Who will be London’s next Mayor? Read more on the race for City Hall
Diane Abbott, who was re-elected as the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington on 7th May, is one of the best known faces in the race. She was first elected to parliament in 1987 becoming the first black woman to sit in the House of Commons. In 2010, Abbott became Shadow Public Health Minister after unsuccessfully standing for election as leader of the Labour party but was removed in a reshuffle three years later. She has since returned to the media spotlight and can be found cosying up to former Conservative politician Michael Portillo on the BBC’s weekly political digest, This Week.
Why should you be Mayor of London in a sentence?
Because I am the best candidate and it would be a sign to Londoners that this election is not about politics as usual.
What is the biggest challenge facing London in 2016-2020?
It is housing closely followed by inequality. London has the highest rents and the highest house prices in the country—one of the things driving up rents is non dom buyers, who buy flats and leave them empty. On the rental side we need to lobby for price controls, and on the housing side we need fiscal levies on these non dom buyers. In terms of inequality—London has more millionaires than any other city in the world. But, it’s not just about the inequality between the poorest and the richest, it’s also middle income Londoners, who are in work, who are struggling to keep up.
What do you see as the best aspect of Boris Johnson’s administration?
Everything that Boris has done which is worthwhile was devised and planned under Ken Livingstone, whether it is the Boris bikes, which should be [known as] the Ken Bikes, or the Olympics, these were all planned under Ken. But if I was Mayor I wouldn’t see myself as continuing Ken’s legacy, he was a fantastic leader of the GLC and Mayor but we have to move on.
If you could have one more devolved power from central government, what would it be?
It would be more power over the health service budget along similar lines to that which Manchester will receive. At the moment we have a problem with social care for the elderly—people stay in hospital because they can’t find quality social care when they come out. Equally, old people don’t necessarily get the right kind of social care when they are in hospital. If you bring social care and the NHS closer together you can provide a better service and in the long run save money.
How would you define a Londoner?
The traditional definition of a cockney is someone born within the sound of Bow bells. For me, the modern version is someone born within walking distance of a red London bus. London is also a very aspirational city. People come here to make a better life, whether it’s immigrants from within the British Isles such as Ireland, or immigrants from the West Indies or Africa. London is the embodiment of aspiration.