By James Moules
KAM BALAYEV doesn’t see himself as a conventional political candidate.
The Azerbaijani-born former lawyer is standing to be the city’s mayor for the Renew Party – a pro-European, reform oriented movement that aims to eschew the traditional left-right divide.
In his platform to run as London mayor, Balayev is planning the formation of a tech-driven ‘New Economy’. He believes this will serve as the foundation on which to build solutions for various issues that London faces.
“The main elements of the New Economy are AI (Artificial Intelligence), privacy, data and cyber technologies,” he told Redaction Politics.
“I want to unlock the digital potential of London. My opponents are talking about a lot of problems. And everyone likes it. But I try to talk about solutions.
“When my opponents say they’re going to fix the TfL, we’re going to do affordable housing, we’re going to increase the number of police, my question is how are you going to do that? You don’t have resources at the moment.
“My vision is to do a big reset, to start the New Economy, and through that vision I will be fixing potholes in Dagenham, we’ll be tackling crime in Hackney and we’ll be building affordable homes in Brixton.”
The Renew Party was formed in 2017, and has since fielded candidates in both local and national elections. In the 2019 general election, it stood four candidates in two London constituencies, Edinburgh and Liverpool.
Its best performance came in the Newport West by-election in April 2019, where they garnered 3.7 percent of the vote.
However, their contests in London – running in Hackney North and Stoke Newington against Diane Abbott, as well as Bromley and Chislehurst – saw the party collect just 0.3 percent in both.
Balayev insisted: “When it comes to the Renew Party – number one, it’s a collection of very smart, intelligent people.
“Number two, they stand for reforms, they stand for renewing politics, they stand for rebooting the system and a renewal of the system.
“I think the Renew Party is the most reasonable, the most rational party at the moment.
“My platform is renewing London. And I’m talking about TfL (Transport for London), I’m talking about the New Economy, I’m talking about tech, I’m talking about business, I’m talking about affordable housing, transport, etc.
“It’s not some vague ideology. I think in this sense Renew is really unique.”
Balayev has also signalled his support for Universal Basic Income – a system in which every citizen of a given nation would receive a regular unconditional payment.
The idea was famously backed by US Democratic presidential primary candidate Andrew Yang, who is now running to be mayor of New York City.
Kam said: “Times are changing, technology is taking over. The model of capitalism is changing. I’m a strong believer that everyone has got a right to have a basic income.
“Government should provide a universal basic income for all. This is an absolute human right. I think the time has come that we should rethink what are our rights. Basic universal income. Everyone should have a home. Everyone should have a job guarantee. Everyone should have clean air. These are absolute rights.”
Detailing his campaigning work over the past year, Balayev said: “There are two elements to my campaign. One element was that I was doing a lot of research in the evening. I was reading all the complicated reports about homelessness.
“The second part is that I wanted to experience it myself, so I joined them, I was talking to them. I volunteered on a farm, I cleaned the river, I have done so much in this one year.
“I started to think as mayor. Throughout this journey, I was thinking as mayor.”
A total of 20 candidates are standing to be mayor of London this year. Voters are able to designate a first and second preference candidate on their ballot.
If one candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the first preference vote, they are elected mayor.
If no candidate reaches this threshold in the first round, then the top two scoring candidates advance to a second round in which any second preference ballots for those two candidates are added to their total.
Incumbent London mayor Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party was first elected in 2016, and current polling indicates he is on course for comfortable re-election – with some polls suggesting he may win outright on the first ballot.
Although he praised Sadiq Khan as a “good family man” and noted the significance of his election for diversity in London, Kam described the incumbent mayor as a “total failure as a manger” in respect to TfL and crime.
“He’s got this party legacy, he doesn’t want to work with 10 Downing Street. For him it’s much easier to blame the Prime Minister all the time and to blame everyone. I think he’s a whinger.”
While Renew has not made much of a dent in any polls so far, Kam said: “We represent a real grassroots movement. It’s so hard for me to be a mayoral candidate, because every day we’re being challenged. ‘Who are you?’ ‘You’re so new, you’re such a tiny party.’ ‘You can’t compete with the machine of politics.’ But guess what, that’s the challenge.
“I work really hard. When it comes to intellectual capacity, or intellectual gravitas, we’re much better.”
Featured Image: Renew Party
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