The Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor has launched her election campaign with promises to boost job creation, improve affordable housing supply, tackle air quality and help revive the capital’s High Streets
Speaking via Facebook from her local pub in Haverstock Hill, Porritt, 33, a Camden councillor and former Member of the European Parliament, also repeated her call for the resignation of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick over the Met’s handling of Saturday’s vigil for murdered Londoner Sarah Everard.
Summarising her priorities as the “basic needs” of “jobs, homes and clean air”. Porritt argued that she can become the new principal challenger to Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan, given what she called the “disastrous” campaign of Conservative Shaun Bailey, who trails Khan by 26 percentage points, according to the most recent opinion poll.
Porritt was in third place, 17 points behind Bailey but narrowly ahead of the Green Party’s Sian Berry in fourth and Mandu Reid of the Women’s Equality Party in fifth.
Developing her view that the pandemic has hastening radical changes in London work place arrangements local neighbourhoods, Porritt said the city faces a choice: “Do we return to the five-day a week office commute, miserable for most, and often unsafe and inconvenient for women? Do we stick to the same way of doing things, that’s led to high rents, poor landlords? Do we consign ourselves to breathing polluted air?”
She criticised the national government’s “levelling up” measures as an attempt to “pit us against other parts of the country” while small businesses have suffered badly due to Covid and also the effects of Brexit. She accused the current Mayor of asking the government to do things but failing to have plan to “take London forward” in the post-Covid period.
Porritt highlighted existing pledges to help repurpose London’s High Streets so they rely less on retail and introducing “a range of services that local people want and need”, such as shared working and child care facilities and more places to eat and drink. “As Mayor, I would establish a Reinvent the High Street Task Force to showcase best practice, gather data, raise funds and provide the technical support to local councils needed”.
In a pledge redolent of one made by the 2016 Lib Dem candidate Caroline Pidgeon – who introduced the launch today – Porritt said she would “establish a London Housing Company” to “take control of building the homes we need directly, by bringing empty properties back into use, maximising the use of public land, driving forward the affordable homes programme, raising revenue to build sites of its own and shaping the future of London’s housing market, hands on.”
The Company would also help seize the “golden opportunity” Porritt expects to arise from sharply reduced demand for office space as flexible working increases and potential is created for converting offices into homes in Central London. A study would be commissioned “into the size of that opportunity,” Porritt said.
On the environment, Porritt ascribed being an asthma sufferer to having lived in London for most of her life, and renewed her call for the Silvertown Tunnel project to be dropped, calling it “a major new motorway” which would increase pollution. She said that as a former financial journalist she knows there is no binary choice between tackling the problem and boosting economic growth. She advocated the introduction of “a new, fair pay-as-you-go road-pricing system” to help Transport for London’s finances and encourage greener travel choices.
Speaking with passion about the Everard case, Porritt said, “Every woman I know has been thinking about Sarah. We’ve been reflecting on our own near-misses and the constant calculations we make in order to try and keep ourselves from harm.” Porritt said Everard had made such calculations yet “she still wasn’t safe”.
“The Metropolitan Police had the opportunity to do the right thing,” she continued. “They could have found a way for the vigil to go ahead safely.” Porritt said the failure to enable this had denied her and others the right “to voice our grief, pain and anger”. She described the police response to those who gathered as “horribly wrong” and “utterly shameful”.
Luisa Porritt’s campaign website is here. You can watch her campaign launch speech here.
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