The Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor faces enormous challenges: an uphill task on many fronts. It will be very tough. But I’m used to tough fights, having contested the Barking seat at the general election last year and the Barnsley Central by-election earlier this month. To borrow a phrase, London needs someone with muscular liberalism.
I believe I have the right combination of political commitment, intellectual vigour, business acumen and international experience, which would serve the party and the city well. Some may see me as a usurper, an upstart, an underdog, but I recognise the obvious requirements for a high calibre mayoral candidate: someone with gravitas and credibility; someone who will effectively promote Liberal Democrat values; someone who will forcefully challenge Boris and Ken; someone with new ideas who can do an outstanding job for London and for Londoners, both at home and abroad. This makes me determined to fight to win the Lib Dem nomination.
Who am I and what will I do?
Educated at Manchester Grammar School and Durham University, I have lived all my adult life in London, apart from three years working in Hong Kong. I am 49. Married for nineteen years, we live in West Norwood. The only two cheeky girls in my life are my wife, Rachel and my daughter, Isobel. Like many Londoners, I work hard as a family man to provide for my children – 11, 15 and 17 – who attend local schools.
As a start, I want to create new initiatives for Londoners: free travel on buses and tubes on a Sunday, a programme of work placements for teenagers in London’s schools and a London Mayor awards programme, recognising the contributions of individual Londoners to their local area.
Three initiatives as Mayor:
- Free travel on buses and tubes on Sunday in London. At present, Sunday buses and tubes are largely empty on many routes. Free travel will provide a boost for shops, for markets, for tourist attractions and provide an opportunity for Londoners to enjoy more of their city at leisure – whether it is shopping, watching or playing sport or music, visiting parks, museums, galleries, the cinema or just travelling to see friends and family in different parts of the city.
To finance this, a feasibility study will examine the shortfall in revenue to be financed either by a small increase of £1 in the daily congestion charge from Monday to Friday, or alternatively, a weekend congestion charge of £5 per day for Saturday and Sunday. Many Londoners do not have or cannot afford cars, nor can they afford leisure visits into the centre of town. This policy will give something back to all Londoners – a free day out.
- Drive an initiative for internships for 16-18 year olds from London’s state schools. The 200 largest companies in London will be approached to sign up to a formal programme of 1-2 weeks’ work placement opportunities for 16-18 year olds across the capital, with an average of 100 internships per company each year. Teenagers in state schools are at a disadvantage compared to those in private schools, where many use parental connections to gain high level work experience. This initiative will provide a formal work placement programme for 20,000+ teenagers in London every year.
- London Mayor awards. An annual awards programme for those who have made a significant contribution to the life of London – in public services, charity work, schools, hospitals, sports and in business. To be managed by the Mayor’s office, this would recognise the contributions of many Londoners to the life of London, which might otherwise go unnoticed.
What is my relevant experience?
For ten years, I managed a variety of international publishing and conference businesses in London, Europe and Hong Kong. At the world’s largest conference company, I was Head of Conferences Europe, simultaneously managing offices in Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, Milan, Amsterdam, Brussels and Vienna, while based in London. I also spent three years in Hong Kong running a substantial publishing company.
Accordingly, I have significant experience of managing businesses in London and other international cities. I also started and launched my own magazine, London Business Review. Credibility in business comes from having done it yourself: I can talk to businesses in London, small or large, and engage them in language that they understand.
I now write for the national press and contribute to various television and radio programmes. Since 2005, I have actively campaigned against the BNP, supported by my research as Nick Griffin’s unofficial biographer. I stood as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate at the General Election in 2010, taking the fight to Griffin in the Labour stronghold of Barking. In this capacity, Griffin acknowledged that I did real electoral harm both to him and to the BNP.
Recently, I fought the Barnsley Central by-election in very difficult circumstances, where the Lib Dem vote collapsed and the party finished sixth, although only 980 votes separated third from sixth place. In taking on these two challenging, very safe Labour seats, I have learned a great deal about tough campaigning, fighting my corner and that of the party, in adversity. I recently wrote for the Guardian about the lessons to be learned.
It has made me stronger, wiser, and more determined to use my experience in taking the Liberal Democrat argument forward at the mayoral candidate level, given the opportunity. In presenting Londoners with a serious, positive alternative to the Boris and Ken show, I will then listen to Londoners and deliver on their behalf.