OPINION - The Standard View: Three weeks until mayoral election day and time is running out for Susan Hall

 (© Nigel Howard / NIGEL HOWARD MEDIA)
(© Nigel Howard / NIGEL HOWARD MEDIA)

It is safe to say that last night’s mayoral hustings produced as much heat as light. This was most obviously the case when Andreas Michli, an independent candidate, forced proceedings to be halted for 20 minutes by repeatedly shouting out the names of teenage knife crime victims, preventing Sadiq Khan from speaking. Mr Michli eventually agreed to leave the venue.

Still, this was an all too rare opportunity for the two main rivals, Labour’s Khan and the Conservative candidate Susan Hall, to go head to head. The pair regularly clashed on a wide variety of issues, with Hall opening up a new flank when she revealed her opposition to the Mayor’s policy of extending free school meals to all primary students, instead suggesting it ought to be means-tested.

With less than three weeks until polling day, Hall needs a breakout moment, though it is not obvious that opposition to free school meals is the one. The latest Savanta poll finds that she is still yet to close the gap with Khan, with the Mayor leading by 50 per cent to 26 per cent. A commanding position no matter the voting system.

Perhaps as worrying for Hall, these polls have scarcely budged since last November. And time is running out.

Child safety is a must

The type of phone you had at school (or whether you had one at all) says more about your age than anything else. These days, virtually every secondary school student has one.

This is more than simple technological innovation. Parents quite understandably want to know where their children are and be able to contact them at all times. And so Meta’s announcement that it would reduce the age limit for users of WhatsApp from 16 to 13 may make less difference than the headlines suggest. Still, the company — which also owns Facebook and Instagram — knows what it is doing.

At stake is the ability of both parents and regulators to keep children safe, from the many perils of social media, not least extreme content, “sextortion” and bullying. In that, we all share a responsibility to protect.

Legendary advice

They are East End legends, two of the capital’s greatest living artists and, ahead of their newest exhibition which opens tonight in Spitalfields, they give their guide to London life in today’s Standard.

Gilbert & George represent a certain brand of Londoner, part of the furniture around town, and when they go that sort of thing might well be gone forever.

So, commit their recommendations to memory and take their advice to heart: don’t wait to be discovered, embrace the times and leave your cynicism at the door.