The coun­try needs Sadiq Khan to shout from rooftops and shake the cap­i­tal from its slum­ber

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - RICHARD TICE Richard Tice is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Quid­net Cap­i­tal and is a for­mer Brexit Party MEP

Bustling, bump­ing, brim­ming with peo­ple, young and fun. Buzzing with ideas, burn­ing with am­bi­tion. This is the cen­tral Lon­don I have al­ways known and loved for over 30 years. Never would I imag­ine it be­ing any­thing else, nor would I con­tem­plate it be­ing the weak­est link of the UK econ­omy. Noth­ing would worry me about its prospects.

Yet this is upon us, with a vengeance. Cen­tral train sta­tions are cav­ernous in their empti­ness. Bus stops are de­serted, tubes are quiet.

The City, Holborn, Mid­town, the West End, Vic­to­ria and West­min­ster are all shad­ows of the past.

Sand­wich bars are silent, cof­fee shops are closed, and wine bars are washed out. Restau­rants are rot­ting, nail bars have been nob­bled and of­fice build­ings look ob­so­lete.

Peo­ple, where are the peo­ple? They say that past per­for­mance is no guide to the fu­ture in the world of shares and in­vest­ing, but we have al­ways taken it for granted that Lon­don leads and the rest of the coun­try fol­lows. But what if Lon­don has hit the buf­fers in top gear and some­one has put the gear stick into sharp re­verse? The rest of the coun­try has ef­fec­tively been out of lock­down for many weeks now, only the Gov­ern­ment and me­dia are still ob­sess­ing with it. Re­gional cities, towns large and small, are noisy and ac­tive again, but not Lon­don.

Speak to lots of Lon­don of­fice-based work­ers, and the tales have the same tune. We are not re­turn­ing un­til Oc­to­ber, or the new year. We have let the of­fice lease go, and are all stay­ing at home. We are plan­ning to hot­desk in co-work­ing cen­tres next year. It hit me like a thun­der­bolt this week as I strolled the ghostly streets. Tourists will not re­turn this year, nor will in­ter­na­tional bankers, over­seas stu­dents or gen­eral vis­i­tors.

Ho­tels are not plan­ning to re­open soon, nor many restau­rants. The ef­fect of this has not re­ally hit the news or peo­ple’s con­scious­ness. Prets have opened shops then shut them again at week­ends, only be­ing open for a few hours each week­day.

Where is the foot­fall? With­out it, there will be a struc­tural change to trans­port and all the shops, bars and cafes around these busy hubs. Un­doubt­edly, cen­tral Lon­don faces an eerie, bleak win­ter ahead, par­tic­u­larly the prop­erty mar­ket. Res­i­den­tial is swamped with flats and houses to sell and let. Rents in cen­tral ar­eas have fallen 20pc to 30pc in three months with fur­ther falls likely if peo­ple don’t re­turn in Septem­ber. Lots of peo­ple who left Lon­don at the start of lock­down have de­cided not to re­turn, given up their leases and may just come in two days a week. Of­fice rents face a dra­matic slump as de­mand dis­ap­pears. Many lesser of­fice build­ings will be con­verted to res­i­den­tial de­spite the over­sup­ply of flats. Re­tail will strug­gle more than ever, and rents will slide even fur­ther. Val­ues will fall, with some dis­tressed own­ers be­ing forced to sell.

Into this storm, Lon­don needs a proac­tive, busi­ness-minded ap­proach from its elected mayor and team. Self­ies, soft polic­ing and blam­ing the Gov­ern­ment is not a re­cov­ery strat­egy. Lon­don, and the coun­try, needs you to rise to the chal­lenge, Sadiq, ur­gently.

We need you to shout from the rooftops for busi­ness to come back to the of­fice. Scream from the spires to re­open mu­se­ums, the­atres and at­trac­tions. Sing for the tourists to re­turn. Sig­nal that all pub­lic trans­port will be free for six months.

Martin Luther King had a dream; we need Sadiq Khan to sell his Lon­don dream to the world. Now.

‘Tourists will not re­turn this year, nor will in­ter­na­tional bankers, over­seas stu­dents or gen­eral Lon­don vis­i­tors’

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