Zac Goldsmith wins over William Cash in a conversation about his priorities for London.
Tomorrow will be an important day not just for Londoners. But most importantly for London's future as the financial capital of the world. With Brexit fears, and the pound sliding, there has never been a more important moment to ensure that London's position as one of the world's leading capital cities is entrenched by the election of the right Mayor.
There can be no doubt that the capital has boomed under Boris.
London’s business population is up by 25 percent since 2008, and they excel in every field of entrepreneurial human endeavour: film, fashion, media – you name it, London does it. Not only is the City stronger than ever, but it has helped fund the rise of the biggest tech cluster in Europe, including the new fusion industry of fintech.
But it is the finance industry where London has really flourished under Boris. Such is the success of London’s wealth management industry today (it employs 23,000 people and contributes £3.2 billion a year to the UK’s GDP) that Spear's now has to segregate HNW and UHNW client managers in our Indices; the former is for clients with investible assets of $1-30 million, the latter for those over $30 million. But as any private banker will tell you, such figures are flexible.
Anybody who cares about the continued prosperity of London as a global wealth management hub and financial capital, must vote for Zac Goldsmith. This is not because his brother Ben has been a guest editor of Spear's, But rather because as an MP for Richmond, he has shown the independence of mind to be one of the most respected of parliamentarians - becoming hugely popular in Richmond.
The Sadiq Khan alternative - a man who has flip-flopped on almost every policy to suit the political wind - is likely to damage London's standing as a global capital. When a station as important as Bank has to be closed once a week because of overcrowding, or a City worker on a decent wage still can’t afford to buy, we know that London has a problem.
Goldsmith has presented a fully-funded Action Plan for Greater London: more homes, better transport, cleaner air and safer streets, all paid for without putting a penny on mayoral council tax.
I spoke with Zac about his priorities. Protecting transport investment is his first priority, he said, so London can be kept moving, building and growing. His Labour opponent has pledged a fares policy that TfL confirms would take £1.9 billion out of the transport budget. This would mean shelving four years’ worth of vital upgrades, at a time when 10,000 new Londoners are arriving in our city each month. It is not a policy that London can afford.
Zac wants to grow the transport network to tackle the housing crisis, using rail, tube and tram to turn vast tracts of neglected brownfield land into new homes. He has pledged to double house-building to 50,000 a year. He will do it by unlocking the land we need and by injecting competition into the market. 'But I won’t just build more, I’ll build better,' Zac says. 'London won’t become a city of empty skyscrapers dumped on reluctant communities. I will build a city rooted in streets and parks and beautiful neighbourhoods, with more homes available for Londoners on average salaries.
By contrast, his opponent’s housing plan is to ask developers to build at a loss, which of course means fewer homes will get built.
'I’ll use the new devolved skills budget to back the most advanced sectors of our economy, backing emerging business clusters like MedCity around Euston or Croydon’s tech sector,' he says. 'I’ll support start-ups with more affordable office space and by working with the boroughs to take full advantage of devolved business rates. I’ll follow New York’s example and appoint a Chief Digital Officer. The London CDO will be responsible for turning London into a Smart City, where we use data-driven analysis to run our city, guiding better policy on everything from managing traffic flows to deciding on health priorities.'
Goldsmith adds: 'I’ll set up a Business Advisory Group, with members nominated from the business community. I’m prepared to work with this government, rather than use the mayoralty to fight this government'.
Make no mistake, this election will go right down to the wire. Every vote will count. Anybody who cares about London's reputation as the world's global financial centre needs to vote.
In 2012, Boris beat Ken Livingstone by just 62,000 votes, in a city of 5.8 million voters. This means it would take just 1000 voters in each borough to switch from Conservative to Labour and Corbyn’s man in London will take City Hall.
Staying at home has the same effect as voting for Corbyn and Khan. If you do you’ll be voting for a party which - for the first time in my adult life - has rejected the belief that our prosperity depends on the wealth created by the private sector.
Flying pickets, dividend bans, punitive taxes for the City, even talk of abolishing the City of London Corporation – that’s the agenda that Corbyn’s Labour have signed up to. And Khan was the man who made it happen. He nominated Corbyn for leader and says he has no regrets.
If Labour win we’ll have four years of blame, bickering and chaos. Council tax will go up, our transport network will be starved of investment and the unions will be invited into City Hall. Above all it will breathe new life into the Corbyn project, which is the biggest long-term threat to free enterprise in this country.
On May 5th vote- tomorrow - vote for a Mayor who will back London’s wealth-creators to the hilt.