Our Agenda for a Fairer London, 2021

MFL activists met in October to start work on an agenda for a fairer city. Our first draft 'agenda for a Fairer London' - what we would talk to the Mayor about in a first meeting with him or her - is set out below for comments, suggestions and ideas.

London Elections 2021 – London needs a new direction

Like a virus, inequality infects our minds. It harms way we relate to one another and how we feel. Nowhere is this more relevant than in London. Our Agenda for a #FairerLondon, created by citizens and activists, asks the Mayor of London to reduce inequality – a lot. We need to change the shape of our society, for everyone’s benefit.  Inequality is woven into the structures of our society through multiple, overlapping layers of discrimination, racism and injustice. Our solutions must do the same, reach throughout society, and wherever possible work to address not the symptoms but the root causes of inequality: the unfair distribution of power and money. 

Proposed Meeting Date : 7 May 2021, Time 10.00 a.m. Venue: The Mayor's Office, City Hall

Attendees: The Mayor of London and senior City Hall Staff, representatives of business, trade unions and civic society, My Fair London activists, London fairness campaigners

Our Agenda for a Fairer City

  1. 'Its inequality, stupid'  Inequality is a multi-faceted problem. The norms of inequality have become embedded in our culture. The Mayor should talk at every turn about changing society, changing the distribution of wealth and power, about how inequality directly distorts and harms human relationships. How can we make London vastly more equal? How can we truly banish racism and sexism? The evidence is clear: narrower income and wealth gaps between people will make us care more, share more, help more, contribute more to our amazing city. To have a social London, a creative London, a just London, we need to change London. We need a fairer London.
  2. Fair economy: fair pay, fair taxes, fair incomes, fair rewards - The Mayor should introduce pay ratios across all city-funded organisations. No public sector employee should earn more than ten times another. No public money should be spent where the pay ratio between boss and worker is more then 10 to one. The Mayor should: challenge the private sector to reduce high pay and obscene bonuses; lobby for powers to introduce wealth taxes – as part of reforming council tax; rebalance London’s economy away from finance and banking. Build on the furlough scheme to explore options for Universal Basic Incomes for Londoners.
  3. Fair housing, fair space, fair rents - We need to change how we do housing in London. The ‘housing market’ is completely broken.  We need homes people can afford to rent and to buy. Endlessly rising house prices lock thousands out of the chance of ever owning a home. Too much housing has become an investment not a home. The lack of rights for tenants creates chronic insecurity & blights people's lives. During the pandemic Government banned unfair evictions and got ‘Everyone In’ from the streets.  Change is possible. We could control rents, build publicly or socially-owned homes and recognise that the market is rubbish at fairly providing homes for people.
  4. Climate change and the environment - Covid19 has drawn attention away from the terrifying challenge of climate change. The rich, and the very rich consume vastly more than the rest of us. Tackling economic inequality is central to tackling climate change. The huge changes needed to save the planet must have fairness and equity at their centre. People in more equal societies support more collective action: action on inequality reinforces action on climate change.
  5. Children and young people are most damaged by the direct harms of inequality. We need an education system that rejects the myths of meritocracy. London's schools should focus on building citizens, on enriching young people’s minds, expanding experiences, exploring relationships, building confidence and trust. London’s amazing teachers and schools should be freed to richly educate all our young people, not forced to label, divide, segregate and exclude. Today young Londoners get excluded from school to improve the schools results and reputation.
  6. Press and the media – the language, concepts and attitudes of free-market economics have become so dominant that we barely notice how they infect our lives. Forty years of neoliberalism has changed the very words we use. This is how inequality becomes normalized, accepted and unchallenged. Much of London’s media is controlled by a few rich individuals.  The news, the stories, the voices and views that we hear don’t represent our city. The Mayor should find ways to support the development of truly free and balanced sources of news.
  7. Power and democracy – As inequality has risen the rich have found it ever easier to buy power and influence. Property developers shape our housing system; bankers and finance businesses tell us how the economy has to be; privatized corporations run formerly public services. Even schools are no longer under local democratic control. Democracy and equality are joined at the hip. The Mayor should find new ways to make sure that ordinary Londoners are included in decisions about their city and their lives.

My Fair London – elections 2021 – London needs a new direction: our agenda for a fair city

The Mayoral elections of 2020 were cancelled because of Covid19. The last time elections were cancelled in London was during the Second World War. Coronavirus and our response to it have shown both how vulnerable we are but also how society can come together. Many things previously said to be impossible have happened: homeless people housed overnight; Government directly supporting every business in the country through the furlough scheme; everyone changing the intimate patterns of our lives to protect each other. Dramatic, rapid change is possible. 

Like so many other diseases Coronavirus has also followed the lines of inequality in our city: the disease has spread faster in poorer communities, among people in poor housing, among BAME communities. The poorest have also seen the most job losses and the largest falls in their income. Shockingly, in the midst of a global pandemic the rich, and particularly the super-rich, have seen their fortunes continue to grow. And the Black Lives Matter movement reminded us how racism remains embedded in British society. London is grossly unequal and unfair. In a pandemic this visibly costs lives. As fairness campaigners we know that inequality costs lives all the time.

Coronavirus arrived in London after ten years of austerity and forty years of an extreme ideological economic experiment. The scale of the pandemic’s impact is without parallel. Year after year we were told that economic laws were fixed and that competition and free markets were natural and best. If you ‘worked hard and played by the rules’ anyone could get on. The virus quickly showed how false this is. If you are rich you are protected from harm, if you are poor your risk of disease and illness is elevated, no matter how hard you work. Governments, even profoundly incompetent ones, can intervene in the whole economy, paying wages and subsidizing nearly every private company in the country. The magic money tree has become a forest. Why not plan major social change rather than stumble into it?

As the vaccines give us hope of the end of lockdowns and social restrictions now is the time to think about what next. After Covid19 we need rapid, radical change. 

Last year we published a manifesto: ‘Five Steps for a Fairer London’. We challenged the candidates for the office of Mayor of London to face up to the gross inequalities that blight our city, and called on them to pledge action to narrow the gap between rich and poor. We asked them to put the creation of a fairer society at the heart of their programme.  The shock of coronavirus makes this more urgent than ever. Now the virus has brutally exposed London’s deep inequalities our collective response must be to build a fairer, more equitable and so more just society. We have seen dramatic change is possible. We need a Mayor who who has radical vision for our city, rooted in a shift towards fairness and equity, toward collective actions and social solidarity, towards a globally just and sustainable relationship with the planet, towards freedom and creativity.

Unequal societies spread distrust between people, raise stress, increase violence, make us sick and damage the economy. With our Agenda for a Fairer City we want to build dialogue, create connections between Londoners and contribute to a shared vision for London’s future. We set out seven priorities for change. We want to talk you, to our fellow citizens, to other campaign groups, businesses, politicians running for office. What would it take to build a Fair London? How can we change, for good, the shape  of our society? Can London become an ‘Ultra Low Inequality Zone’?

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  • Alex Bax