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London's Mayor at 20: Governing a Global City in the 21st Century

By Tony Travers, Jack Brown, and Richard Brown

Biteback Publishing

Reviewed by Martha Grekos

It is 20 years since London has had a directly elected Mayor and this books reflects on the setting up, running and workings in the mayor’s office, or as Tony Travers describes his chapters the ‘design’, ‘evolution’ and ‘operation’ - naturally ending with an ‘evaluation’ chapter.

There is a long list of a variety of contributors to this book (that includes politicians, academics, strategic advisors, architects, journalists, chief economists, policy fellows to name a few), which makes it even more enriching and illuminating as the book covers comprehensively the mayoral powers and policy, provides an academic account of City Hall’s machinery of government, has interviews with Sadiq Khan and Ken Livingstone (though not one with Johnson) and there is a wonderful collection of insider stories from prominent participants and observers. All of this reflects on the changed political landscape a Mayor of London and a London Assembly has had on London these past 20 years and what lies ahead. You can also feel that our City is cosmopolitan and that politically is it mainly Labour.

There is even a Foreword by Tony Blair who rightly starts with the statement “Could we imagine not having a Mayor of London today?” I will leave you to answer that question after you finish reading the book and considering the evaluation chapter, especially under the title 'The Future'. Not surprisingly, Blair makes his political statement that it was because Labour who took office in 1997 that engaged as a government in the biggest constitutional reform Britain has ever seen in modern times to create a London mayor, giving this as an example of the change which can be made by progressive politics.

It’s a very easy read short book but still touches on many topics (albeit ambitious in its coverage) and it is thoughtfully set out. It is not just a book about Livingstone, Johnson and Khan. It is actually a book about London. London has always been resilient and has carved its own path and the book will make you think what do you want the next Mayor of London to do. What sort of powerful and effective political voice and advocate for the capital, both domestically and internationally, do you want him or her to be?

Personally, I feel that the next Mayor of London will need to be a key player in articulating the policy options facing the City post-Covid and post-Brexit. I am a Londoner. I am born and bred here and still live and work here. I want my City to be the best for all. This means that our next Mayor will need to make some tough decisions on things like how to recover confidence in public transport and crowded places; built a mixture of houses in many parts of London but also more in Central London too given the different working patterns that are emerging so as to make our City sustainable once again (but also create a mixed neighbourhood to encompass things like arts and culture, retail, education, health, hospitality, leisure etc); propose stronger utilities and transport infrastructure (to include walking and cycling too); take a lead on climate change initiatives such as smart buildings; and foster relationships internationally so our City still flourishes with investment domestically but also from abroad etc.

What does the future hold for our modern metropolis? It’s one that is resilient (on many levels) and for that our next Mayor of London needs to be able to handle and deal smoothly with future challenges. He or she also needs to be able to work collaboratively with Central Government to make the changes possible. The future of London is in the hands of those governments, businesses and entrepreneurs who will work together to create a resilient London.

Martha Grekos is the Director (Barrister) at Martha Grekos Legal Consultancy Limited