Hannah Blythe and Callum Totten
As part of our bid to secure a Labour victory the Young Fabians recently held a ‘London Marathon’ session – campaigning in four seats over one weekend.
Canvassing is not just an opportunity to win Labour votes – it’s a chance to listen to people, be challenged and to understand what people want from their MPs. The marathon allowed us to share these conversations with fellow Fabians, other activists, parliamentary candidates and Labour councillors.
One particular conversation that stood out was with a Londoner who wasn’t yet sure who to vote for. She said that she leans to the Left and knows that there are lots of problems with the economy at the moment, but isn’t sure exactly who is best placed to improve things.
So how can we best answer that question? Why exactly do we think Labour is best for people in London? Here are five leading reasons.
The average price of a house in London is now more than £450,000 - far out of the reach of most Londoners, given the average wage in the capital is just £33,000. Young people living in London will be well aware of both the cost of renting and the seemingly impossible concept of buying a home in London.
But as we’ve found on the campaign trail, housing comes up with people of all ages. People are concerned that their children or grandchildren will not be able to afford a home. This compromises what Ed Miliband describes as “the promise of Britain” - that each generation should be able to achieve a higher standard of living than the last.
Labour’s double pronged approach - improving conditions for people renting while also tackling the shortage of homes by building 200,000 new houses a year – is the best approach for Londoners concerned about the impact of our inaccessible housing market.
2.) Public transport
Labour has highlighted in this campaign that most people are not feeling the benefits of the supposed economic recovery and still see their everyday costs rising while incomes fail to grow at the same rate. One of the areas where this has been most clear is public transport.
Under Boris Johnson the cost of a single bus journey has risen by 56% and a zone 1-6 travelcard has gone up by over £400. For people who commute into London, the average cost of rail tickets has gone up by over 20%. Labour has pledged to freeze prices for one year while we introduce reforms which will cap future increases in fares. We will also allow publicly owned companies to bid on an equal footing for rail franchises when they become available.
3.) Promoting regional development and rebalancing the economy
People in London should vote Labour to support our plan to devolve power to cities and regions, develop a British Investment Bank and network of regional banks, and support a rebalancing of the economy. Londoners will have seen the benefits of having a strong regional authority in the form of the Mayor and London Assembly. These similar benefits can be expanded elsewhere in the UK.
A more evenly balanced country benefits Londoners, as well as the rest of the country, because it will help to promote a stronger national growth, greater trade opportunities internally, reduce the need for subsidising less prosperous regions, and expand job opportunities outside London. A rebalanced economy will reduce the pressure for people seeking work to move to London and will ease the pressures on London housing and public services.
4.) Unpaid internships: not just a problem for the young
Labour have pledged to ban unpaid internships lasting more than 4 weeks. Unpaid internships are a problem across the UK and are disastrous in London. Our city is a place of unimaginable opportunity. London is also a place of eye watering living costs. So, grasping London’s opportunities is a bit of a conundrum. Even if you have family in London, it’s pretty unlikely that they can afford to keep you free of charge for six months.
Many positions for those just starting their careers are available only to the well-off and plenty of capable candidates are excluded, which is bad news for social mobility. The existence of unpaid internships also means that candidates’ wealth often has greater influence upon who gets their foot on the career ladder than candidates’ drive and capability. Not paying interns is, therefore, short-sighted – selecting candidates on capability rather than economic background is better for a company in the long run.
5.) Football clubs: for London’s communities
Labour will increase fans’ involvement in football clubs. London has some of the world’s most famous football. The likes of Chelsea and Arsenal are community and cultural assets, as well as financial powerhouses. Labour will ensure that all football clubs retain their community value by ensuring that fans have a say on who sits on the board of directors and are able to buy shares should the club change hands. Labour will make sure London’s clubs continue be a part of their dedicated local communities. Go Spurs! And go West Ham! And go Tooting & Mitcham United!