London

London mayoral elections: Candidates criticised for hustings 'no show'

The candidates

Housing might be the issue the candidates running for London mayor say is the most important to them but at Monday's hustings on the subject neither Zac Goldsmith nor Sadiq Khan were there.

The chief executive of the charity hosting the event, David Orr of the National Housing Federation, did not try to hide his disappointment.

He told the audience the only conclusion he could come to was that both candidates "thought there was something more important than housing" with just over a week to go until the mayoral election.

Labour's Sadiq Khan said he pulled out at the last minute because of a vote in the House of Commons to get the UK to support taking in more refugee children from Syria.

In the case of Conservative Zac Goldsmith, there was some confusion as to where he was.

His stand-in, the Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, told the audience Mr Goldsmith was meeting constituents in Hillingdon to talk about Crossrail, but Mr Goldsmith was inside the House of Commons around the same time.

Either way, they both faced criticism in their absence as UKIP's Peter Whittle told the audience at the Westminster venue, a church just a short walk from Parliament: "I think it's remarkable that the two main candidates aren't here. It's insulting to the audience and to us [the other candidates]."

'Broad church'

In terms of policy, the candidates who were there clashed on house-building targets and how best to protect renters.

Green Sian Berry was the only candidate to advocate rent controls, while Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon said what was needed was proper licensing to tackle rogue landlords and UKIP's Peter Whittle told the others they were ignoring the impact of immigration on housing.

Labour Islington Councillor James Murray - standing in for Mr Khan - clashed with Mr Hammond over the Conservative candidate's starter home plans. He claimed they were too expensive, an argument rejected by Mr Hammond.

But it was the issue of Europe that proved a sticky one for the Conservative representative.

Mr Hammond said Brexit would slow down house-building in London, and laughter erupted in the church as it was clear he was not singing from the same hymn sheet as his party's mayoral candidate, Mr Goldsmith, who wants the UK to leave the EU.

Mr Hammond told the audience the Conservative party was "a broad church".

Find out more about who is standing in the London elections.

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