There's no doubt about it, London’s mayoral election campaign is getting dirty. The two leading candidates, Labour’s Sadiq Khan and Tory Zac Goldsmith are trading blows on everything from funding pledges to character attacks.
When it comes to policy, one of the central debates can be found on the age-old battleground of London politics: transport fares. Khan, who served in the cabinet as transport secretary, has vowed not to increase fares before the end of the decade. It’s a big, attractive offer in the best tradition of so-called retail politics.
The problem is that Transport for London says the move would cost £1.9bn, putting vital investment at risk across the network. Khan stands by his policy, insisting it will only cost £450m over four years, but Goldsmith isn’t about to let him off the hook.
Unveiling his own transport policy, the Richmond Park MP claimed the election represents “a very clear choice between Khan’s reckless experiment with London’s future and my plan to secure that future.” According to Khan, that’s a plan that amounts to a 17 per cent rise in fares. And so it goes on.
When they’re not hurling numbers and percentages at each other, they’re happy to hit below the belt. Labour’s camp have produced a mocked up CV of the Tory candidate, labelling Goldsmith a “serial underachiever” who “has never been a success in business or politics”.
The Tories, meanwhile, are determined to associate Khan with what they call “the radical Corbyn experiment”. This isn’t an unreasonable charge, given that Khan was one of a handful of Labour MPs to nominate the hard-left Labour leader in the first place. What’s needed is some clarity. Perhaps, the kind of clarity that can only come from a live, head-to-head debate between these two frontrunners.
To that end, City A.M. is here to help. On 12 April, we’ll be hosting a major debate, and you’re invited to apply for seats in the audience. Full details are here.
This is not a clash you want to miss, as the two candidates face each other on the major issues of London’s economy, the capital’s infrastructure, the Brexit debate, the housing challenge and their own personal pitch for the top job in City Hall. See you there.