Past the pandemic: London votes for a mayor in instances of disaster

LONDON (AP) – Not way back, London was booming. Now he fears a bust.

Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic have hit the British capital in an ideal storm. In 2021, town may have fewer folks, fewer companies, higher divisions and harder selections than anybody might have imagined.

On Could 6, Londoners will elect a mayor whose efficiency will assist decide whether or not this can be a time of decline for Europe’s largest metropolis – or an opportunity to do issues higher.

“It should be powerful, certain,” mentioned Jack Brown, a lecturer in London research at King’s Faculty London. “These two fairly seismic adjustments” – Brexit and the virus – “will probably be tough to handle.”


Plagues, fires, warfare – London survived all of them. However he is by no means had a yr like this. The coronavirus has killed greater than 15,000 Londoners and rocked the foundations of one of many world’s nice cities. As a fast mass vaccination marketing campaign guarantees a wider reopening, The Related Press examines the affect of the pandemic on Londoners and establishments and wonders what the long run could maintain.


The newly elected mayor of London will lead a metropolis of greater than 8 million that faces the standard issues of massive cities – too little inexpensive housing and public transport, an excessive amount of crime and air pollution – in addition to a crowd unprecedented issues.

A yr of coronavirus lockdowns and journey restrictions have emptied town’s workplace towers, closed its nightlife, closed its pubs and eating places, and banned worldwide vacationers. It’s going to take time to get again to regular.

“We have now already misplaced round 300,000 jobs and over one million Londoners are at present being made redundant,” mentioned Mayor Sadiq Khan, who’s searching for re-election. “So the problem is how one can keep away from (the) mass unemployment of the Eighties.

“It is actually vital to have the identical ambition as our forefathers and forefathers after WWII as a result of that is the size of the problem,” mentioned Khan, whose priorities are to deliver folks again to the middle. metropolis ​​and cut back financial inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic.

If the opinion polls are appropriate, Khan, 50, is more likely to win a second time period in Thursday’s election, delayed by a yr as a result of pandemic. He and his important challenger are made in London success tales.

Khan, a lawyer and member of the center-left Labor Occasion, is the son of Pakistani immigrants. Her father was a bus driver, her mom a seamstress.

The grandparents of Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, in the meantime, are a part of the “Windrush era” of immigrants to post-WWII Britain from the Caribbean. He was raised by a single mom in public housing in Ladbroke Grove, an space the place costly Victorian homes lie close to dilapidated social housing blocks.

The 49-year-old former youth chief is a staunch advocate for town, which he says has given him alternatives to thrive.

“Greater than another place on the earth, if you happen to come from a working-class background, London affords alternatives like no different,” mentioned Bailey, who believes London’s largest problem is crime.

Bailey needs to see extra younger employees, extra police on the spot, and extra use of cease and search powers to get knives and different weapons off the streets. Cease and search is an especially controversial coverage as a result of younger black males have been disproportionately focused, which has been on the heart of anti-racist protests round policing.

However Bailey says it is important.

“What angers the black group above all else is the speed at which our younger persons are dying,” he mentioned.

Khan and Bailey – and greater than a dozen different candidates, from Liberal Democrats and Greens to anti-lockdown activists and a bucket-headed comic known as Earl Binface – know they’re working in a metropolis remodeled by the virus and exiting Nice Britain. the European Union.

Brexit poses a problem to London by ending the free motion of individuals from the continent and jeopardizing town’s standing because the monetary heart of Europe. The pandemic, in the meantime, has known as into query the very existence of mega-cities and overcrowded areas during which folks dwell, work and journey.

After three a long time of development, London’s inhabitants fell in 2020 as folks left seeking more room through the lockdown or returned to their dwelling area or nation. It stays to be seen whether or not they’ll ever return.

Three lockdowns, now progressively lifted, have saved workplace employees at dwelling and turned central London right into a ghost city. Hundreds of thousands of persons are not commuting downtown to work or play, as coronavirus restrictions have pressured folks to remain native.

Throughout London – a “metropolis of villages” whose neighborhoods retain distinct characters – the pandemic has prompted folks to reassess their priorities.

“In the event you go to central London … there’s hardly anybody there, virtually,” mentioned Mark Burton, who runs a group arts venue in Walthamstow, a as soon as gritty and now gentrifying space within the north. -est of city. “Whereas right here, there’s dynamism across the cafes.”

Burton believes Khan has executed a very good job as mayor, though he needs extra assist for biking and group companies.

Throughout city from Ladbroke Grove, resident Nicholas Olajide enjoys his rival Bailey’s dedication to lowering crime. He, too, believes the pandemic has given town a brand new sense of itself.

“I feel it woke up a way of group amongst folks,” mentioned Olajide. “Earlier than, London adopted the trail the place we have been not a group, not the guardian of our neighbors. However I feel it introduced us nearer collectively. Individuals who keep at dwelling and care about their neighbors, work at home – it has introduced households collectively. “

Sian Berry, the Inexperienced Occasion candidate for mayor, says the pandemic has uncovered the gaping gaps in London society and left folks keen “for a recent begin”.

“It is a very thrilling place to dwell in London, however it’s polluted, it may be anxious and the price of dwelling is approach too excessive,” she mentioned. “Every space of ​​London additionally has its personal spirit, and we have now to nurture it.”

Brown, the London historian, is optimistic about London’s potential to bounce again. It has already gone by means of tough instances in its 2,000 years of existence.

“The outdated story of London is basically about being set on fireplace each occasionally – the entire metropolis is on fireplace – after which everybody will get the plague,” he mentioned. “It occurs in a cycle for years and years and folks preserve coming again.

“London’s very lengthy historical past is extremely resilient. It’s even generally a bit of detached. It doesn’t all the time win everybody with it. However the place itself, its financial system, its enchantment, one way or the other endures, ”he mentioned.


Related Press editor Danica Kirka contributed to this story.


Learn the opposite articles within the AP’s “London: Past the Pandemic” collection:

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