London issues that could cause friction between Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan after Labour landslide

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer visits Brent Cross town visitor pavilion for a housing launch with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Both in hard hats and high vis
-Credit: (Image: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Sir Keir Starmer became Prime Minister earlier today after the Labour Party won an astounding landslide victory at the General Election. While that has created a sense of relief at the Labour-led London Mayor's office, there are some issues that could cause friction between the Prime Minister and Sadiq Khan.

After the Conservatives lost key seats to Labour including three in North West London - Finchley and Golders Green, Hendon (by only 15 votes) and Chipping Barnet (for the first time ever) - Sadiq Khan told the BBC on Friday (July 5) he would work closely with the new PM.

He said: "I'll be working with him [Sir Keir] straight away; I've been in touch with him today. I'll make sure that with, you know, a Labour government, and me as the mayor, [the city] is working as closely with him as possible.

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"Look, for the last eight years, we've had a Tory government putting obstacles in our way, rather than working with us for the benefit of our city and our country, working against us. That will not happen with a Labour government."

But it may not be all sweetness and light in the coming years. Despite outward appearances, the two men have seemingly not always seen eye to eye on some issues.

Central government cash

Sadiq Khan over and over again has demanded more money from the Government whilst it was Tory run. We shall wait and see if bickering over cash still happens despite Labour's takeover.

If it does, it would most likely be less public and more behind the scenes. When speaking to MyLondon during the last days of the General Election campaign, the now deputy prime minister, Angela Rayner, for example, did not guarantee extra cash for the Metropolitan Police Service to plug what the mayor has called a 'black hole' in its funding.

Mr Khan said in March that the force needs £240 million in extra government funding. When asked if she foresaw any fights with the mayor over money, Ms Rayner said: "I think Sadiq's been doing a tremendous job in very difficult circumstances."

Close up of Sadiq Khan and Angela Rayner sitting side by side
Angela Rayner did not guarantee providing Mr Khan with the cash needed to plug a 'black hole' in Met Police funding -Credit:JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

She added that the party's proposed tax reforms - including abolishing a VAT exemption for private schools and further reforming the non-dom tax status - would 'help support public services in the short term'. "Regardless of if it's a Tory council or whether it's a Labour mayor, I think all of them will identify that the Tories nationally have been a disaster for our public services," Ms Rayner added.

Mr Khan has also spoken of a shortfall in TfL funding. Rachel Reeves, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, told MyLondon in April that she will not guarantee cash for large infrastructure projects in London, such as extensions to the Bakerloo line and Elizabeth line and the construction of Crossrail 2.

She said: "I've always been clear, I will not make any commitments without being able to say where the money's going to come from." Mr Starmer himself also did not explicitly promise to provide the extra cash in June. Sir Keir told me: "Well look, we will work together.

"He has got good plans on transport. He's got good plans on housing - one of our missions is to build 1.5 million houses - working together with the mayor and we can deliver on these much needed promises for the country."

Green action

Sadiq Khan has put what he calls the 'dual challenges' of air pollution and climate change at the forefront of his agenda. This, of course, includes his expansion of London's ULEZ last year.

But this sparked apparent friction between the Mayor of London and his party leader. Ed Miliband, who was appointed as Energy Secretary today, told MyLondon during the London mayoral election campaign in the spring that Labour's leadership now unequivocally supports Sadiq Khan's decision.

It comes after Sir Keir said the the party must be doing something 'very wrong' over the enlargement of the capital's £12.50 fee to drive a non-compliant vehicle after the Conservatives won the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election last year. However, Mr Miliband stopped short of suggesting that other cities across the country should have their own version of the ULEZ. Uxbridge & South Ruislip has since been won by Labour in a tight contest, overturning the short-term switch to the Tories.

Protesters hold placards during an anti-ULEZ demonstration on the Trafalgar Square
Mr Khan's ULEZ expansion proved controversial but he won him the mayoral election in another Labour landslide despite that -Credit:Krisztian Elek/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Mr Milliband said: "I'm not going to advocate for that, no, that's a matter for local leaders to make their own decisions about what's the right thing for their areas."

Sir Keir has to bear in mind how policies would go down with voters nationwide, some of whom are not very keen on too much interference in their lives in the name of protecting the environment and curbing climate change. Meanwhile, Mr Khan claims that the Conservatives made the mayoral race a referendum on ULEZ, and he won it. If the mayor - who will be thinking primarily of Londoners' outlooks - were to pursue another controversial green policy, could tensions rise again?

London's Green Belt

Labour said during the General Election campaign that it would 'take a more strategic approach to Green Belt land designation and release to build more homes in the right places. The party added: "The release of lower quality 'grey belt' land will be prioritised and we will introduce 'golden rules' to ensure development benefits communities and nature."

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has previously said that he intends to stop 'inappropriate attempts to de-designate the Green Belt', and that 'boundaries should be changed only in exceptional circumstances'. He told the London Assembly in 2021: "My London Plan clearly states that the Green Belt should be protected from inappropriate development.

Aerial view of houses in fields in South East London
Labour plans to build more houses by changing planning rules but Sadiq Khan has said he wants to stop inappropriate de-designation of the Green Belt -Credit:Xavier de Canto/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

"However, the National Planning Policy Framework does allow development on the Green Belt if very special circumstances can be demonstrated. The same applies to boroughs proposing to remove Green Belt designations in their local plans."

The Metropolitan Green Belt is the designated area in and around Greater London. It now covers parts of 68 different districts or boroughs. In its manifesto, Labour also says it would support 'urban extensions and regeneration projects'. It remains to be seen how the Government and Mr Khan's interpretation of how and when the Green Belt should be released differs.

Control of commuter railways

Labour has promised to bring the railways into public ownership. Its manifesto stated: "We will do this as contracts with existing operators expire or are broken through a failure to deliver, without costing taxpayers a penny in compensation.

Train service on tracks in London
Sadiq Khan may have to amend his promise to bring London commuter railway services under TfL's control -Credit:Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

"Great British Railways will deliver a unified system that focuses on reliable, affordable, high-quality, and efficient services; along with ensuring safety and accessibility. It will be responsible for investment, day-to-day operational delivery and innovations and improvements for passengers, working with publicly-owned rail operators in Wales and Scotland."

MyLondon reported on June 6 that this means Mr Khan may have to amend his promise to bring London commuter railway services under TfL's control as Labour steps in. During the London mayoral election campaign on April 26, the mayor pledged to bring suburban London railway services under TfL's control, creating a 'revolutionary metro-style' system. There's going to need to be some negotiation between the Mayor and Government over how London's rail services are managed.

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