On Thursday night, writes Mike Hough, one week before the election of a new Mayor of London, 6,000 people from across London came together in the biggest event of the mayoral campaign so far, organised by Citizens UK.
They called on the leading London mayoral candidates Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith to back innovative proposals developed by London Citizens: on the housing crisis in London; on the London Living Wage; on jobs and employment opportunities for young people; and on citizenship and integration in the capital, including London’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Each candidate was asked to provide an initial response to the asks and proposals on each topic. Added to this there were powerful testimonies from keyworkers, people feeling the crunch of rising housing costs, and a particularly moving testimony from a Syrian refugee who had come to London after fleeing torture in his home country. He told the Assembly: “The first time I ever heard about human rights was when I arrived in London. I was greeted with a smile and offered medical help.”
Following the initial response from each candidate, Citizens UK representatives then negotiated with them onstage over whether the candidates had agreed to the specific proposals and asks, with the audience invited to cheer and clap when a proposal had been accepted by a candidate.
Both candidates were asked to support a joint proposal from British Future and Citizens UK for an Office for Citizenship and Integration at the GLA, headed by a new Deputy Mayor.
Sadiq Khan welcomed the proposals but told the audience that this was an issue for which he would take personal responsibility, without the appointment of a Deputy focused on that area. (A full recording of the event can be found here with Sadiq’s comments on the proposals found at 2:04:14) As Mayor, he said, he would work to promote citizenship and ensure that all were able to participate in our democracy and wider community.
The proposal also won the support of Zac Goldsmith who agreed to our proposal to appoint a Deputy Mayor to focus specifically on citizenship and integration. (Zac’s specific support for the proposal can be found at 2:11:30 on the attached video).
Both candidates promised to maintain the relationship with Citizens UK and work alongside them to implement agreed proposals, which also included commitments to make more GLA suppliers pay the London Living Wage, to support the development of more genuinely affordable homes and for Community Land Trusts to become mainstreamed across the city.
The event concluded with the candidates being thanked for their candour and support and being given a generous round of applause. Both Zac and Sadiq were presented with a bouquet of flowers and a final promise from Citizens UK of a breakfast for the successful candidate and all their staff on their first day in office on Monday 9th May – accompanied by a promise that they would hold them to the promises that they made on this inspiring evening.