Amol Rajan: Mayor has had a starring role in re-shaping our city

FreeView from the editors at i
  • @amolrajan

On Tuesday I said that if he is going to be re-elected as Mayor of London on 3 May, Boris Johnson cannot afford for 68 per cent of voters in the inner boroughs to support Ken Livingstone. He needs to court those people vigorously, and explain that he has delivered a better city for them. How should he do that?

I have argued in this space before that the community organisation pioneered in this country by London Citizens is the most exciting development in our democracy for decades (full disclosure: I had a walk-on part with them years ago).

The biggest alliance of community groups in the capital brings together hundreds of civic institutions – schools, churches, mosques, unions, youth groups – and hears testimonies on the issues affecting its members' lives. It then campaigns by lobbying government and corporations. London Citizens is the forum where the voices of inner London are most clearly heard – that is, the forum Boris must win over.

In 2008, when he addressed their Mayoral Assembly, Mr Johnson pledged to champion the four main causes they put to him: safer streets, an amnesty for illegal immigrants, a living wage and community land trusts for affordable housing. On all but the last, he has delivered impressively. On the last, he still has a chance. That is a strong pitch to those 68 per cent.

Though criticised for his response to the riots, Mr Johnson and his deputy, Kit Malthouse, have had success on street safety and City Hall has adopted London Citizens' "CitySafe" campaign. On an amnesty – which is right for moral, social, and economic reasons – he has bravely defied Tory sentiment and hysteria to argue its case. Even Mr Livingstone, an early champion of the living wage, must be surprised by how successfully his rival has spread it. Three-quarters of London's campuses and hundreds of organisations – including many big corporations – have signed up and the Living Wage Foundation is born. Mr Johnson has played a starring role in all of this.

Finally, on 21 February, he will chair a meeting of the Homes and Community Agency, where he can fulfil his pledge to London Citizens, and approve the foundation of community land trusts. If he does that, on 26 April he can go to their Mayoral Assembly, packed with more than 2,000 influential community leaders from that 68 per cent, and make a very persuasive case. He listened to them, he promised to work on their main concerns and – by and large – he delivered for them.

That is much more than many of those attending expected of him. From what I hear, a surprising number of them are willing to repay him at the ballot box.