London's mayoral election is less than a week away and, although the result will cause barely a ripple in financial markets, its implications for the capital's economy should not be downplayed.
Khan and Goldsmith have both made pains to position themselves as pro-business, and London is lucky to have two candidates ostensibly in favour of wealth creation and aspiration. But both have also come out with anti-growth pledges that should concern anyone who wants to see London’s success continue into the future.
With the Bank Holiday weekend ahead of us, these are the questions the candidates need to answer: 1) Sadiq Khan: you have pledged to freeze fares on public transport for four years. This is superficially attractive, but Transport for London says it will cost £1.9bn, and this at a time when the capital needs more transport investment to keep up with rising commuter numbers. How will you fill this hole?
2) Zac Goldsmith: like your opponent, you have ruled out any review of the green belt, even though there is only enough brownfield land for six years of London’s annual housing need and researchers like Professor Paul Cheshire have questioned the green belt’s environmental benefits, given that the commonest land use is intensive agriculture. Will you be supporting sufficient new high rises to make up the shortfall?
3) Sadiq Khan: you have called for 50 per cent of all new homes to be “affordable”. But the Home Builders Federation has said that this will make many developments unviable, due to the cost of providing subsidised property, and that the policy will thereby reduce future supply of new homes. Will you accept that this policy needs work?
4) Zac Goldsmith: you are a long-time campaigner against Heathrow expansion and have instead suggested that additional capacity would be better placed at either Stansted or Gatwick. But CBI analysis found that Britain will be losing £5bn a year in lost exports if a new runway isn't built by 2030. Given that the independent Airports Commission has already recommended that the runway should be at Heathrow, how will you ensure that a reopening of the question doesn't cost London billions?
Answers on a postcard, please.