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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: KEN LIVINGSTONE, Mayor of London
FEBRUARY 17TH, 2002
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: And now I'm joined by the man who is the Mayor of London. Halfway through his first term, another term coming up, he would probably predict - you'll run again won't you?
KEN LIVINGSTONE: Oh yes. But I should get halfway through first, another three months to the halfway mark.
DAVID FROST: Nearly the halfway mark - 2004 the next time around. Crime is in the news at the moment, enormously with all street crime up 40 per cent, gangland slayings, muggings by a third since last June and so on and so forth, why is this?
KEN LIVINGSTONE: I think there's several reasons. We are still suffering from the loss of police numbers. A, we used to have 28,000, it came down to 25 and a half thousand when I was elected.
DAVID FROST: And you think it needs to be 40,000?
KEN LIVINGSTONE: It should be a, at 40. I mean it's worked in New York. You see these policing numbers were set in the thinking of the Fifties and the Sixties, when crime was much less than now. New York's made that quantum leap and we could, we've now got for the first time ever, the Hendon training college is full and we could produce another 1500 extra police each year, year in, year out. So we could over the next five years get up to the sort of levels New York's got. I think the other temporary problem we've got is that during the response to September 11, a lot of police were taken off their normal duty on the street to protect key targets. I mean an extra 50 police were taken to look after the House of Commons. That meant an awful lot of ordinary Londoners didn't get the police protection on the streets, crime soared, the villains saw a chance. And the other thing is we, we're still struggling with a very antique system in the Met. When I was elected I discovered the Met hadn't got double-entry book-keeping. No-one knew how the money was being spent, it was basically an organisation of police officers catching criminals and no one was in there making sure the money was well spent.
DAVID FROST: Well I noticed that, you couldn't actually miss it because it's on the front page of the Daily Mail, huge front page there, I mean David Blunkett's been saying to the Met if you don't shape up you'll ship out within two years and all of those targets, now isn't that, I thought it was your job to say that.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: Well this is the problem with the police, there - David Blunkett appoints the commissioner, I give them their money for their budget and then there's this funny quango that nobody elects, called the Metropolitan Police Authority, that's supposed to oversee them day to day. The thing about Guiliani was Guiliani was in charge, he appointed a commissioner, he set the budget, he set their targets, if they didn't achieve them he sacked somebody. And until you get that simple chain of command we're going to continue, I think, to underperform in policing. What I've said, I mean the Government's only just stopped running the police after 180 years and they're trying this new system. The problems we've got with policing are the bad mismanagement by the Home Office for decades, literally, where the people didn't know how the money was being spent and a lot was being wasted.
DAVID FROST: But at the moment, I'm not saying you would want to, but you couldn't, you couldn't sack Sir John Stevens.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: No.
DAVID FROST: I'm not saying you would, but whoever's in that position, you can't sack him.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: No. And I, I think he's quite, a very good commissioner and he's struggling with this sort of nightmare bureaucracy as well, but what I do want to be able to do, I want to be able to say, as Guiliani did, what's the crime figures for each district each week and move resources round. We haven't got that equipment. I mean that would be millions of pounds.
DAVID FROST: Well, Rudi Guiliani has set up a security business now, you could hire him perhaps.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: Well he's been quite happy to give me all the advice for free, we don't need to pay for it. And it is simple, you want that crime monitoring and you want the 40- 41,000 police officers. You get that, we'll get the two-thirds cut in crime that they got in New York.
DAVID FROST: What about congestion charges, is the proposed price still £5 a day? Is that still the plan?
KEN LIVINGSTONE: Oh yes, I mean but this is the last week and I'm reading the final consultations now, and I, I don't know, I've had thousands of people write to me, everyone from the AA and RAC down to individual members of the public. Of course no one's happy, but in all the thousands of representations I've had, no one has said here's an alternative. That's our problem. We either live with this congestion or we have to do something about it, and it won't be popular.
DAVID FROST: And at the moment you say it will bring in 130 million, you had hoped for 200 million so it's gone down a bit.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: Well it's gone down because the equipment's much more expensive than we expected, but also that is the low estimate, it might, it might be as much as 150 million.
DAVID FROST: When could you do it? Might you not wait until after the next mayoral election?
KEN LIVINGSTONE: Well it could come in in about a year. Or I could put it off 'til after the election. It does seem to me that if you can do it, the congestion is so bad you should do something about it and not try and con people. People should have a right to see does it work before they get to decide on whether or not to vote for me again.
DAVID FROST: So you may, you may delay it?
KEN LIVINGSTONE: No I -
DAVID FROST: But you'd like not to.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: I, I - the congestion is so bad, it's one of the main reasons firms don't want to relocate to London and one of the things that makes the quality of our lives so bad. And the pollution.
DAVID FROST: And Ken, the Tube, is the battle over and now you're going to try and make the best of a bad job, or are you going to do one more legal challenge?
KEN LIVINGSTONE: Well if, if they win we will do, make the best of a bad job but it is such a bad job. I mean I said, I was on Newsnight with Stephen Byers and I said what's the rate of profit on this rate of return, oh you'll, that will be in the figures on Monday. And it isn't in there. And we think it's most probably the case that the profit margins on these contracts are so big that in the first three years I mean they will have covered all their expenditure and all the rest of the 27 years is pure profit. And to get the figures down to something that's even as low as that, they've had to put back all the modernisation. It looks as though, going through the contracts, there will be no major modernisation, they're just going to do maintenance for seven and a half years and tart up the stations.
DAVID FROST: So you're going to carry on the battle ¿
KEN LIVINGSTONE: We'll carry on the battle. I think MPs are going to be horrified when we write to them and say look, A) there's going to be no improvement in the underground before the next general election and possibly none 'til the one after that.
DAVID FROST: And what about, you mentioned your dealings with Stephen Byers there, were you surprised with Jo Moore leaving after she'd been so close to all of his work or are you thinking of signing her up?
KEN LIVINGSTONE: (LAUGHS) No, I mean I don't have any vacancies on my staff at the moment. I mean I'm not surprised, I mean so much had gone wrong. Once the press gets the taste of your blood it's difficult to get them off but I must say this, I mean I found it with once you leave aside the underground, I've got a good working relationship with Stephen Byers. I mean we have this thing I, the first time I saw him -
DAVID FROST: That's a bit, that's a bit - apart from that how did you enjoy the play Mrs Lincoln.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: (LAUGHS) Well it is but I mean, put it this way, when I went in to see him the first time after he got the job, I said I've got 18 issues I need to raise with you, he said let's deal with PPP last. And on the other 17 we actually had broad agreement.
DAVID FROST: But all the papers, two or three today and yesterday, have the phrase that spinning in this government, spinning has got out of control they say. You've been on the receiving end of some of this spin, do you think it's got out of control?
KEN LIVINGSTONE: I, it's, I think there's a problem in that what we call New Labour there isn't a moral framework of right or wrong, that's been replaced by winning or losing, and so you will do anything in order to win. The trouble is that so offends, but people aren't stupid, they see what's going on and when they tried to rubbish Kiley, I mean it was just counterproductive. I mean I was on the receiving end of three or four years of it, I mean people still voted for me. I remember ¿ Bill Clinton was given advice by Dick Morris, the Republican strategist, he said stop spinning, stop managing the news agenda, you're the government, get on and govern, if you do it well they'll re-elect you. And I think that's what I would say to Tony Blair.
DAVID FROST: And when there comes the moment to re-elect you or otherwise, at that particular point in 2004, will you be standing as an independent or back in the fold of the Labour Party?
KEN LIVINGSTONE: I haven't a clue, I'm waiting to hear.
DAVID FROST: Well let us know.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: Happy Chinese New Year by the way.
DAVID FROST: Thank you very much.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: The Year of the Horse.
DAVID FROST: The Year of the Horse.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: Clearly not going to be the Year of the Tube.
DAVID FROST: No, no, will it be the Year of the Tube, that's the question.
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