Opinion – London Mayoral Election: Who’s The Safer Pair of Hands?
“On Thursday, are we really going to hand the world’s greatest city to a Labour party that thinks terrorists are its friends?” was the controversial headline of Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith’s article in the Mail on Sunday. This has caused anger with claims of racism and Islamic extremism thrown at the two frontrunners, yet one of them will most likely be the next Mayor of London.
The Conservatives’ terrorism claims against Labour have created outrage, with many people criticising the Tories for creating a divisive and desperate campaign, which has involved a high degree of personal attack – the hashtag #NastyZac has even been trending on Twitter. However, it would also be legitimate for people to worry about Labour mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan’s ‘bad judgement’ as Goldsmith calls it: Khan said that he finds the extremists’ views “abhorrent”, but has, as a Human Rights lawyer, represented someone involved with 9/11 and has additionally been sharing platforms with Islamist extremists. This has further put into question his future methods for making the British capital safe against potential terror threats.
But his rival’s security policies are in fact similar: both candidates promise to impose a greater police presence on public transport, protecting neighbourhood police teams and tackling crime in local communities and street gangs. But it is the bigger questions concerning terror threats and criminal street gangs that are top priorities for Londoners, particularly in Islington where crimes have risen by 6.9% in the last year.
There is a worry that while Khan might not be tough enough on radicalisation, Goldsmith could create more hate by being too harsh. Khan is indeed the candidate who has voiced strongly his desire for openness and a more inclusive society for British Muslims. Goldsmith has focused on a policy of keeping British Jews safer in London and imposing tougher restrictions on Islamic preachers of hate, saying that London has to realise that it faces a big problem with Islamic radicalisation.
A more aggressive approach from the Tories’ side recently could be due to the neck-and-neck race we are currently seeing. The latest opinion poll for the Evening Standard showed that Khan is ahead of rival Goldsmith, but just barely. However PM David Cameron backing Goldsmith’s claims that Khan, and even the whole Labour party, sympathises with Islamic extremists could change the outcome tomorrow. With the increasing fear of terror threats against European capitals, security measures to prevent Islamist extremism has become a significant topic – so much so that it has developed close ties with the Brexit campaign which is pushing for tougher border controls, with Goldsmith even claiming that there are evident “risks associated with staying in the EU”.
Of course, securing London against crime and violence seems at first glance like a straight-forward policy, but as the two leading mayoral candidates have proved, there are many different ways to do this. Khan has said that “it will be the British Muslim who does what is necessary to keep Londoners safe”, relying on trust between communities to avoid exclusion. But how do we make Londoners more inclusive with so much anti-Semitism and Islamophobia? This is a question he has not been clear on, only stating that he is a candidate who “represents everyone” in the capital – which does not seem to be entirely true. At the same time, I think he is showing a lot more respect and tolerance towards the working class and ethnic minorities compared to a handful of Conservative politicians, including Goldsmith.
With additional political topics to consider before voting tomorrow, such as housing, economy and environmental policies, Londoners will have a lot to think about before making a decision. But whether it will be Khan or Goldsmith who wins the election and takes on the mantel from Boris Johnson, one thing is for sure; they have both promised to make London a safer place to live. Whether that can be achieved remains to be seen.
The full list of candidates for London Mayor:
- Sadiq Khan, Labour Party
- Zac Goldsmith, Conservative Party
- Sian Berry, Green Party of England and Wales
- David Furness, British National Party
- George Galloway, Respect Party
- Paul Golding, Britain First
- Lee Harris, Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol
- Ankit Love, One Love Party
- Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrats
- Sophie Walker, Women’s Equality Party
- Peter Whittle, UK Independent Party
- Prince Zylinski, Independent