Growing up on a housing estate in south London, I saw first-hand the dreadful damage and division caused by the recession of the 1980s.
I remember the turmoil inflicted on the families of friends by long-term unemployment.
I remember that it was the poorest and those from ethnic minority backgrounds who were often the worst affected.
And I’ll never forget how existing inequalities deepened due to government inaction at the time, leading to many talented people in our community being denied opportunities to reach their potential.
We are now in the midst of another recession – the biggest since records began – but this time with the added prospect of a catastrophic no-deal Brexit at the worst possible time because the Government is irresponsibly refusing to seek an extension to the trade talks.
I know many Londoners are feeling increasingly anxious about how all of this could hit their jobs, businesses and families.
At the forefront of my mind as mayor is how we must seek to do everything possible to avoid a return to the mass joblessness of the 1980s and to work towards a fair economic recovery, with nobody left behind.
Today, I will be co-chairing an International Recovery Summit, where we will be discussing these issues with other mayors and leaders from around the world.
We will be looking at what practical steps local and national governments can take to deal with the enormous social and economic impact of the pandemic on jobs and livelihoods, and how we can prevent a backwards slide in our battle against gender, racial and wealth inequality.
It’s vital we get this right because the Covid-19 crisis is not only exposing many old inequalities, but massively worsening them too.
Those on the lowest incomes and people from ethnic minority communities, for example, are being disproportionately affected – both in terms of the health and economic consequences of the pandemic.
Women are also more likely to have had their careers disrupted than men in recent months because they have been bearing the brunt of providing additional childcare, home-schooling responsibilities and looking after vulnerable parents.
We must avoid the mistakes of the response to the 1980s recession
The IMF has gone so far as to warn that, if left unchecked, the pandemic could erase 30 years of gains for women’s economic opportunities. We simply can’t allow this to happen.
One of the things we’re already doing from City Hall is helping to bring together representatives of local councils, health and care bodies, business groups, trade unions, the voluntary sector, national government and others to agree on the measures we must collectively take to ensure Londoners are not held back, but instead are supported to thrive in the months and years ahead.
We are calling this group the London Recovery Board. A primary focus is jobs, jobs, jobs, but this only forms part of a wide-ranging set of objectives that all have tackling inequality as a key common theme – from digital access for all, to more quality youth activities for young Londoners.
So far we have already made progress in working with companies to fast-track £1.5billion worth of infrastructure projects over the next two years, which will help to stimulate our economy, create jobs and support Londoners.
And today we have announced a major new study into the issues facing central London and Canary Wharf as a direct result of the pandemic so that we can find specific, innovative solutions for the longer-term.
We plan to continue working together on London’s economic recovery in the years ahead, including on how we can support businesses to create new, well-paid jobs for those who need them the most and how we can invest in skills and training programmes to get Londoners from all backgrounds into work.
We will also focus on how we can accelerate job creation through green jobs, such as in renewable energy.
Ultimately, we want to help create an economic recovery that works for all Londoners – where neither opportunity nor achievement is limited by gender, race, age, religion, sexuality, disability or background.
Not only is this the right thing to do, but I firmly believe that the more Londoners who get the opportunity to make the most of their talents, the faster our economy will recover and flourish once again.
We must avoid the mistakes of the response to the 1980s recession.
It was Gordon Brown, the former Chancellor and Prime Minister, who said: ‘The good economy and the good society advance together.’
And now more than ever, we need to dispel the myth that the goals of economic recovery, creating jobs, supporting businesses and reducing inequality are somehow in conflict.
The truth is they go hand-in-hand, which is something we can, and must, demonstrate once again in London.
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