Parliament Squared by Derek Wyatt
London: Mayoral Elections, Heathrow & Transport
The candidates for the Tory Party are beginning to come out of the woodwork. Zak Goldsmith is the clear favourite from Sol Campbell, Andrew Bott, Simon Fawthrop, Stephen Greenhalgh, Syed Kamall and Ivan Massow. As Boris has established the role as someone with more personality that consistency in the political firmament it will be interesting to see whether anyone can touch Goldsmith.
Of course, it was a mighty coup for George Osborne and others to persuade him to stand. Given the decision on Heathrow’s extension is likely to be supported by the PM it would have led to a by-election in Richmond Park. Goldsmith has resolutely opposed the idea of the airport being extended and had said he would stand down from the Tory Party. Now Goldsmith, could if elected mayor, oppose it with greater might.
Heathrow is behind many European and Mid-East airports in its modernisation programme and its links to London are weak. The tube is woefully slow and frequently packed in rush hour. The Heathrow Express dumps people at Paddington hardly the centre of town. Crossrail will not go through Heathrow (sadly) though a tunnel from the main line to Heathrow is currently underway which means there will be direct trains from Liverpool Street through Paddington. It’s not really worth trying to drive to the airport from central London unless you have an early morning or late flight.
On the Labour side, Sadiq Khan has come out against (having supported it as a transport minister) whilst Gareth Thomas, David Lammy and Tessa Jowell have supported its expansion. What we are seeing is parochialism at its worst. Goldsmith and Khan have constituencies on the west edge of London nearest Heathrow. They are not putting London first.
A London mayor must stand up for ensuring this great city is the best in the world. One of the defining issues of such a city is that it has world class transport systems. London does not. The congestion charge has largely failed. Parking policies in our boroughs are out of synch. In Chelsea and Kensington you cannot pay your parking through an App or by phone. What century is the royal borough in? Berlin has free electric trams in its centre. London has nothing. The debate about Heathrow should not cloud the fact that no candidate has yet produced a coherent transport plan.
Labour Leadership Elections
The Labour elections for leader and deputy leader rumble on. The favourites are now Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall for leader and Tom Watson and Caroline Flint for deputy. Burnham is a safe pair of hands though a tad dull. Kendall is largely unknown but has none of the debris of the Blair-Brown-Miliband years. Her campaign is feisty and she may yet tip the apple cart over. Tom Watson and Caroline Flint are both outstanding candidates for the deputy leadership. The deputy’s role is to run the elections something which Harriet Harman was unable to do. Watson and Flint are big hitters and the fight will be close.
Cameron & Osborne will enjoy their holidays
The most surprising election result for any a year has given David Cameron (especially as he will stand down after the referendum on Europe) a new lease of life. Osborne’s budget in early July cemented his position as his natural heir. Together these two are seemingly untouchable.
You sense they have both deserved their forthcoming holidays.