Advertisement
Opinion

Like it or not, the London mayoral race matters to the rest of the UK

In a healthy country, with a less dominant capital, other local leaders would influence politics too and the rest of the country wouldn’t need subsidies from London. But, unfortunately, we don’t live in that country, writes Jonn Elledge.

On Thursday May 6, as Scotland elects a new Parliament and Wales a new Assembly, much of England will go to the polls for a bumper, double-pack of local elections. Around 5,000 council seats are up for grabs, as well as 39 police and crime commissioners and a dozen directly elected mayors.

None of these elections are likely to get as much attention as the biggest, however. The sixth London mayoral election will see Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan face off against the Tories’ Shaun Bailey, Lib Dem Luisa Porritt, Green Sian Berry – plus assorted minor and novelty candidates including a struggling former actor and husband, an American YouTuber best known for spreading misinformation about Covid-19, and a man with a bin on his head.

Despite the complete absence of tension in this race – Bailey is polling historically badly, and the bookies currently have Khan as 1/50 favourite to win – it is likely to get far more coverage than, say, the genuinely marginal West Midlands mayoral race.

Unfair as this might seem, there are several reasons why the London mayoral race should matter to the rest of the country. One is that its electorate is huge – around six million, representing a population of nine million – larger than Scotland and Wales combined, and giving Khan a personal mandate bigger than anyone in Europe except the president of France. The London mayor is, quite literally, A Big Deal.

Another is that the mayor of London can influence national politics in a way no other local politician can. Throughout Brexit and right-wing Tory hegemony, Sadiq Khan has been a one-man symbol of another style of British politics: Remain-y, multicultural, progressive. (This is good, because in terms of actual policy achievements, he’s really not been all that.) His predecessor in the role is today the literal Prime Minister. Hate London as you might, this role matters.

It matters for a more concrete reason too: London generates nearly a quarter of UK GDP, and the tax revenues produced in the capital subsidise spending in almost every other region of the country. The next mayor will have the job of fixing Transport for London’s finances, and re-starting that economic engine. If London is badly run, that could have very real financial consequences for the rest of the country too.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Of course, one could argue that these things shouldn’t matter: that in a healthy country, with a less dominant capital, other local leaders would influence politics too and the rest of the country wouldn’t need subsidies from London. This is fair enough. But, unfortunately, we don’t live in that country. In this one, London’s politics matters. 

Advertisement

Support The Big Issue Winter Appeal

Big Issue vendors can’t work from home and with severe weather warnings on the cards, they face a very tough and uncertain Winter period ahead.

Recommended for you

Read All
'Trauma deadline’ in Borders Bill would see survivors of abuse miss out on support
Maya Esslemont

'Trauma deadline’ in Borders Bill would see survivors of abuse miss out on support

Abstract beauty to light up an increasingly ugly world
Opinion

Abstract beauty to light up an increasingly ugly world

Is it too much to hope for an accessible safety net that protects us all from poverty?
Joanne Barker-Marsh

Is it too much to hope for an accessible safety net that protects us all from poverty?

Scotland can become a powerhouse of green energy but we need a brave plan for renewables
Paul McNamee

Scotland can become a powerhouse of green energy but we need a brave plan for renewables

Most Popular

Read All
Government branded 'disgrace' after bid to strengthen Sarah Everard inquiry voted down at 12.30am
1.

Government branded 'disgrace' after bid to strengthen Sarah Everard inquiry voted down at 12.30am

What are the Kill the Bill protests?
2.

What are the Kill the Bill protests?

Rose Ayling-Ellis: 'Suddenly it became quite cool to be deaf'
3.

Rose Ayling-Ellis: 'Suddenly it became quite cool to be deaf'

The Met Police is being sued for not investigating a Downing Street Christmas party
4.

The Met Police is being sued for not investigating a Downing Street Christmas party