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Luke Bozier: Boris should fight for London to be open on Sundays

Bozier lukeLuke Bozier is Co-founder of and consultant on entrepreneurship & digital communications. Earlier this year he left Labour to join the Conservatives.

London is unlike any other city in the UK. It's big for starters, global, and has a distinct culture and lifestyle unlike any other British city. It's a very diverse place, more liberal, and has longer work hours than most of the country. So it should be run like the special place that it is. Life in London should be as flexible as lifestyles in London are diverse.

London competes with New York and Paris, not Glasgow and Leeds (no offence, Glasgow or Leeds, you're both wonderful places). We want our capital to be a place where international businesspeople, foreign students and visitors feel at home, as well as being a great place to live in for Brits of all stripes.

A prime example of how I think London should have special status over the rest of the nation is with Sunday trading laws. Can you believe that until 1994, opening a supermarket on a Sunday was illegal anywhere on these isles? Me neither. Margaret Thatcher tried in the 1980s to smash this rather 20th century paradigm, but was held back by the Parliament of the day.

It's not the 20th century anymore, but we are living with a 20th century regulatory regime that is restricting enterprise and quality of life on the weekend. Want to do a supermarket shop at 7pm on a Sunday? Forget it. Want to go and buy a new pair of jeans after a drink Sunday evening? Sorry, the State says no. That might be absolutely fine in many parts of Britain, but for London, the global capital that it is, it's not conducive to quality of life.

The meaning of a day of rest has changed to fit the times. Many British people still go to church, many have roast dinner and see their families, but many, including some of those same people, find it a useful time to meet their retail needs. Some people might want an extra shift at work to help pay the bills, but are restricted by Sunday trading laws.

Mayor Johnson has an opportunity to take ownership of this issue and give something back to Londoners. Boris is a great figurehead for London; he's high-profile, charismatic and recognised on the world stage. Put aside the bluster surrounding him over the Tory leadership, and there is potential for London's Mayor to truly lead for London.

Sunday trading is an area where Boris can and should put his foot down with the Government and demand special dispensation. If the Government is unwilling or unable to change this bit of regulation for all of Britain, it should work with the Mayor to change it for a city which has grown out of the old attitudes which restricted commerce on a Sunday.

The Government had to pass emergency legislation to extend Sunday trading hours for the London Olympics. Londoners benefitted. But it's time for the regime to change permanently. Londoners don't just want to shop when the Olympics are on, we want to be able to do that supermarket run or buy some new work shoes on a Sunday evening, or even just pick up some eggs from Tesco on a Sunday morning.

Londoners gave Boris a second term, now it's time to focus on real, gritty issues that affect our day-to-day, which might have a rather more immediate and happiness-inducing effect on the capital's residents than a £40bn floating airport.


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