Full statement from Diane Abbott, MP Hackney North and Stoke Newington, on why she wants to be Labour’s 2016 candidate for Mayor of London.
I have recently announced my firm intention to run to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London.
It is not a formal declaration. The contest does not start officially until June 2015. So my current priority is Labour’s campaign to win the 2015 General Election.
But it is not too early to think about issues in relation to London. I am still working on my policy offer to London, but certain things are already clear.
So one reason why I want to run as Mayor is to lead the fight to make London affordable again. London is a wonderful city. But it is also one of the most expensive cities on earth.
We in London have our own distinct and ballooning cost of living crisis. Recent government statistics reveal that thirty something Londoners are leaving the capital in unprecedented numbers apparently because of living costs.
A key issue is the cost of housing. House prices have spiralled way above average incomes, rents are the highest in the country and Londoners pay a bigger proportion of their income in rents than anyone else in the UK.
Some people argue that high housing costs are a simple matter of supply, which can be fixed by building on the green belt or creating new garden cities.
I will be arguing for more fundamental measures, including allowing councils to borrow to build. Fares on public transport are another key issue for Londoners. We have to look at measures to stabilise them.
Londoners, like the rest of the country, have seen the sixth successive year of a decline in the value of their wages in real terms.
As Labour’s candidate I would lead the fight against zero hours contracts and the proliferation of agency work. It is disgraceful that last year not a single employer in London was prosecuted for not paying the minimum wage.
I would support trade union rights and freedoms, because the best defence against low pay and exploitation remains a strong trade union movement. It is predatory employers and the lack of trade union protection that causes low pay, not immigrants.
On the question of immigration I would be a strong voice against the current toxic narrative. At times all the major political parties appear to be competing as to who can sound the most anti-immigrant. As another Labour figure has said recently, too many politicians talk about immigration as if it is a disease.
The public needs to be reminded that recent EU migrants contribute more to the economy than they take out and that, far from being a drain on our public services, immigrants are the backbone of the public services in London.
My mother migrated to this country from Jamaica in the 1950’s as a pupil nurse. She was part of that generation that helped to build our NHS.
As Labour’s candidate I will counter the current anti-immigrant narrative with facts and I will celebrate London’s diversity. London is one of the world’s great cities. Immigrants and the children of immigrants are an intrinsic part of our success as a city.