The Role of the London Mayor- Who, What, and Why?
One of the newest, but well-respected, positions in the UK political system, the Mayor of London, is now over two decades old, but many people who don’t live in the nation’s capital are unlikely to know the importance of the role, or what the Mayor does on a day to day basis.
The position has been held by 3 different individuals since its creation; Ken Livingstone (2000-2008), Boris Johnson (2008-2016), Sadiq Khan (2016-present). The next election is due on 6th May 2021, and there are many different outcomes predicted, from all over the political spectrum. Tradition expects Khan to win a second term, but results are never fully predictable. Polling plays a large part in British elections and many are betting on Mayor of London odds in the hopes of winning big if their favourite makes it to the top.
The position was created in 2000 – which feels a lot more recent than it really is – after the Greater London Council was abolished. With a population of 7.2 million people at the time (now nearly 9 million), it was decided that Greater London’s governance would be split into strategic functions with an elected Mayor at the head, both to do internal work and city maintenance, as well as championing the city across the UK and the rest of the world. The Mayor sets the budget and is charged with improving London for everyone who lives there, as well as tourists and visiting officials. This can include improving transport, providing housing, and helping businesses to thrive.
It isn’t to be confused with the Lord Mayor of London, which is an unpaid, representative role and is elected every year. It is a historical role that dates back to 1189, and there is a rich culture attached to it which includes pageantry such as the Lord Mayor’s procession – held the day after the new mayor is sworn into office. The Mayor of London’s job is complimentary to the Lord Mayor, but is more entrenched in everyday politics because they belong to a certain political party, and they are elected every four years.
Khan has a few competitors, and each one must prove their worth, as the Mayor is historically very well educated and has experience of both public office and the internal political system of Parliament. Khan himself was a human rights lawyer, and his predecessor Boris Johnson (now the Prime Minister of the UK), was an experienced journalist before moving into politics. The main challenger for the position is the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, who is currently polling at second place behind Khan. Bailey’s campaign focuses on knife crime in the city and building affordable homes, as he wants to ‘hustle for the city’.
As the election date rapidly approaches it will be interesting to see whether voters will follow tradition or take a new approach after a year like any other in recent history, being inspired by a new face or taking comfort in what they know.