On Thursday, Londoners will go to the polls to decide the next mayor of London. The person who sits in City Hall may seem removed from the everyday concerns of those of us who live here yet the person in charge of London goes a long way to shaping the city. Topics like crime, transport and housing are all vital components in London’s future. Over the next four days, we profile the candidates from the big political parties along with independent candidate Siobhan Benita.
You might wonder why we’re including seemingly peripheral candidates given that the contest has been billed as Ken versus Boris. However, given that the main focus has been on each other’s tax returns and Ken’s tears, it’s better to be getting back to the issues that should be at the front of every voter’s concerns.
First up is Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick who previously stood for mayor in 2008, coming in third place with 9.8% of the vote. Part of my reason for voting for him is the difference between himself and the two front-runners Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone. Both of these are career politicians whereas Paddick’s life before politics has seen him immersed in public service. Paddick is London-born and has worked all over the city through his time rising through the police force.
His experience of being on the front line during the 1981 Brixton riots forged his belief in working with communities rather than forcing policy decisions in a top-down manner. He is not afraid to make controversial decisions such as his pilot cannabis programme in 2001 where he asked officers not to arrest or charge anyone they found in possession of the drug. This enabled them to focus on other drugs such as heroin and crack, as well as freeing themselves to investigate other crimes. The scheme was generally considered to be a success with 1,350 hours of police time saved, the equivalent of having two extra police officers.
The focus of Paddick’s manifesto is on practical matters that are at the heart of most Londoners’ concerns. What can be done about the ever-rising cost of transport? How are we going to deal with the housing shortage? Not all of Paddick’s proposed solutions appeal to me; the proposed One Hour Bus Ticket, where you can hop on and off buses for an hour and only pay a single fee, seems unworkable and given the lacklustre speed of the Routemasters around London’s clogged streets, not financially practical.
London is a city that has much in the way of potential and it’s easy to be cynical about living here. Given the number of people that live in the city and the hectic pace of life, there’s a lot of problems that need fixing. The disparity in wealth means that a lot of people are at risk of being left behind, and last summer’s riots were an indication of the alienation that many people feel. Brian Paddick may not have all the answers but at the heart of his manifesto is a commitment that there should be no-one who should feel that the only way of making a contribution is through breaking a shop window.
Image by FHSoc courtesy of Flickr