklustre manifestos we can see Boris’ true legacy. During his eight years of grandstanding to no great effect, we forgot that the Mayor matters. Johnson’s pitiful two terms have delivered a nice-but-expensive new bus, a cable car that may one day be a useful connection, the bare bones of a segregated cycle network and little else. His only big idea, the night tube, became snarled up in union disputes and he abandoned his post months ago.

But the Mayor, whose powers are growing, does have the ability to transform the city. From Oyster to the TfL cycle stations, our daily lives were once reshaped. The clusters around Victoria, London Bridge and Kings Cross, the Olympic-scale redevelopment of Stratford and the new life along the route of the East London Line are testament to the Mayor’s power to redraw the map. Even a modest bit of pedestrianisation helped us reimagine the role that Trafalgar Square could play in civic life.

So what about this time? 

There are three big issues that dominate London’s future: The supply of housing, transport capacity and air quality. 

Rising housing costs are making us poorer, capacity constraints are packing us in ever tighter and the stuff we breathe is killing us. But on these questions, there’s little to divide them and still less to inspire.

On housing, both men are opposed to compromising the greenbelt and building out, while Zac’s opposed to building up. Khan plans a new organisation, Housing for London, which would co-ordinate strategy across the capital. This idea has potential, but his target of making 50% of new homes affordable is either fantasy stuff or would kill off a good chunk of the house building pipeline - as could both manifestos’ commitment to offer homes to established Londoners first.

The only real solution to London’s housing shortage is to build more homes but there is no comprehensive plan on offer. Instead, they focus on regulating rents, which is welcome but risks creating all kinds of other distortions in the market without addressing the imbalance of demand and supply.

As Zac’s manifesto makes clear, transport and housing strategies intersect. New links are key to encouraging brownfield development. And yet, he quickly forgets his own analysis. The Thames Gateway, he says, could play home to an additional population the size of Glasgow. But his manifesto omits any mention of the new transport infrastructure required to unlock that potential.

Neither candidate has any new ideas about transport and in terms of new capacity, their plans barely differ. Zac supports the Silvertown Tunnel. Sadiq mentions the Rotherhithe pedestrian bridge. They both back Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo extension, promise modest expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure and oppose Heathrow. Both pander to the black taxi lobby with wholly unnecessary regulation of Uber and minicab rivals. Their manifestos amount to little more than a rubber stamp for TfL’s existing commitments. The only real difference is that Khan expects TfL to do it all without raising fares and has never been able to explain how he’ll plug the yawning financial gap, especially since he demands “efficiency savings” while simultaneously suggesting that mothballed ticket offices could be reopened to placate the unions.

You might expect air quality to be an overriding concern for environmentalist Zac, but his plans are pretty timid. Retro-fitting diesel buses would be welcome, but it's an idea reliant on central government support. The loan scheme to taxi drivers to convert to LPG is a neat idea, as is the promise to review the Lorry Control Scheme to limit peak time deliveries – but there’s little promised action on pollution from private vehicles. Sadiq, by contrast, promises a consultation on accelerating and expanding the Low Emissions Zone roll-out.

If neither candidate grapples properly with these fundamental issues, nor do they offer much of a sense of fun. Where are the ideas to make London a more thrilling or charming place to live? Zac talks airily of pocket parks and wetlands, Sadiq promises to deliver on the long-mooted pedestrianisation of Oxford Street and revive the plans to remodel Parliament Square. And that’s your lot.

With little to choose between them and few ideas to debate, it’s no surprise the campaign has descended into identity politics, with Zac blowing an Islamicist dog whistle and Sadiq chucking chum to social justice warriors.

How then to choose between them? I think it must come down to their leadership qualities. Sadiq seems like a pragmatist, who’ll backtrack on his dangerous commitment to freeze fares and get stuck into the detail of the job. Zac appears alarmingly aloof and erratic, with little love for our city.

The likely winner is the right choice in a poor contest. Thanks Boris.

Crofton Books, 375 Brockley Road

Crofton Books is a vintage book shop operating from Crofton Park library. Run by team behind local publishers Tlon Media, it offers cheap classics, rare editions and new titles. The range is eclectic and includes work by South East London writers.

The shop recently reopened after a temporary closure to install a new heating system and it is now open Monday - Saturday (excluding Wednesdays).

Click here to follow them on Twitter.

Applications open for Art in the Park

Art in the Park is the final day of the Brockley Max arts festival (May 27 - June 4). Hilly Fields will host a live music stage, food stalls and a craft market.

If you'd like to run a stall on the day, click here.to apply.

The London Radical Bookfair, May 7

Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.
- Saul Alinsky
The London Radical Bookfair is now in its 4th year and last year attracted around 1,000 people. Now, for the first time, it's coming to South East London, hosted at Goldsmiths this weekend.

There will be 100 different book and zine stalls and presentations from shortlisted authors.

Separately, the Student Union will feature music from Sharon Gal, Marlo Eggplant and Sly & the Family Drone, as part of the “Fringes, Outsides and Undergrounds: The aesthetics and politics of unpopular music” conference.

Click here for the website.

Happy Mondays Edinburgh Previews at The Amersham Arms

Today is the happiest of Mondays, but others are less kind to us. The arrival of a new season of Happy Mondays to the Amersham Arms is thus very good news. The stellar weekly comedy night returns with Reginald D Hunter next Monday. 

This term will feature comics preparing for Edinburgh and tickets are still only £5 in advance, £7 on the night. Here's the line-up:

9th May
REGINALD D HUNTER & JARLATH REGAN

23rd May
TONY LAW & FINN TAYLOR

6th June
SEANN WALSH & KERRY GODLIMAN

20th June 
SUSAN CALMAN & JOHN GORDILLO

4th July
SHAPPI KHORSANDI & JOE LYCETT

18th July 
KATY BRAND & PAUL McCAFFREY

Lewisham experiences fastest house price rises in London

The Standard reports:

House prices are rising the fastest in the south-east London borough of Lewisham [19.9% annually], according to new Land Registry figures.

Lewisham's vastly improved transport links and planned housing developments have helped it take the top spot on a list previously dominated by areas already seeing an uplift from the Elizabeth line, such as Hillingdon and Havering.

A surge of interest from homebuyers in areas such as Blackheath, Brockley and New Cross has led to annual house price rises of almost 20 per cent, with the average cost of buying a home in Lewisham now standing at £473,303.

The borough has recently been named as one of the capital's leading first-time buyer hotspots, with more than half of all homes sold in the SE13 postcode bought by people taking their first steps on the property ladder.

Lewisham's growth looks set to continue if the Bakerloo line extension goes ahead, which will improve the currently Tube-starved area further. More investment by the council and plans for new-build homes are also contributing to forecasted continued growth.

Crofton Park homeowner slipped a Roofie

The ruined roof
After St Hilda's made an appeal to save its roof, another Crofton Park roof fundraiser has been launched. Kelly writes:

Two weeks ago my 80 year old neighbour who lives in Crofton Park Road was approached by builders who knocked on his door to say that he needed his gutters fixed.

They subsequently took down his gutters and replaced the fascia board whilst he was out, without him having agreed to the works. They then proceeded to tell him that his roof was in urgent need of replacement and that, as a result of its poor state, water was coming into his neighbours' homes. This was not true.

The next thing my neighbour knew, the builders had erected scaffolding and started stripping his roof, once again without him agreeing to the works. The builder asked for £7,500 upfront for the works and my neighbour unfortunately, thinking he had no option and feeling intimidated, withdrew the money from his bank and paid them.

The following day, having said there was much more work needed than originally thought, the builder demanded a further £10,000. Once again my neighbour went to the bank to withdraw the cash but thankfully the bank were suspicious and concerned for my neighbour and immediately called Trading Standards. Trading Standards then visited the site and told the contractor to stop work and leave the site whilst they looked into the matter, and have subsequently told the builder not to return. Trading Standards are now investigating the matter further. My neighbour has now been left with only felt on his roof for two weeks.

A lovely neighbour has risked his own safety to climb the scaffolding, that has been declared unsafe by Building Control, to place a tarpaulin over the area of the roof that he could reach but this will not protect the house sufficiently if there is a period of sustained rain.

We are asking if the community would be kind enough to come together to help my neighbour. To provide comfort that this is a genuine plight, a picture of the roof is attached along with a couple of screen shots of neighbours confirming the situation on another forum.

We are looking to raise enough money to pay for building approval, tiles and other required materials, scaffolding and possibly roofing labour. If anyone is a roofing or scaffolding specialist and would be willing to donate their time that would be wonderful. One of my neighbour's immediate neighbours is a builder and would be happy to work alongside a roofing specialist to get the job done. Finally, if anyone has a close relationship with relevant suppliers and is able agree donated or at cost materials we'd love to hear from you.

If anyone would like to contribute to the money raising effort, please click on this link - https://www.gofundme.com/2nvchrz8. If there is any money left over once the roof has been reinstated then we will ask whether your preference is for the money to go to my neighbour or to a local community organisation and we will go with the majority.

The immediate next step is to determine if the work that has already been carried out is fit for purpose and to receive building control approval. A neighbour is working on this currently. I will post updates to keep you informed.

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