Sunday, August 06, 2006

Anyone But Ken talks to James Cleverly

Following on from our recent interview with hopeful Mayoral candidate Victoria Borwick, today we have another. This time it's fellow blogger, James Cleverly. We'd like to thank James for taking the time to talk to us.

As you’d probably agree, whoever is the Mayor of London should have affinity with the city. So what do you most like about living in London?

On Wednesday I bought a Bento box from a six foot Nigerian who spoke perfect Japanese. I love that. I can buy a proper curry or walk a few minutes along the Mile End Road and get pie and mash with liquor. I love the fact that some of the most innovative architectural executions in the world (the Swiss Re building and the Lloyds building) sit alongside mediaeval churches. That the most famous tennis tournament in the world is played in a quite suburb and that the oldest sporting contest in the world is rowed on the Thames. Mostly I love the people.

What is your earliest memory of living in London?

I remember playing football in the street in Hither Green (part of Lewisham) and sneaking through a fence into the River Quaggy. The boys that I was playing with and I followed the river for what felt like miles, it was probably a couple of hundred yards. My mother was beside herself with fear and cried for hours when I got back.

Which part of London is your favourite?

Anywhere that gives me a view over the city.

What do you consider to be the worst thing done to London and Londoners during Livingstone Administration?

Clearly the 7/7 attacks were the worst, they were a wake-up-call and every lesson possible should be drawn out of them. Livingstone’s refusal to heed the findings of the London Assembly committee which looked into these attacks is therefore unforgivable.

As has been commented on ConservativeHome. Should the Mayor be spending large sums of taxpayers money promoting himself? Would you do things differently?

I remember seeing poster after poster with Livingstone’s smug grin beaming down on me, all paid for out of my, and other people’s, taxes. He has at least moved on from blatantly promoting just himself to promoting his pet policies, it’s an improvement, but not much. If his policies were effective he wouldn’t need to spend millions telling us how good they were. I would spend tax payer’s money on governing and delivering, not spinning.

Is it fitting for the representative of London's electorate to spend time on South American politics?

Once the Mayor of London has sorted out all of London’s problems he can spend time on whatever pet project he likes. Until then he should concentrate on the job in hand.

London is one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities. As such, should the Mayor be seen on the same platform as extremists?

The Mayor should be a figurehead as well as an administrator. As such he should be very careful about alienating sections of London’s population, women, the Jewish community, the gay community etc by “endorsing” visitors who vilify them.

Should the Mayor be extending the Congestion Charge zone?

No, no,no,no,no. The expansion of the congestion charge zone is a blatant attempt to make the scheme more profitable, it will not reduce traffic merely displace it. The zone, its costs and its effect on London commerce must be looked at, honestly, dispassionately and apolitically. Only when this is done can London have a proper debate about the continuation or abolition of the scheme.

It's been reported that London has the most expensive public transport system in the world. Is that something to be proud of?

It is a farce. Transport subsidies have increased dramatically under Livingstone and yet fairs still rise. There is an argument for high subsidies and low fares; there is also a valid argument for no subsidies. But to have high subsidies and high fairs shows a level of financial and political incompetence which alone should disqualify Livingstone from holding office.

Should there be greater balance struck between contemporary high rise architecture and the iconic views of the London skyline?

London is a living city not a giant museum. Modern architecture has its place and will become iconic with time, the Swiss Re building and the London Eye are already established parts of London’s cityscape. Quality must be the deciding factor, London deserves no less.

Is Neighbourhood Policing and the greater use of uniformed civilians the solution to London's crime and anti-social behaviour problems?

It is part of the solution but not the whole solution. A much more visible police presence and a force which is closer to the community will help to reduce street crime and antisocial behaviour but much of the serious, habitual crime is linked to drugs, poverty and social exclusion. This side of the equation has been overlooked for too long. I intend to create a Social Enterprise Unit from existing mayoral staff with task of finding groups who are tackling these problems and supporting them.

Should the Mayor have veto powers over local authority planning decisions?

No, planning should be done at the most local level possible. The Mayor should be involved with significant projects but the ultimate decision should remain with the local authority.

The Mayor has recently rejected the construction of the desalination plant that formed part of the 2012 Olympic bid he supported. How do think London should deal with it's clean water shortage problem?

The first thing to do is ensure that the problem gets no worse. Livingstone’s plans to push London’s population densities even higher will put increasing strain on our infrastructure. Water provision, waste removal and treatment, education and health provision are already close to breaking point so shoehorning more and more people into ugly, high density housing is environmentally short-sighted.

I don’t know enough about desalination in general or the Olympic site scheme in particular to comment on that decision but London’s water needs are not going to get smaller so we should be open to new and innovative ideas.

Should threats to withdraw funding for local council be used as a means to an end by the Mayor's office?

I am completely against this as a tactic. Councillors are locally elected representatives and as such are more in touch with the needs of their specific areas than a London wide mayor. I intend to give a lot more power back to the boroughs and take power from central government in return. I don’t believe that this repatriation of power should come with strings attached.

Finally, what would you aim to do in the first 90 days of gaining office that would make an immediate improvement in the quality of life for Londoners?

I would set up the Social Enterprise Unit, it will seek out charities, community groups, faith groups etc. who are fighting poverty, social exclusion and drug addiction and help them succeed. This would form part of my two prong attack on crime and the causes of crime the other being a dramatic increase in visible community policing.

I would set up an apolitical review of the congestion charge, the findings will be put into the public domain so that Londoners can make an informed decision on its continuation, amendment or abolition.

James' campaign website can be visisted by clicking here

1 comment:

Serf said...

I loved the comment about subsidies. I repeated it on Right Links.