There were three necessary but not sufficient conditions that had to be fulfilled before I could declare myself as a candidate to be nominated as the Lib Dem Candidate for Mayor of London in 2012. That I honestly believed that I had the support of a wide range of people from both within and outside the party, that I could do a better job than I did last time and that I was able to offer something other candidates could not. I believe those conditions are now met, which is why I am, here and now, declaring myself to be a candidate. But am I right?
Two weeks ago I was urged to stand but I still needed to be convinced that there were sufficient numbers of activists and other party members who wanted me to run again. I have been humbled and encouraged by the groundswell of support, not just from Lib Dems but from those from outside the party, a crucial factor when it comes to the main contest against Johnson and Livingstone.
The 2008 campaign was a bitter and bruising experience. I had just left the police over the shooting by armed officers of the innocent Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell. It was a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’. I was an uptight, politically naïve ex-police officer with no experience of party campaigning or working with activists. I got a lot wrong.
The campaign slogan then was ‘Serious about London’ (a slogan borrowed with pride this time around I notice) but I was far too serious about everything. I was terrified of Punch and Judy, of Paxman and Sopel and I had unrealistic expectations of what to expect from the party. I was, quite frankly, a bit of a pain! Towards the end, particularly in the televised debates with Comedy and Tragedy, critics said I performed well, but we need a candidate who gets it right from the start. Crucially I know my enemies from last time, up close and personal! Despite everything, I was able to secure 9% of first preference and 26% of second preference votes (more than any other candidate). Surely we can convert some of those second preferences this time?
So what is going to be different? A few weeks ago I was in the office of a London MP who commented on how much I had changed since 2008. I am much happier, more relaxed, more realistic and more experienced now – I have even been spotted smiling in photographs! I have spent the last three years campaigning with ordinary members, delivering ‘Good Mornings’, knocking on doors, talking to voters, addressing rallies and speaking at fundraisers. I have attended every Federal Conference since 2008 and either spoken in debates or contributed from the floor. I know the Party now. I didn’t know the Party then.
The ‘ground war’ is as important as in any other election and the support of activists is crucial. We will only maximise our Assembly vote through a high profile campaign based on our policies and ideas. The Greater London Authority campaign, Mayor and Assembly, also involves a massive ‘air war’. It is a local election that is covered both nationally and internationally – there were live televised debates on ‘Newsnight’, ‘Question Time’ and ‘Sky News’ in 2008. Why? Because the Mayor of London has the second largest mandate in Western Europe after the President of France in terms of people voting for one individual.
My experience of operating in the media arena can perhaps be summed up by the BBC News Channel’s morning anchor when I sat down next to him recently as we were about to go live: “We’ll have to call this the Brian Paddick slot!” For those critics amongst you, my news and current affairs appearances outweigh my light entertainment appearances by at least 100:1. And I am determined that in the 2012 campaign, it will be the “Lib Dem slot”, as much about the Party and the Assembly as it is about the Mayor.
Of course, it does not really matter whether I think the necessary conditions have been met. Whether I have the support of the party will be decided by a vote of London members – having the support of the majority is the necessary and sufficient condition to stand as the Lib Dem candidate. I just think, if you are a London member, you should have the opportunity to vote for me as well as the other candidates.