Come March 2019, Britain will have left the EU, but our city will continue to be the most vibrant and dynamic economic urban economy on earth.
Londoners deserve a mayor who represents this and protects our position of strength. Unlike Sadiq Khan, he or she can ill-afford to be sucked in to talking down London’s merits domestically or internationally post-Brexit.
My strategy for London is based on understanding and promoting the vision of our city as world-leader – for tech, for entrepreneurialism, and for financial services.
First, the next mayor must ensure that we are the undisputed global centre for emerging technology.
I am a firm believer that positioning the capital as a tech hub can help us become a more outward-looking nation. I was a Number 10 adviser when Tech City UK (now Tech Nation), the brainchild of Rohan Silva, was conceived, kickstarting an entrepreneurial revolution in East London. London is now home to 14 out of 47 of Europe’s unicorns – double the number of the next closest city – and data from London and Partners shows that UK firms attracted almost four times more funding in 2017 than Germany, and more than France, Ireland and Sweden combined.
London-based companies must be able to realise the benefits from recent initiatives, such as the government’s first fintech strategy and the creation of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. Both these interventions will help strengthen our global tech credentials and provide opportunities for further inward investment.
Second, we must champion entrepreneurial spirit. It’s what has made London such a force in recent years – SMEs make up over 99 per cent of businesses in our city, and their number has increased by almost one third in the past six years.
At the Cabinet Office, I advised young entrepreneurs on starting up businesses, making provisions to give them a stake in society and thrive. I will plan a series of initiatives aimed at supporting the SME community and providing impetus to the local economies on which they depend.
Finally, marketing our financial prowess to a wider audience is crucial. Economic secretary John Glen recently said that he can envision a world where “the City” is “no longer understood as a monolithic entity bounded by physical geography”, but rather where it “remains and prospers as a hub”. I wholeheartedly support this vision, and as mayor it would be my role to be a salesman for the Square Mile.
Its contribution cannot be understated. Some 751,000 people work in the financial sector in London (14 per cent of all jobs), accounting for 22 per cent of the economy.
Despite pessimism exuding from City Hall, 88 per cent of business leaders surveyed by LloydsBank say the UK and London will remain the most prominent hub for European financial services. Protecting jobs and mobility between other key hubs, such as Frankfurt, is vital as part of any future agreement with the EU, but, equally, we must not be reluctant to talk up our credentials.
Whether you work for a startup on Old Street or a multinational on Threadneedle Street, my vision for London is centred on capitalising on our reputation as a resilient global nucleus for business. So let’s get started.