In the run up to Christmas, as we were all trying to shop for last-minute presents, or in my case leaving it right up until the last minute and buying in a panic, we were constantly reminded of what an unpredictable year 2016 had turned out to be.
Even if you are not a political junkie caught up in the Westminster bubble, it would have been hard not to notice some of the shocks from 2016 that will have an effect on our daily lives for decades to come.
Brexit became a reality, and this was undoubtedly the focal point for UK politics in 2016. In a referendum instigated to placate the Tory ranks, David Cameron sowed the seed of his own untimely political demise. It was a summer of leadership elections, as he was swiftly replaced by an, in the end, unopposed Theresa May; giving the UK our second female Prime Minister.
Nigel Farage, having hailed an independence day for the UK, resigned as leader of his pro-Brexit party, resulting in two leadership elections in quick succession for UKIP. And the Labour party had another internal election, returning Jeremy Corbyn as the Leader of our party.
Off the back of Brexit there was the US presidential election and the somewhat shocking defeat of Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump. I believe a lot of progressive are still taking stock of these huge political moments, and it is definitely something we as Labour party members have to reflect on.
That said, 2016 wasn’t all terrible; with May 2016 being a particular highlight. I was proud to be part of the London Labour campaign to help elect a Labour Mayor back into City Hall, and humbled to be elected as the new Assembly Member for my home seat of Lambeth & Southwark.
In the seven months since Sadiq Khan became Mayor there has been a stark change in priorities and real action, which in turn helps residents across my Lambeth and Southwark constituency.
In his first week, the Mayor announced the new hopper fare, which was launched in September 2016. We have a first class underground network, but it can be expensive. A majority of Londoners rely on buses for their daily commute and the hopper fare allows passengers to travel and change buses without having to pay again within an hour, therefore making a tangible difference to the lives of so many and leaving Londoners with that bit more in their pockets at the end of the day.
As a proud South Londoner and Brixtonian, I may be slightly biased, but I was delighted when the night tube was launched on the Victoria Line from Brixton in August. This is a big step for London. Apart from helping Londoners and visitors alike to get around the city more easily, the night tube provides a real boost to small and medium businesses, which are vital to the night-time economy across the capital.
Under Boris a number of police stations were closed and the number of police officers was reduced. Hard work by Labour Assembly Members helped to highlight and reverse the possible loss of all 1000 Police Community Support Officers. Along with a number of costly vanity projects, the former Mayor wasted more than £330k to purchase a Water Cannon in 2014. Sadiq is selling the water cannon and the proceeds will be invested into helping young people affected by gang crime.
Crime on the whole continues to fall in London; however, there is a worrying increase in violent youth crime and domestic violence. Delivering on his manifesto, Sadiq will ensure at least two dedicated neighbourhood PCs per ward across London by the end of this year.
Housing continues to be a key issue and I very much doubt that Brexit will slow down the spiralling cost of housing in London. Data from July 2016 revealed that the average cost of buying a house in Lambeth is around £530k and in Southwark this is £520k.
Sadiq’s ambitious plans to fast-track Transport for London (TfL) land to build affordable homes – a potential of 10,000 new homes across 75 sites in London, will make a big difference for first time buyers, key workers and young people struggling to get onto the housing ladder. Two new sites – one in Lambeth and the other in Southwark- will be brought forward by TfL to help deliver this much-needed housing.
I doubt that the recent announcements and real action would be happening under a Tory Mayor. From consultations to help address the deadly air quality in London, to action on equality with a female majority Deputy Mayoral team and a new diverse TfL Board. Funding has been made available to help encourage more cycling in London, and an ambitious plan has been launched to ensure London continues to be open to business, opportunities and diversity following Brexit.
These are just some of the ways that Labour in London has shown the importance of Labour in power. It is imperative that we use our values to shape and develop unifying, progressive ideas, and then turn this into reality by being a strong and united labour party working with all sections of the community and business to deliver positive change that is noticeable to people in their daily lives.