Counter to Sadiq Khan’s claims the real threat to London’s economy is not Brexit, but instead an anti-business Mayor who has lost all faith in his own city, argues London Assembly Member, Tony Devenish.
Last week the Centre for London published their latest analysis of London’s economic performance, which measures factors such as the capital’s employment rate, business confidence, population growth and housing affordability.
The analysis shows that employment continues to grow and now stands at nearly six million – two per cent higher than this time last year and the highest level since records began in 1996. Business confidence remains relatively high and above the UK average.
This positive economic news should not surprise any of us – the Centre for London’s analysis comes on top of a mountain of news showing that London is booming. Only last month we found out that in 2017 UK financial services brought in 78 foreign direct investment projects – higher than any other country in Europe. In March London topped the Global Financial Centres Index, beating over 100 other cities, and the CBI recently found that financial firms increased hiring and investment in the second quarter of this year.
But listening to London’s own Mayor, Sadiq Khan, you would think that our capital was on the brink of an economic apocalypse. Because of our decision to leave the EU, the Mayor claims that the UK could lose half a million jobs, £50 billion in investment and whole swathes of the banking industry. Khan has even suggested that as part of a special arrangement with the EU London could remain aligned with the customs union and single market – presumably complete with a hard border around the M25!
Pay any attention to Sadiq Khan and it quickly becomes abundantly clear that he will take any opportunity to talk our great city down. Rather than examine the evidence and come to the clear conclusion that London is in a strong economic position, the Mayor is blinded by his own ideological obsession with the EU. Project Fear was discredited two years ago, yet Khan remains one of its most high-profile advocates, with his shameless scaremongering built on a genuine belief that London is unable to survive unless we are inextricably and indefinitely tied to the EU.
The Mayor’s hysterical comments would be funny if they weren’t so potentially damaging. Business and the markets take a lead from powerful politicians and there is no denying that Khan is the most influential and important politician in London. The Mayor should be our city’s most passionate cheerleader and top salesman but his constant negativity could have economic ramifications. Imagine you were a businessman looking to invest in a major city or a start-up wanting a place to grow your business – would you choose a city which is being constantly talked down by its own Mayor? It is desperately concerning that this could become Khan’s self-fulfilling prophecy.
More than his words, it is the Mayor’s anti-business agenda which could inflict damage on London’s economy. He is pursuing a vendetta against Uber and the private hire industry – threatening to ban the former and remove the congestion charge exemption from the latter. These moves would inevitably cost jobs and make it harder for Londoners and visitors to get around the capital. His new Ultra Low Emission Zone will see motorists having to pay to drive inside the North and South circulars which, as the London Chamber of Commerce has said, could have a serious impact on small businesses. The real threat to London’s economy is not Brexit, it is an anti-business Mayor who appears to have lost faith in his own city.
Tony Devenish is the London Assembly Member for Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and the City of Westminster.