On May 6, Londoners will have a record 20 candidates to choose from as they vote for the next Mayor of London.
One of those that voters may not be familiar with is 39-year-old Azerbaijan-born Kam Balayev, who is standing as the candidate for the Renew Party, a centrist party formed in 2017 in the wake of the Brexit referendum.
The former lawyer and Cambridge graduate says his platform in the upcoming election is “the new economy”, the “main ingredients” of which are “privacy, data and technology”.
Drawing inspiration from the “big bang” of the 1980s, when financial deregulation strengthened London’s position as a major financial hub, Mr Balayev today told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he wanted to apply the same logic to the tech industry to create a “digital big bang” in the capital.
He said: “Think about it, last century there were three events that shaped London forever. In the 1960s, London became the centre of the Eurodollar market. In the 1970s, London became the centre of the petrodollar market. In the 1980s, there was a big bang under the Government of Margaret Thatcher – financial deregulation. Through those events, London became the most successful financial hub in the world.
“If those events happened somewhere else, London wouldn’t be so successful. I draw parallels between what is happening now and what was happening back then, but now it’s tech.”
Mr Balayev said that his “grand vision” for London is for it to become “the global capital” and a “magnet” for the world’s leading tech businesses as the city looks to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.
But he also said he wants to use the soft powers of the London Mayor to “take ownership” of the conversation over how companies use people’s data and prevent becoming what he called “an Orwellian society”.
Aside from his plans for a “digital big bang”, Mr Balayev said he also intends to “tackle the problems of ordinary Londoners” such as cutting crime and building affordable housing.
On crime, Mr Balayev said he will be investing in youth clubs and mentoring programmes to prevent young people from getting involved in crime, while putting an emphasis on community policing.
A recent focus of his campaign has been highlighting the “sell-off” of public assets in London such as local police stations, which he called “shameful”.
On housing, the Renew candidate said he intends to build 100,000 affordable homes within two years if elected on May 6, working with smaller developers and construction firms “that would be happy to help the office of mayor deliver these ambitious plans”.
Mr Balayev went on to say that he would overcome the “crisis of diplomacy” between the mayor’s office and the Government in order to tackle problems such as the housing crisis, and that he would “have to work with 10 Downing Street” to deliver for London.