My South London Press column, 28/08/2015

August is traditionally supposed to be a quiet month for politics, but for us in the Labour Party it has been quite the opposite this year with the contest to elect a new Leader taking some unexpected turns.  It might be tempting to look on this as something that matters only to Labour Party members, but our democratic system only works well when there is an effective opposition which can challenge the Government’s policies and proposals and expose any weaknesses in them.  When parties look inward, that doesn’t happen and we are all worse off as a result.

When Labour won all, but one, of the seats on Lewisham Council last year I was, of course, pleased to see so many people that I knew, who had worked hard and would be good councillors, elected but I was also concerned that we would have to work very hard to find ways to make sure our policies were properly scrutinised and challenged.  We are fortunate in local government in that we have some very clear arrangements where the decisions that Executives make are publicly scrutinised.  Looking at some of the things that are emerging from the present national Government it seems that Parliament needs to get better at this too.

There are other elections and selections under way at present, not least the parties choosing their candidates to run for election to succeed Boris Johnson as Mayor of London.  The Labour Party selection has inevitably been overshadowed by the Leadership election but we have a very strong field of candidates.  The two front runners are both from South London, Dame Tessa Jowell and Sadiq Khan MP. While I have backed Sadiq I have worked closely with both over the years and I know whoever wins will focus on the huge challenges our city faces and above all housing, that the current mayor has failed to deal with.

But there is another election under way which I always find uplifting.  Young people in Lewisham have until 5pm on the 11th of September to submit nominations to stand for election as the Young Mayor of Lewisham.  The Young Mayor works alongside me, advising me about the issues that concern young people and overseeing a budget to provide innovative services for those young people.  I have got used to being known as the “Old Mayor” now and having enthusiastic young people involved helps keep me focused on the real issues for our borough.  If you are thinking of standing, all the information needed is on the Lewisham Council web site.