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The London Mayoral Elections: What to Expect

The London Mayoral Elections: What to Expect

London Mayoral Election

Image courtesy of Secretlondon123 on Flickr

On 5 May London goes to the polls and will elect a new Mayor of London. So far Londoners have remained largely apathetic to the ongoing campaigns. Overshadowed by the hype surrounding the EU referendum (held just a month later), and lacking the larger than life personalities of previous mayoral elections (Boris and Ken, anyone?) many Londoners have so far failed to be inspired.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate and MP for Tooting, looks on course to win the Mayoralty comfortably. However, rather than voting for him personally, polling suggests that Londoners are making their decision based on pre-existing party allegiances.

Turnout could therefore bring about surprises: it is expected to be significantly lower than in previous elections, (the record turnout was 45% in 2008), and a low turnout could favour the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith.

Despite this, the job of Mayor of London is an important one, and shouldn’t be underestimated. The Mayor runs an economy bigger than most European countries, with a budget bigger than most Government departments. He is responsible for many of the things most important to Londoners, such as TFL, London policing, housing and the environment. Because of this, it is well worth Londoners, and London’s businesses, engaging in the process of electing their mayor and understanding what a Zac or Sadiq victory could mean for them.

Sadiq Khan is a former human rights solicitor who is proud of his London roots. He never fails to mention that his dad was a bus driver, and this down to earth image has contributed to Londoner’s finding him to be easier to identify with than his Tory rival.

Sadiq’s flagship policies have included freezing TFL fares at 2016 prices until 2020, setting a target that 50% of homes being built should be affordable, and making London safer. He has also said that he wants to be the most pro-business mayor yet, putting him at odds with the Labour Party’s current image under Corbyn.

Sadiq is more media savvy than Zac but has been criticised as being ‘policy-lite’ notably being unable to account for the £1.9 bn blackhole in his transport budget, and changing his position on airport expansion.

Zac was also born in London, but in completely differing circumstances. His father is billionaire James Goldsmith, and he attended Eton College before becoming editor of Ecologist Magazine.

Despite being elected as the Conservative MP for Richmond Park, Zac is notably more liberal than most of his colleagues – he is passionate about environmentalism and direct democracy (he even ran a referendum in his constituency to ask for his constituent’s consent for him to run to become Mayor of London).

Zac has promised to double new home building in London to 50,000 per year by 2020, to create half a million more jobs, and to protect green spaces. Controversially for a city as outward facing as London, he is in favour of Britain leaving the EU.

In terms of what a Goldsmith/Khan mayoralty will mean for business, both candidates have been determined to stress how pro-business they are. Sadiq has pledged to be “the most pro-business mayor yet”, stressing his opposition to Corbyn’s anti-business image. Amongst his key policies, he has said that he will involve businesses in decision making on key issues, will challenge visa rules to allow businesses to bring in top talent from abroad, and will seek additional fundraising powers from the Government for major infrastructure projects.

However, it is Zac who will be seen as the safer hands in this area, with Britain having a Conservative Government until at least 2020, allowing him to work more naturally with Downing Street. This was a point that was emphasised recently when Downing Street committed to the devolution of the Overground to TFL, something Zac had been campaigning for. Zac has also pledged to set up a new Business Advisory Group with representatives from the Business community, to fix patchy broadband, and to promote the night time economy.

Although both men are less well known that their predecessors, both candidates are known to stray from the Party line occasionally. Famously, Zac Goldsmith pioneered a stronger Bill to recall MPs against the Conservative Party whips and has been consistently popular in his constituency. Sadiq is one of the Labour MP’s who nominated Corbyn for Party leader, but has since distanced himself from the current Labour leadership. It’s safe to assume that both candidates will be their own man if elected.

Ultimately, Londoners will wake up on May 6th to a new era. Without a strong character like Boris, but with predictions of a global recession approaching as well as possible Brexit on the horizon, who they choose to run the capital is likely to be of great significance.

The Power of the Pop-Up

With pop-up locations in London multiplying on what seems like a weekly basis, the Cadbury Crème Egg Café in Soho and the Dogs Trust Valentine’s Day ‘MicroChippy’ in Clerkenwell are the latest to have caught our attention. The UK is wholly embracing the pop- up phenomenon and according to research undertaken by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, pop-up stores contributed £2.3bn to the British economy in 2015. With high business rates and ever increasing rent prices, the continuing amount of empty locations will see this passion for the pop- up continue throughout this year.

The Cadbury Crème Egg café on Greek Street has already heavily dominated the press, despite Easter being weeks away. The café which is open a mere two and a half days a week from 22nd January to 6th March is situated in a prime consumer location, in lively Soho. With its appealing exterior creating the perfect Instagram opportunity, it is a perfect example of the impact that social media can have in maximising the exposure of a PR stunt. The novelty factor here is essential and with rumours of an interactive ball pit and crème egg toasties for £2, there is no surprise that interest in the café has been enormous.  With extortionate rent prices in this area, limited opening hours and cheap prices there can be no intention for the café to run a profit. However, what Cadbury have achieved is a huge amount of buzz and excitement surrounding this novel idea. With tickets for reservations sold out weeks in advance and a strong media presence, the crème egg café epitomises the essence of a pop- up with a combination of exclusivity and innovation.

Cadbury Creme Egg Cafe. Image courtesy of Certified Nosh

Cadbury Creme Egg Cafe. Image courtesy of Certified Nosh.

 

The Dogs Trust recently announced their charity pop-up in Clerkenwell which will open over this Valentine’s weekend, 13th and 14th February offering pet owners a Doggy Date venue. Aptly named, ‘MicroChippy’ the aim is to raise awareness of the upcoming change in legislation which requires dog owners to have their pets microchipped. It is a perfect example of tapping into a consumer holiday and offering an alternative from the romantic, oversaturated Valentine’s day offerings which are largely directed at men and women, rather than animals.  The location, a pop-up 1950s diner complete with booths, dog bean bags and treats for the pooches offers dog owners the chance to enjoy a romantic meal with their pets. Visitors will be able to sample champagne and hotdogs provided by Bubbledogs with all proceeds donated to the Dogs Trust. Although the successful business reality for this venue is minimal, what ‘Microchippy’ will do is offer a unique experience while also providing information and raising funds for charity.

Pop-up venues allow for a variety of creative ideas and entertaining customer experiences. We’ve seen that established brands launch them to either freshen up their image, test out a new location or engage with customers.  However, small emerging brands can use temporary locations as a means to further their customer base, and continue to project their brand awareness.

BOXPARK in Shoreditch is the perfect example where established brands like Adidas and Nike sit next to emerging designers and restaurants. For online sites, a physical location offers the opportunity for a physical representation of their brand, and for high-end restaurants, we’ve seen pop up locations as an extension and often more accessible version of their offerings. There are a huge variety of success stories where businesses that once started out in a temporary location have now become household names, or return to the same successful are, year in year out much like the hugely popular food and drink pop up that is Street Feast.

BOXPARK is the perfect pop-up example.

BOXPARK is the perfect pop-up example.

Social media is an extremely powerful tool for pop-ups in order to maximise their exposure and 2016 will see the power of this continue to grow. Ensuring that a pop-up has a catchy, yet unique hashtag and that the décor and signage are on brand is key. If you search #CremeEggCafe you’ll be astounded at the sheer amount of posts on social. Similarly, the temptation of uploading a snap of dinner with your dog will no doubt ensure that social channels are flooded with images of ‘MicroChippy’ this weekend. Befitting the neon lights of Soho, the Cadbury crème egg café has also displayed neon Cadbury signs in the windows, creating the perfect Instagram opportunity for passers-by. If you are interested in extra pointers to help make your brand insta-famous do follow this link. Finally, by inviting key figures and publications to a pre-opening of the pop-up, it is possible to create a trending hashtag and for teaser images to start flooding social media. This results in tempting customers with the excitement of the opening, via social media results in a further excitement on the opening day and beyond.

As 2016 unfolds there is no doubt that the sheer scale of pop up bars, shops, restaurants and animal café’s will continue to multiply. With the encouraged notion of here today, gone tomorrow. You’d better act quickly or you’ll miss them!

A night in the life of a London singleton

Last Wednesday started like any other for me at The PHA Group; the morning paper reviews, the hustle and bustle of colleagues arriving and an averagely assembled bowl of cereal. There was very little indication of what I was in store for…

PHA is filled with people either married, engaged or in long-term, committed relationships, I however, am not one of those. And thus, when word got out that a Sun journalist was after ‘attractive singles to take part in fun dates’ for a feature, my hat was thrown into the ring. Not for being particularly aesthetically pleasing, might I add, but simply for a lack of alternatives and a bit of fun.

After some gentle persuasion, I agreed and suddenly my Wednesday night no longer featured a microwave meal and The Apprentice but a date with a woman I had never met before and a Sun photographer. Bemusement? Nerves? Excitement? A combination of the three was probably accurate.

Gareth was looking to find love in the Capital.

Gareth was hoping to find love in the Capital.

As always with these things, nothing is ever completely straightforward. The ‘funny quirk’ of the date was that I would have to kiss the lady in question prior to exchanging pleasantries and have it snapped on camera. Not an alien concept to me, I must admit, but without alcohol as a lubricant, a far more unnerving task.

I arrived at the appropriately named Match Bar, slightly past the arranged time of 7pm, in a juvenile attempt to maintain fashionable, but soon realised I had been trumped as my date proceeded to make me wait until 7.15pm. Unflustered, we got down to business (not a euphemism on this occasion I’m afraid) and adhered to the instructions from the photographer.

And so the moment came for the long-awaited kiss. Laughs were exchanged and disappointingly for those wanting any gossip, I handled the situation like the consummate professional I am. With that photo and others of the two of us in ‘natural date poses’ taken care of, it was time to enjoy the flow of alcohol and each other’s company.

Drinks were consumed, anecdotes were swapped regarding our careers and the evening was proving to be rather a pleasant one. The suggestion of dinner round the corner was made and being someone to never skimp on food, while naturally also wanting to extend the evening, I accepted.

Three courses and a few bottles of beer later, the evening wound down and being the gentleman I am, ended with a peck on the cheek and insisting my date took the first cab ride home.

It was certainly an experience which captured the imaginations of my peers and one that got tongues wagging in the office. Questions reigned in to me the morning after and, harbouring the cricketer in me, I returned most with a straight bat. However, ‘Yes’ is the answer to the question on most lips; my date has asked me out again, and a second date appears very much on the cards…

Coming down from the Olympic High

Considering I have never had Olympic fever before, I caught the London 2012 Olympic bug with a vengeance. For me, one of the most special aspects of this type of event is when you catch yourself absorbed in a sport you didn’t even know existed, such as dancing horses or rhythmic gymnastics. The Games has an uncanny way of turning even the most unpatriotic citizen into a proud Briton. My friend announced that this was the first time he relished referring to himself as British rather than Scottish. It’s this ability to bring the United Kingdom together that has been so awe-inspiring over the last 18 days – even Andy Murray managed to crack a smile!

This has been Britain’s most successful Olympics ever, winning 18 more medals than we did in Beijing. On top of this, London is now the first city to have played host to the Games three times. I am already buzzing about 2016 when the Olympics are in Rio, and our incredible athletes can fight once again to achieve National glory.

London 2012 had the privilege of hosting many ‘first times’ which portrayed how the world is progressing. It was the first year that women’s boxing has ever been included in the Games and it was Nicola Adams who filled the UK with pride as she won her first Olympic gold medal. It was also the first time that Britain had entrants into every single sport. But probably the most important premier was that two women were allowed to represent Saudi Arabia in track and judo events. Even though neither of them came close to winning, they became heroes in London.

The tagline for 2012 has been to “inspire a generation” – and it has. According to the London School of Economics, there has been an 11% rise in cycling around Britain, which means 13 million Britons have been spurred on by the victory of the Velodrome. I am certain it will not end here.

london-2012-olympic_2560x1607_98630

The Government have promised us that the Olympics will not be forgotten and prosperity will follow; we will use the success of London 2012 to boost the depleted economy. This is already happening; £7 billion worth of contracts have been drawn up and signed creating jobs for tens of thousands of people who would have otherwise remained out of work. Sports will once again become a staple of our society, opening doors for our talented youth.

It really has been a memorable occasion. Even though there still exist sceptics who insist that it was all a waste of time and money, they are simply wrong. Britain proved its worth and put us back on the map: A small island once again ready to compete with the big dogs.

Of course, it doesn’t all end here. Now the baton has been handed over to the Paralympics, which will show us the resilience of the human body and what can be achieved in the face of adversity.