The London Mayoral election is less than three months away and media outlets across the UK are unquestionably expecting it to be a two-horse race between the Labour and Conservative candidates – Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, respectively.
However, writing for Politics Bulletin, Iain Fenton and Manuel Tenga take a look at the candidates outside of the ‘top two’ and question whether or not Londoners should instead use their votes to facilitate change in London whilst at the same time, moving away from the ‘status quo’.
“The rich and the powerful don’t need the mayor of London on their side, ordinary Londoners do.”
Throughout his 48 year long political career, (having joined the Labour party when he was 13) George Galloway has been viewed as a maverick – he speaks his mind and is not afraid to give his opinion; Galloway’s opinion may seem controversial to some but it is also heroic to many.
Galloway has declared himself a man of the people this election, “My whole life I have fought for the working class and for the oppressed,” he says. “I have been the voice of the voiceless and I will fight as long as I have breath in my body.” And Galloway is adamant that the next mayor of London must be a mayor who cares about the 99% and not the 1%.
Is is becoming increasingly difficult to deny that London has become a playground for the rich and powerful. Ordinary working Londoners are finding it increasingly difficult to simply live in the city that they work in. It has been estimated that up to 59% of a working Londoners wage is being spent on his/her rent. This leads to a ‘rent trap’ which leaves families unable to save money towards buying a new home. George Galloway is aware of the dire housing situation in the capital, he says that although the mayor of London does not have the power to adjust and control the social housing budget, the mayor does have the “power of persuasion.”
“I will make sure that no housing projects are approved unless they are comprised of 50% affordable housing, defined as 50% of prevailing rents in a given area,” states Galloway.
“One of the biggest causes of our housing crisis is that huge numbers of properties are being bought up by speculators, not as a place to live, but as an investment, often before they are even built. Worse, this is often used as a means to park illegal ‘hot money’. This of course drives up prices and rents for the rest of us.
“Therefore, I will fight to introduce legislation to take back idle properties and developments, which are not lived in, rented, or used for business purposes by the owner. And I will introduce a land tax on empty properties, compound, which year on year will make it simply uneconomic for speculators to leave properties empty.”
Clearly, Galloway wants to give London back to the people. The number one issue for voters this election is the housing crisis. It has become increasingly difficult for many ‘born and bred’ Londoners to afford to live in the city that they grew up in and now work in and Galloway wants the people to stand up and fight.
“It is about hope and fighting inequality with all our strength,” he says. “Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith is an honourable man, but a Tory. He earns more in interest on his trust fund each month than any of your readers will earn in their lifetime. But what can he know about the problems facing ordinary Londoners? I will take on those dripping in gold who are currently socially cleansing London in their image and turning this city into one big redevelopment project, paid for by us, for their benefit.”
Galloway makes clear how he feels that it is no coincidence that London is the way it is; the rich and powerful at the forefront of London society have made the city the way they want it to be and have lined there pockets with its riches.
“The number one issue is do we want a London for all, or only for those dripping in gold? The problems faced by Londoners – housing, transport, crime and policing, terrorism, poverty and discrimination – can only be resolved if we question the power of our society. Who exercises it? How do they exercise it? And in the interest of whom do they exercise it?”
Galloway is aware of wide spread disillusionment across many sections of the general public and has praised the work of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. He has less flattering words to say about Labour Candidate Sadiq Khan, however, labeling him the epitome of a “flip-flopping, back stabbing, greasy-pole climbing New Labour career politician.” He speaks of Kahn stabbing Jeremy Corbyn “in the back, front and side”. Revealing Khan’s ambition of assuming the Labour leadership as soon as practicable. Declaring that unlike Khan, he would “rather stand shoulder to shoulder with Jeremy Corbyn against David Cameron” in a bid to begin making radical changes the country needs. However, some suggest that his move to side with Nigel Farage is a betrayal to Corbyn.
Currently, one of the biggest debates in London is regarding the topic of Uber. If elected George Galloway has stressed that he will do anything and everything legal to drive Uber out of London. The black taxi trade is facing an existential crisis fueled by Uber. There are accusations that TfL [Transport for London] are in bed with Uber. Outspoken George insists that Uber represents inadequate regulations and there are no systems in place for the protection of workers. He believes “Uber represents the worst of 21st Century cut-throat capitalism.” Despite some assertions that the Uber debate is an emotional argument, protecting the black cabs is what matters to Galloway.
There are 50 billion dollars in Uber; “it is registered in Netherlands and pays no tax in UK,” states Galloway. Critics have suggested that Galloway’s views are bordering on Anti-business. He protests that the Uber strategy is clear. “There strategy is to flood the market with private hire drivers, drive its opposition out of business, and drive fares down to subsistence level or below, with no regard for quality or passenger safety.
“I have been in Cairo and Karachi, and I know the result when every worker is reduced to a self-employed mini-capitalist, with no rights, no contract, each competing against each other for some crumbs from the table of rich clients. Uber is the epitome of that economic model, and I won’t allow it to happen here.”
Galloway will introduce a new police force in order to “pursue crime as vigorously whether the miscreant a white or blue collar, a white or black face.” He also intends on bringing the Serious Fraud Office under the same umbrella. Since Boris Johnson assumed office; knife crime has increased, gang membership and violent crimes have gone up. It is well known that Galloway is not part of the magical circle and political elite. He claims to have fought career politicians with privileged backgrounds for over 30 years, stating, “I have always stood apart from the establishment and machine politics, I graduated from the university of life and have worked all my life,” stressing that his job as a politician is not to pretend to agree with individuals but to convince you to agree with him.
Galloway, who once referred to himself as a fearless working-class Catholic from Dundee says: “I will do all I can to alleviate the suffering of the poorest in our society, from offering free public transport for the young, students, pensioners and public servants, to fighting for affordable housing.” Galloway noted that he will use his influence to “spearhead the fightback against austerity and war on the national stage.”
As aforementioned, Galloway is certainly a controversial character. He is rarely out of the headlines for too long and his alignment with Nigel Farage in regards to their alliance of backing the Brexit created headline news. His views on the state of Israel and Palestine are well known; he is against the savage treatment of Palestinians, his stint on big brother raised a lot of money for children in Gaza. He has insisted that he is not anti-semitic, he just does not support the “political creed of Zionism” and the “apartheid state of Israel.” However, being such a divisive figure leads some to believe that he will not make a good mayor. Controversial views create perfect headline fodder. Galloway has lucrative job contracts with various media outlets including RT [formally Russia Today] and has over 200k followers on Twitter. His outgoing image certainly ensures his newsworthiness and his celebrity-esque character. On the other hand, Galloway has many ideas and ample experience and should be judged on policy not his publicity. The Respect Party leader affirms that “If you believe we cannot go on with ‘business as usual’, if you are sick of tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum politics, if you want to see Jeremy Corbyn in No.10 and the Tories out on their backsides then this ought to be reason enough to vote George Galloway as London Mayor.