A few week's ago, serf posted about two of the prospective Conservative alternatives to Ken. During the last week we managed to arrange an interview with one of those potential candidates, Victoria Borwick. We would like to thank her for taking the time out of her schedule to answer our questions.
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?
The fact that it is a world city – constantly changing and evolving, but still with hidden corners and communities that remain constant. The old historical London what embodies so many years of tradition and has endured the plague, the fire, the wars, and now London today, bringing together vibrant international cultures – taking advantage of technology to be the world’s most competitive centre for global financial services. London is more than just our capital city, London’s importance as a trading centre makes us one of the world’s leading nations.
What is your earliest memory of living in London?
Having been born in London and brought up here – I remember the parks, walking to school and, like all small children, jumping up to balance on low walls, and running sticks along the railings. Walking home from school in the thick smog, or mist - delighted we don’t have those any more. However London felt safer and the traffic was easy.
At Christmas time the treat of going to the underground passageway between Barkers and Derry and Tom’s when it became a Christmas grotto and “sleigh-ride”. I also remember the arrival of Biba and psychedelic fashions in Carnaby Street.
Which part of London is your favourite?
I love the local street markets, which are individual to each community around London, the vibrancy of Covent Garden. I love standing on Westminster Bridge and watching the Thames flow, and the London skyline; the new architecture in Docklands contrasting with our wonderful parks and open spaces.
What do you consider to be the worst thing done to London and Londoners during Livingstone Administration?
That in spite of all his promises he has not managed to reduce crime – particularly street crime – The most important role for the Mayor is to keep Londoners safe. This is our city, we live here, work here and we want to be able to go out safely and feel pride in our capital city.
As has been commented on ConservativeHome. Should the Mayor be spending large sums of taxpayers money promoting himself? What would you do instead?
No of course he should not, it is part of Livingstone’s desire for self promotion. I see the role of the Mayor as more of a Chief Executive working with the Boroughs, the Strategic Authorities, the Police, Transport for London, all the Transport authorities to work in partnership for the benefit of all Londoners. The job of a CEO is to promote the company not themselves, and though it is tempting for Livingstone to be attracted by power and publicity, he should have resisted this.
Livingstone appears to enjoy being controversial and to draw attention to himself rather than getting on with the job of leading London.
Is it fitting for the representative of London’s electorate to spend time on South American politics?
No. We should work to encourage community cohesion in London, the Mayor is here to represent London, not to go back to the bad old days of the GLC promoting dictatorships and the IRA.
The Mayor should not waste money on his own foreign policy – that is a job for Whitehall. When Ken has run out of ideas to improve London, he cheers himself up at our cost with this sort of stunt.
London is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. As such, should the Mayor be seen on the same platform as extremists?
Absolutely not. The role of the Mayor is to promote cohesion and inclusiveness. Backing extremists to get attention conflicts with the Mayor’s duty to Londoners.
Should the Mayor be extending the Congestion Charge zone?
No – the recent consultation showed that Londoners did not want the extension – Livingstone was quoted as saying the consultation was a charade. Businesses, and particularly small shops will suffer; those who need to travel in and out of the zone will suffer, it is not necessary. The recent TfL survey showed that traffic speeds in the congestion zone were no faster than before, with a larger congestion zone and more vehicles receiving a discount this can only get worse.
It’s been reported that London has the most expensive public transport system in the world. Is that something to be proud of?
Livingstone likes the oyster card and to make transport users buy the card he has forced up the single trip fares which is damaging to our tourist industry.
Our visitors to London suffer, but those who are regular travellers and have travel cards, oyster cards pay a reduced rate. Over 60 have free travel as do young people, but this is paid for by the Boroughs. Central London is reasonably well served, but we need to improve the transport in outer London and the ticketing arrangements. The first tubes were around in 1863, so we have a very antiquated system that costs a lot to maintain. Other countries have cheaper systems, generally because they are more modern and receive subsidies.
In many cases we seem to have paid for over-runs in the maintenance budget by delaying or cancelling refurbishments that will reduce our long term costs. This is merely a case of getting a manager to manage London, not someone whose whole life has been dedicated to politics.
Should there be greater balance struck between contemporary high rise architecture and the iconic views of the London skyline?
London’s skyline has constantly changed over the years, we enjoy confident architecture and have many landmark buildings. I do not want to destroy the past, but as London continues to expand we have the space for some new landmarks. However we do need to protect the strategic London vistas.
Is Neighbourhood Policing and the greater use of uniformed civilians the solution to London’s crime and anti-social behaviour problems?
Having recently spent some time with the Police – both the Police Community Support Officers and the Met police, I am still firmly of the view that more uniformed officers on the streets reduces crime. The police obviously have to use intelligence wisely – as we all know the majority of crime is committed by a small number of people, who are known to the police. In order to continually reduce crime we should all be vigilant and not make life easy for the criminals. The main role of the police is to catch the criminals and get them off the streets, but to achieve this we must have an effective criminal justice system and a probation system that does not release known criminals with a known high risk of re-offending back onto our streets.
A wise policeman once said “we don’t solve crimes in the majority of cases, people tell us who did it”. But to achieve this policemen have to know their communities, be known in the local shops, local streets, local estates. As Londoners we have to feel confident that by helping the police, we will actually see safer streets. In parts of London, we are not helping the police because of fear of reprisals - the gang culture is stronger than the forces of law and order.
Should the Mayor have veto powers over local authority planning decisions?
I believe this is extremely dangerous. It concentrates the power to override local views and knowledge into the hands of one man who has already made clear that he will use his powers to force through unpopular decisions.
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 the problem of clean water shortages?
Reduce the leaks – this would almost double the amount of water that would get through to our taps, and educate consumers to be more aware of the amount of water they are using.
Should threats to withdraw funding for local council be used as a means to an end by the Mayor’s office?
No. The locally elected councillors and Boroughs should have power over their area, but I would hope that by working in partnership with the boroughs and by encouraging neighbouring boroughs to share resources and services that Londoners would receive better value for money.
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?
Quick improvements would be:
Publish the list of crime hot spots and work with the police to resolve these – what resources does it need, is it bad design/ lighting/ environment that is facilitating these crimes? In London we have a perception and fear of crime and we need to restore confidence both in the police and the public. Many officers in the Met have a zero tolerance approach and we need to support that.
British Transport Police – the Conservative Group proposal was to increase these by over 600. I support the Evening Standard campaign against unmanned stations. The technology is now there to improve the safety on the tube and increase communication – learning the lessons from both the Kings Cross fire and last year’s terrorist attacks – I would re-open this whole agenda to improve safety for Londoners.
Phasing of the traffic lights to get Londoners moving. Stop making more traffic constrictions and start the removal process of some of the bottlenecks.
More “smart” bus stops, so that you know when the next bus is coming and ensure there are not queues of buses in Oxford Street and no buses in outer London. Look at routes and timetabling to improve orbital journeys.
Waste at City Hall – every year the Conservative Group have proposed lower budgets to remove excess costs, whilst maintaining services. Reduce the waste in self promotion and study the budgets in detail to reduce the cost of the Mayor – London households paid £1,000 for the Mayor for the first four years of office, and now the figure continues to rise. The final budgets for the Olympics have not been set and judging from previous experience will not be cheap for Londoners.
Housing - everyone needs somewhere to live and in my view one of the crisis points here is the lack of affordable housing in London. London attracts people from all over the country as well as those from overseas and we benefit from their industry. We must look at the provision being made for key worker housing, affordable housing, intermediate housing projects and have the political will to provide these throughout London. London needs to be an integrated cohesive city not a city divided into areas of wealth and areas of poverty.