Tomorrow, Londoners will go to the polls to elect who will be their Mayor for the next four years. In early April Migrants’ Rights Network launched a Manifesto on Integration and Migration produced in collaboration with several of our members and followers. We invited the four leading campaigns to a public meeting with migrant and refugee community organisations and asked the candidates to respond to the manifesto.
The candidates’ manifestos do not have an awful lot to say about migrants and integration. We anticipated that immigration would not play a big part in the election and explained why here. The responses to MRN’s manifesto were varied. Jenny Jones and the Green Party endorsed the manifesto in full and stated their commitment to work with the migrants’ rights sector as Mayor or in their position as Assembly Members. Ken Livingstone addressed a number of points directly with firm commitments while Boris Johnson was positive about the general tone but much more vague in terms of commitments.
So, below we take a look at the different campaigns’ views and commitments on a series of topics directly relevant to migrants and those who support them. There are other vital topics of great importance for migrants that have been discussed during the election, especially on housing, employment and policing.
Some notable examples are Ken Livingstone and Jenny Jones’s proposals to introduce an affordable rent standard and consider rent caps, Brian Paddick’s proposals to carefully monitor the use of stop and search and the cross-party support for the London Living Wage.
The contribution of migrants to London
All candidates are positive about the contribution that migrants make to life in London economically and culturally. They acknowledge that diversity and global connections are strong assets for London. There are nuances, however.
Boris Johnson makes a stress on immigration being controlled:
“As Mayor, I would like to acknowledge the contribution that migrants from across the globe have made to the city’s economy, history, culture and communities. I have always been a supporter of controlled immigration into the UK. If London is to retain its position as one of the top cities in the world we need to be able to attract the top talent from around the world. We must not, however, resile from efforts to ensure that everyone who enters our country does so legally and with a determination to work hard as part of our society.” Response to MRN’s Manifesto
Ken Livingstone on the other hand vows to take a vocal approach to celebrating migration and opposing attacks on immigration:
“I believe every wave of migration has strengthened the city and increased its attractive power. The role of the Mayor is to defend this character of the city against all those who would seek to turn it in on itself and treat new comers with fear and rejection, rather than confidently facing out to the world. That means celebrating the contribution of all the city’s diverse communities, and encouraging all Londoners to share in enjoying their cultures, faiths, traditions and beliefs.” Response to MRN’s Manifesto
Jenny Jones was the only candidate to explicitly address this point in her manifesto, committing to:
“Reaffirm the contribution that refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants can make to London, and do more to ensure people are able to be fully included in their local community and economy, for example by allowing asylum seekers to use their Azure cards as a form of payment on the buses.” Jenny Jones Manifesto
In his manifesto, Brian Paddick went straight for the economic argument, speaking out against the coalition’s policy on capping the number of non-EU migrant workers, committing to
“lobby government to make sure that migration targets based only on numbers don’t deprive London of the essential skills its role in the global economy requires.” Brian Paddick Manifesto
In terms of celebrating and acknowledging this contribution, while most candidates refer to a public calendar of celebration, Ken Livingstone has the most to say about it justifying the need for this support:
“The festivals celebrating London’s many cultures ensure all communities understand they are really part of London and help all Londoners to understand and enjoy one another’s different cultures, breaking down the ignorance and distrust which can fuel racism and bigotry. We will promote and support free London-wide celebrations of our diverse cultures.” Ken Livingstone Manifesto
Both Jenny Jones and Ken Livingstone refer to expanding the range of ethnic categories used in data collection for ethnic monitoring and policy development with the latter giving an explicit wink to the Latin American community.
Planning and participation
Candidates give importance to this theme. Boris Johnson says that:
“There are many appropriate mechanisms for organisations, such as yours, who work with and on behalf of migrants to engage in consultation, planning and monitoring of activities of the GLA, especially around equalities” and that he “will continue to engage with civil society organisations and their representatives and to act as a champion for greater civic partnership and engagement amongst all of London’s communities.” Boris Johnson Response to MRN’s Manifesto
Ken Livingstone meanwhile has vowed in his manifesto to improve consultative forums and on his response to MRN refers specifically to migrant communities:
“I am committed to consulting with representatives of migrant communities, those working to support migrant communities, faith and other organisations to identify problems and work together for achievable solutions. This will include ensuring there are dedicated staff in the Greater London Authority to work with such groups to investigate the issues facing migrants and develop appropriate strategies to confront the issues this identifies.” Ken Livingstone Response to MRN’s Manifesto
Jenny Jones commits in her manifesto to give the voluntary sector the same priority as business groups:
“work more collaboratively with the voluntary and community sector, for example by making this a condition of major regeneration contracts, particularly with minority, ethnic and disabled communities to be more involved in shaping their local area. Meet with key community organisations as often as with business groups.”
The Mayor’s work on migrants, refugees and asylum seekers
The firmest commitment to maintain an integration strategy and to review the Mayor’s work on migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, which is led by London’s Integration Strategy and the Migration Strategic Partnership (LSMP), comes from Ken Livingstone. He says he:
“will look to improve and extend the Migrant Integration Strategy beyond its current lifetime, and keep in place a strategic partnership body to co-ordinate work, service development, issue identification, responses and action for migrants. If elected I will review the present functioning, membership and remit of all GLA mechanisms for the engagement with migrant organisations to see how they can be improved." Ken Livingstone Response to MRN’s Manifesto
Boris Johnson says he will review and improve all the Mayor’s strategies and that this ‘may’ include the current integration strategy.
Support for migrants and equalities duties
Candidates are open to working with organisations with a record of supporting migrants yet there is little in the way of specific ideas of projects to achieve this. As mentioned, Jenny Jones advocates making it compulsory on major regeneration contracts to work with voluntary organisations. Boris Johnson highlights an initiative to facilitate better access to recently recognised refugees to housing.
On equalities, Ken Livingstone’s manifesto makes perhaps the strongest commitment when he says he
“will review implementation of Equality Act across the GLA Group and ensure that it is delivered to best practice standards, involving representative groups of London’s diverse communities in this process. We will strive for the GLA Group to be recognised as a gold standard equal opportunities employer across all the major monitoring schemes.”
How do the candidates fare?
For these elections in London the negative rhetoric on migration has not permeated the political debate in the same way it has nationally. There is broad acknowledgement about the importance of migration to London and a commitment to engagement and consultation. But there are nuances in the different camps.
It is clear that Boris Johnson has recently fallen more into line with national Conservative policy on this area than previously. His call for a regularisation that was such a feature in the last election has disappeared and he is now publicly calling on the government to "get a much tighter grip" on immigration. His language is now that of supporting “controlled immigration”.
The Green Party has a positive view on migration and their full endorsement of MRN’s manifesto as well as the strong performance of their candidates in the public meeting MRN organised signal this position.
While the Assembly candidate at the public meeting said that she endorses all of MRN’s proposals, it was not possible to get an official response from Brian Paddick. The Liberal Democrats seem to be trapped in the uncomfortable position of helping deliver national policies that do not have much purchase locally.
Ken Livingstone, meanwhile, emerges as the candidate with the strongest proposals and statements. These range from re-establishing and improving consultative groups at City Hall, supporting the celebration of migrant communities, committing to maintain and improve the integration strategy and the migration partnership all the way to supporting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants who comply with certain requirements.
Hopefully, those with an interest in migration and the migrant-support sector will find the responses useful to consider alongside the candidates’ full manifestos when deciding how to vote tomorrow. Looking forward, MRN will look to work with the next Mayor to pursue some of these issues.
This article is republished, with thanks, from Migrants’ Rights Network
Further reading at Migrants’ Rights Network