Boris Johnson dangers London electoral backlash over levelling up, mayor warns


Boris Johnson will face a backlash from south-east England on the subsequent basic election if his levelling-up agenda squeezes transport funding for London, the capital’s mayor has warned.

The opposition Labour get together has made positive factors in London lately, together with seizing dozens of council seats from the Tories within the May native elections. “That’s one of the fruits in London of anti-London policies from the government,” Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor, mentioned.

“If you think May 2022 was bad for them in London just wait until there’s a general election.”

Johnson has made levelling up, the redressing of regional financial inequalities, certainly one of his signature insurance policies. Khan advised the Financial Times in an interview that on the subsequent election there could be tactical voting “not seen since 1997 [the last time the Tories were removed from office] . . . because we are at the receiving end of levelling up”. 

“The evidence from this May is that the more they punish London, because they’ve got a Labour mayor, the better we do in elections,” he mentioned. “The tribal politician in me says ‘keep doing that to make us more popular’ but, as a patriot who wants to be mayor for all of London, I say this is damaging London, the capital city, and is bad for our country.

“My message to Boris Johnson and those responsible for levelling up, you can’t be surprised if those of us on the receiving end, being made poorer, respond by voting for anybody but the Tories.”

The largest flashpoint between Khan and the federal government is over public transport funding. Transport for London, which Khan chairs, has acquired £5bn in 4 tranches to assist with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Khan needs a fifth short-term bailout to help operations till subsequent spring and negotiations are going to the wire forward of a June 24 deadline. “From next April we will not need operating subsidy unless there’s another — God forbid — pandemic,” Khan mentioned.

The mayor additionally needs a multiyear pledge of capital funding to make sure the renewal of current transport infrastructure.

Khan warned that London’s transport system would enter an extended interval of “managed decline” except the federal government heeded his warnings.

“There is still no sign of a deal being reached yet which beggars belief. This is a £10bn business living hand to mouth, month to month,” he mentioned. A failure to achieve a deal would result in an 18 per cent reduce in bus providers and 9 per cent reduce in Underground providers, he claimed.

Khan’s arguments about London being starved of funding will elevate eyebrows elsewhere, given the current opening of the glitzy £19bn east-west Elizabeth line.

Previous research of presidency transport funding have proven northern England receiving much less transport funding than the capital.

But the mayor mentioned Johnson’s levelling-up agenda would reduce funding in London. Of £60bn earmarked for transport in England within the subsequent three years, the north-west is receiving £465 per head in contrast with £332 in London, he mentioned. Meanwhile London was shut out of a brand new £7bn regional transport fund and a brand new £3.6bn cities fund final 12 months.

Ministers query whether or not TfL’s previous enterprise mannequin is sustainable, given altering work patterns after the pandemic.

Khan mentioned financial savings have been already being discovered: the north-south Crossrail 2 and Bakerloo line extension have been “mothballed”. A 4 per cent reduce in bus providers is on the desk.

The mayor, who gained the 2021 election with 55 per cent of the vote, mentioned he was decided to face for a 3rd successive time period in 2024.

But he was lukewarm on Labour’s prospects on the subsequent basic election, saying that “hard thinking” and “heavy lifting” have been wanted for the get together to have the “right retail offer”.

“If the general election was tomorrow I’m not confident we would win, wouldn’t be the biggest party. but it’s probably not until late 2024.”

Khan mentioned he was “pro trade union” however feared important financial harm to London from strikes subsequent week on the railways and TfL.

He mentioned he was “really, really frustrated and disappointed” by the economic motion, blaming ministers. “My worry is that [transport secretary] Grant Shapps and Boris Johnson think this is a virility test . . . almost as if they want it to go on for the rest of this summer.”