Sadiq Khan launches campaign to become London’s longest-serving mayor

The Labour incumbent at City Hall is aiming to win an historic third term as mayor of the capital on 2nd May, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan and Sir Keir Starmer at this morning’s launch event (credit Noah Vickers/LDRS)
Sadiq Khan and Sir Keir Starmer at this morning’s launch event (credit Noah Vickers/LDRS)

Sir Keir Starmer joined Sadiq Khan today (Monday 18th) as he launched his re-election campaign pledging to double his council homes target to 40,000 and trumpeting the prospect of a Labour government and mayor together offering a “once in a generation” chance to ease London’s housing crisis.

The Labour Party leader told Londoners they had the choice between “chaos and division with the Tories, or unity and hope with Labour” as the Conservatives nationally have suffered a series of recent setbacks.

Despite polls suggesting Khan is way ahead of his Tory rival Susan Hall, the mayor sought to argue that the contest for City Hall was set to be the “closest ever” and stressed it is a “two-horse race” with the voting system changing to first-past-the-post.

Khan vowed to deliver 40,000 new council homes for the capital between 2018 and 2030, building on his previous target of starting 20,000 which he met last year.

He branded it the “greatest council homebuilding drive in a generation” but the extra promised homes are still dwarfed by the number of people on council house waiting lists.

“As mayor, I’m under no illusion about the scale of the challenge,” he said at his campaign launch in Royal Oak, West London.

The mayor’s pledge came as Housing Secretary Michael Gove intervened in the capital’s housing crisis by directing Khan to partially review the London Plan, to try to increase the number of new homes.

On the choice for the 2nd May mayoral election, he added: “We can go from rowing against the tide of a Tory government to having the winds of a Labour government at our backs.

“But we can only capitalise on this rare, precious opening if we ensure we keep hold of City Hall for Labour.”

If this happened and Sir Keir gets the keys to Number 10, he emphasised, then there would be a Labour mayor and a Labour government working hand-in-hand in a “once in a generation opportunity to make real inroads into solving London’s housing crisis”.

But Khan’s homes record came under fire from Conservative candidate Hall.

She said: “Sadiq Khan is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes, by pledging a target that mostly consists of existing homes or those already started.

“He is not listening to Londoners, who are facing soaring rents because he is not building enough new homes.”

Khan hinted however that his housing plans go significantly further however than just the pledge announced Monday.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The pledge I’m making today is 40,000 completed council homes in the next six years, at least.

“The point Keir and I are both making today, is that the real gamechanger though would be a Labour mayor working with a Labour government.

“Both Keir and Angela [Rayner, deputy Labour leader] have talked about a new generation of housebuilding.

“When I became mayor, there were only three – not 300, not 3,000 – three council homes in the pipeline. We’re now talking about whether 40,000 is ambitious enough – that’s a great conversation to have.”

The Tories believe the city’s housing crisis is a factor which could swing voters away from Khan.

Sir Keir said in his speech: “On 2nd May the choice is clear: chaos and division with the Tories, or unity and hope with Labour.”

Local authorities build council homes and the mayor has sought to ramp up these programmes, with a high number of council home starts getting funding from City Hall.

If Khan wins a third term, it would end in 2028, so some of that 40,000 homes target would almost certainly be completed in later years.

Asked about his pledge having a deadline of 2030 – and whether that suggests he may be interested in a fourth term – Khan said: “Let’s see what Londoners do on 2nd May first, and we’ll have that conversation this time in 2026, 2027.”

With just weeks to go before the mayoral vote, the Tories have been hit by two “racism” storms including Lee Anderson’s “Islamists” rant against Khan and the capital, and Conservative donor Frank Hester’s remarks about London MP Diane Abbott.

Hall has earlier faced criticism for “liking” inflammatory tweets in 2019 and 2020 that referred to “Londonistan” and Enoch Powell.

At his launch, Khan stressed: “As mayor, I’ve also never stopped standing up for London’s values of openness, equality and inclusion.

“Striving to unite London’s communities, not divide them.

“Because let me be clear: London’s diversity isn’t a weakness, it’s a formidable strength and it makes London not only special, but the greatest city on earth.”

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