Which mayoral candidate will best represent the needs of London's women? Here they battle it out

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Harriet Hall
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On the 5th of May, Londoners will cast their votes for their next mayor – the person they feel will best improve life in the increasingly expensive and bustling capital.

Twelve candidates are standing to succeed Boris Johnson at the helm of City Hall and each one has their own agenda – be it to make London greener, more affordable or safer.

But which candidate will best represent the needs of women?

Here, in an Ask A Feminist special edition, the front runners for London Mayor tell Stylist.co.uk why women should vote for them. 

Sadiq Khan, Labour party

“I will take a zero-tolerance approach to domestic and sexual violence”

I am a proud Londoner and I want to protect what makes our city great so it works for all Londoners.

I find it shocking that in 2016, pay and career prospects depend on someone’s gender. We are one of the most progressive cities in the world and yet you just have to look at the under-representation of women at boardroom level to see that we have not yet reached true gender equality in the work place.

I am determined to help close the gender pay gap and support women to smash the glass ceiling. However, it is not enough just to talk the talk, I will lead by example and start with my own office. As a proud feminist in City Hall, I will publish its first gender pay audit and require that any large contractors do the same. I will also ensure that my business advisory board is gender-balanced. 

Now that my two daughters are teenagers, they don’t want to be seen with their dad tagging along as they go out and about the city. I want to know that when they do, I have done all in my power to ensure that they are safe. I will prioritise a greater police presence on public transport at key times to clamp down on sexual assault.

It is not just on transport where I will make the safety of women and girls a priority. I will take a zero tolerance approach to domestic and sexual violence whilst working closely with the public sector and voluntary organisations to develop better support for victims.

As a father, I worry about the impact of unhealthily thin models being used on advertisements. The “Are you beach body ready?” Protein World posters that were used on tubes and buses last year are exactly the kind that I would look to stop TfL from using. I would also encourage London Fashion Week and top designers to not use so-called size zero models if they resulted in unhealthy images.

The first thing I will address as mayor is London's housing crisis. I will tackle it head on by building thousands more genuinely affordable homes and strive to make renting fairer. Transport costs have also gone through the roof during Boris’ time in City Hall, so I will freeze fares for four years, meaning Londoners won’t have to pay any more for their travel in 2020 than they do today.

I will help ensure that women are equipped with the skills they need to get ahead, so will make gender equality a focus of a new skills agency, Skills for Londoners. It will focus on creating opportunities for girls to develop STEM skills such as coding.

I will also aim to make childcare more affordable and accessible with a strategy that delivers for business and workers – including key-worker status for childcare workers and campaigning for business rate relief for childcare providers.

Sian Berry, Green Party

“Reporting the gender pay gap will be compulsory”

The big economic issues first. Women don't get paid fairly in London – we make up three-quarters of part-time workers and more than half of those earn less than the living wage. My Fair Pay Mark will recognise companies who pay at least the London Living Wage and commit to reducing the gap between the highest and lowest paid to less than 10:1, and who publish those salary details.

Reporting the gender pay gap will also be compulsory for all services and contractors controlled by City Hall, including Transport for London, the Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Police.    

I'll have gender-balanced cabinet at City Hall, and I will put in place real positive action to make sure our police force becomes fifty per cent female as well.

Women and girls must be able to trust the police to handle all gender violence with sensitivity and determination to deliver justice. That’s sadly not the way it is now. We must support women in empowering themselves again when they have been most diminished and are most vulnerable. I will make sure there is proper funding for London’s domestic violence refuges and rape crisis centres, making sure all survivors get the support they need.

Cuts to station staffing and problems keeping proper checks on the rising number of minicab licenses, as well as wider cultural problems with respect to women, seem to have led to a rise in sexual offences on London’s transport systems. I will sort that out with properly staffed stations and a well-regulated taxi trade. More than that, I will make cycling and walking safer and much more enjoyable with a proper commitment to separate lanes for bikes and real funding too. 

A huge issue for every parent with small children is London’s air pollution crisis – this affects all our health and for growing lungs has impacts that last a lifetime. My plans for clean air include action to reduce traffic and exclude the most polluting vehicles from central London, and to speed up the switchover to make all buses and taxis zero emissions.

I will work to make London a better place to live in many other ways – building many more affordable houses, putting the brakes on estate demolition, curbing the rise in rents and setting up a renters’ union to support the 2.3 million private renters.

There is so much more we can do to change how women are treated in everyday situations – all those drip, drip, drip toxins in our culture that damage our perceptions of ourselves and end up limiting what we achieve have to be challenged. As mayor, I can start shifting that culture, beginning with the types of adverts on the TfL network. Beyond not allowing the obvious horrors of sexism like the ‘Are you beach body ready?’ campaign, let’s also use these spaces to promote respect and and be a real antidote to the undermining ads we see elsewhere.

Sophie Walker, Women’s Equality Party

“I will subsidise childcare from nine months and invest in better childcare facilities”

I want London’s next mayor to consider the needs of this city’s four million women. I’m standing as the Women’s Equality Party (WE) candidate for the job because I’m tired of seeing the other parties treat equality as something that’s too unimportant or too hard to tackle.

Women in London are more likely, compared to the rest of the UK, to be unemployed, living in poverty and to experience danger on the streets and on the public transport system. The pay gap in London is 23 per cent and an average of 15 rapes are reported every single day.

I think anyone who is serious about wanting to be mayor has to have a plan to change that.

I have a plan to change that.

I want London’s women to have the opportunity to do the jobs they want to do and to earn the same rate of pay as the men in their workplaces. So I will introduce an ‘Equal Pay’ kite-mark for London’s businesses and set up an anti-discrimination task force in City Hall. I will subsidise childcare from nine months and invest in better childcare facilities. And I will introduce 50:50 apprenticeship schemes so that as many young women as men are offered vocational training in careers ranging from engineering to construction.

I want London’s women to feel no fear when they travel home at night. So I will introduce Night Watch patrols on buses and tubes, and train the Metropolitan police to understand rape and sexual assault in order to better work with survivors and get convictions. I will fund women’s services like Rape Crisis that provide such excellent support, and specialist organisations helping BME and disabled women who are more likely to experience violence.

I want to build a London that’s more tolerant and respectful for the next generation. So I will fund specialist sex and relationships education in all of London’s schools to help our young people build healthy relationships and understand consent.

I want London’s young women – who are twice as likely as young men to spend more than half their income on rent – to know that “affordable housing” means affordable for them too. So I will introduce a gendered budget and convene a cross-party committee on housing that can act faster because it collaborates. There is no silver bullet for a crisis of this scale and any candidate insisting that only they have the answer is doing Londoners a disservice.

The good news is that there is one place and time in London where we are all equal. It’s at the ballot box on May 5.

You have four votes – two for mayor and two for the Greater London Assembly, which WE are also contesting with a fantastic London-wide list of women.

So give half your votes to equality. WE think that’s fair.

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat party

“We can make London safer for women”

Too often elections for London mayor seem like they are all about puffed-up egos, men slugging it out.  This contest is proving no different.

By contrast, I'm putting myself forward to run our great city not so I can 'be' something, but because I want to do something.

London needs to work for everyone – not just the lucky few who can afford to isolate themselves from the problems facing most Londoners: a crisis in housing, cuts in community policing, crowded and expensive public transport which is ill suited to London’s dynamic economy and flexible working, overcrowded schools and poor childcare for working parents, and dangerously polluted air.

I have the experience London needs. As a Liberal Democrat on the London Assembly, I've been holding the current mayor to account for the past eight years.  I’ve campaigned hard on behalf of all Londoners to save the local police on our streets; to improve the quality of the air we breathe and to upgrade public transport in every corner of the capital.

Now, more than ever, we need a mayor and Assembly who are in touch with ordinary Londoners. 

We need to build 50,000 new council homes to rent, and 150,000 for sale or private rent including rent-to-buy for first-time buyers, available at truly affordable prices by investing the billions realised by asking people to continue paying the 32p a week we have been paying in our council tax for the Olympic Games. To get these new homes built I have plans for a building company at City Hall to get construction going from day one.

For those of you who rent I will crack down on rogue landlords who rip off private tenants, extend mandatory registration for landlords and encourage the offering of long tenancies as well as curbing unfair letting agent fees.

We can make London safer for women by recruiting 3,000 more police on our tubes, trains and buses, and bring back local policing, tackling gang problems and improving our safety and security.  I very much want to see young Londoners protected from knife crime, with knife arches and education programmes in schools and youth workers in hospital A&Es to break the cycle of gang violence

To get around the city I want to see fares brought in to the modern era and to help people who work flexibly with plans for half price tube, DLR and TfL Overground fares before 7.30am, and a one-hour bus ticket that allows you to change buses without paying an extra fare. We can cut congestion on our roads, encourage cycling and improve safety while improving air quality by cleaning up the air we breathe, including phasing out dirty diesel vehicles and switching London’s buses and taxis to be fully electric and helping to switch commercial vans too.

So remember this election is about you. You have the power to choose ideas and experience over egos and bravado.

Zac Goldsmith, Conservative party

“Gang crime and crimes against women will be an absolute priority”

I’ve been a campaigner my whole life, and was always taught to take a stand for the issues that concerned me. 

That's why I’ve never been prouder than in 2010, when I was elected as the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston – my boyhood home. 

Since then, I’ve campaigned in Parliament on big national issues, like protecting our forests or making MPs more accountable.

But I’m most proud of the campaigns I’ve worked on locally, like stopping the sell-off of school playing fields or backing Richmond’s high streets. I’ve always put standing up for my community first. And that’s why, in 2015, Richmond returned me with the biggest increased majority of an MP in the country.

Now I’m standing to be mayor to take that huge success we’ve seen under Boris, and make it work for all Londoners.

My Action Plan for Greater London will deliver more homes, better transport, safer streets and I’ll make ours the greenest and cleanest city in the world – all while keeping our economy strong and freezing Mayoral Council Tax.  

My Action Plan will deliver more homes for Londoners on average salaries - homes built beautifully, without trampling on communities or concreting over our green spaces, by working with Government to release public sector land and by investing in the transport links needed to make that land accessible.

My transport plans will unlock the land for 270,000 new homes. And by protecting the TfL budget I will also deliver the Night Tube, vital tube upgrades, Crossrail 2 and be able to take over underperforming commuter rail services.

I will double the rate of cycling; back a tenfold increase in solar power and create hundreds of Pocket Parks across London. I’ll also stand up for London against Heathrow expansion and will always protect our green spaces.

But I know the number one job of the mayor is to keep London safe. Gang crime and crimes against women will be an absolute priority. I will protect Neighbourhood Policing and officer numbers, and put 500 extra police on the Tube. And the brave men and women in Met police will know they always have my backing.

My Action Plan is paid for by London’s strong economy. So I will always back business, and will secure 500,000 new jobs.

My Action Plan also rests on getting a good deal from Government, because the vast majority of London’s funding comes from Westminster. I am the only candidate able to work constructively with Westminster rather than shout from the sidelines.

I know that at election time, talk is cheap. But I have a record of standing up for my constituents. And I will do the same for London if you back me as mayor on May 5th.

I would be proud to be your mayor.

Peter Whittle, UK Independence Party

Stylist.co.uk has reached out to UKIP and is still awaiting a response. 

Send your feminist dilemmas to Ask a Feminist editor, harriet.hall@stylist.co.uk and she'll get one of our brilliant panel of feminists to cast a discerning eye on the issue at hand.