When asked what sets her apart from the other candidates competing for the Labour party’s nomination for mayor of London, Dame Tessa Jowell says, without missing a beat, “I’m the candidate who can win.”
The 67-year-old former culture secretary and Olympics minister told City A.M. last week that she has the experience, policies and wide appeal to not only cut through a competitive Labour field that includes former transport minister Sadiq Khan and popular MPs David Lammy and Diane Abbott, but to also defeat Tory candidates like Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith.
“In order to win a mayoral election, you have to be able to build cross-party support,” Jowell said, adding: “I’m the candidate with the biggest reach, and if you have biggest reach, you’re the candidate who is best-placed to win.”
Buoyed by a new YouGov poll for the Evening Standard showing that in a head-to-head race against Conservative front-runner Goldsmith, she would win by a wide margin of 57 per cent to 43 per cent, Jowell told City A.M. that she is the candidate who “can bring London together.”
“I’m a unifying figure, I’m not a divisive figure,” she said.
The line fits well with Jowell’s “One London” campaign slogan, which she has taken to citing often in speeches and at public events. Jowell has said that she will “help counter the trend towards the capital becoming divided between rich and poor” by creating “one London where everyone shares in our city’s success.”
For Jowell, that includes a policy manifesto focused on increasing housing supply in the capital, making public transportation more affordable and expanding programmes like SureStart to address inequalities at an early age.
She has already promised that if elected, she would set up a “Homes for Londoners” agency tasked with developing public land for residential use, and vowed to create a “one zone weekend ticket” so people could travel across the entire city on Saturdays and Sundays for the price of a zone one single fare. Jowell has also said that she would freeze fares for the first year of her tenure, and told City A.M. that while she would consider extending the freeze further, she would not make any promises to do so until after the government publishes its comprehensive spending review later this year, given how reliant the city’s transport network is on funding from Whitehall.
“It’s frankly irresponsible to say that you can give a pledge for four years until you know what the outcome of the spending review is,” Jowell said, adding, “I will not get into an uncosted bidding war with other candidates about how many houses I can build, or by how much I can cut fares.”
When asked about her relationship with the city’s businesses, Jowell said that while the mayor’s powers to implement policies affecting industry may be limited, if elected, she would use her influence in City Hall to be back enterprise in the capital.
“London is the economic engine that drives growth in the rest of the country, as well as growth for the city itself,” Jowell said. “Business in London should look to the mayor as one of their chief advocates. I would be that advocate.”
Jowell told City A.M. that her business agenda would largely focus on supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups, saying that London “can’t afford to squander the opportunity that their success can give to the city.”
A strong proponent of the so-called “living wage,” Jowell told City A.M. that she wanted wages tied to the cost of living to be a “negotiated agreement, rather than a mandated obligation” for businesses, saying, “Lots of businesses want to feel that they’re doing this of their own volition.”