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Last Updated: Friday, 28 May, 2004, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
My London: Darren Johnson
Green Party mayoral candidate Darren Johnson
Darren Johnson thinks London wants a radical mayor
Darren Johnson, the Green Party candidate for Mayor of London, tells us how congestion charging has improved the city, why Londoners want a mayor with a radical vision and how he won his first election as a Tory.

Why do you want to be the Mayor of London?

The reason I stood last time was because it was a good opportunity for us to present a different vision of London and to try and get representation on the London Assembly.

The reason I am standing this time is that I look at Ken Livingstone's record and I look at what the other two are offering and I know that I can do a better job.

I also know that Londoners want a radical vision and don't just want a "business as usual" approach.

They are prepared to try out new ideas and want something different and that is what has inspired me to run.

BIOGRAPHY
1966: Born Darren Johnson in Southport, Lancashire
Studied A- Levels in English, Theatre Studies and Journalistic Studies
1987: Becomes member of the Green Party after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster
1990: Moves to London
1994: Gets a first class degree in Politics and Economics from Goldsmiths College
2000: Runs for Mayor of London
2002: Becomes a Lewisham councillor
2004: Lives with partner in Brockley, south-east London
What do you think of your competitors?

At the last election there was a tremendous amount of hustings and it felt like a travelling road show.

In a way none of us fit the bland, stereotypical politician type. We are politicians who are outspoken and project our personalities.

With Steve Norris [Conservative] and Ken Livingstone [Labour], because we did the mayoral race together last time, there is a rapport there. We whisper jokes to each other at hustings and take the mickey out of the other candidates.

I think less so with Simon Hughes [Lib Dems]. I don't know if it because he is the new boy on the scene or just because he is a bit more straight laced and boring than the rest of us.

Where have you lived in London?

In 1990 I was living in Hull and I had been there for three years. I was getting a bit fed up and decided it was time for a move.

A friend of mine had moved down to London so I packed up my bags and followed him and we moved in together in Wembley.

And in 1994 I took a degree in Politics and Economics at Goldsmiths.

I have lived in lots of places across London like Finsbury Park, Golders Green and Lewisham.

What was your first impression of the city?

The size obviously but I think a lot of visitors to London don't necessarily understand the Tube map.

You know how to use the Tube but you don't necessarily appreciate how close the stations are in central London.

I remember the hilarity of going back to the office when they found out I got the Tube from Tottenham Court Road to Goodge Street instead of walking - it was typical "small town boy from up north" stuff.

My first memory of the city was coming here with my parents back in the '70s.

I remember the markets, like Petticoat Lane and the Underground when smoking was allowed on the trains. I went into one carriage and it was just a fog. Thankfully that was banned.

LONDON FAVOURITES
Green Party mayoral candidate Darren Johnson
Restaurant: Raj Bhojan in New Cross
Bar/pub: The King Richard pub in Greenwich
Museum: Tate Modern
Park: Greenwich Park and Oxley Woods
Romantic place: Crossing the Thames - the Millennium Bridge
Common misconception about Londoners: That we're all the same and we're all wealthy
What was your first job in London?

I got a job in accounts with an advertising firm in Goodge Street. I was bored out of my brains.

How do you find Londoners?

I love them. I also think in terms of politics there are certain feelings in London that aren't apparent in the rest of Britain.

In London we tend to be tolerant in terms of issues around race and asylum - it is not middle England. At the moment, politics nationally is dominated by the concerns of middle England. London is much more ambitious and radical - thankfully.

Name one thing that you have seen improve in the city over time.

One real improvement has got to be the introduction of congestion charging.

There aren't many traffic management shemes or transport policies where you can see a dramatic difference from day one - but you can with congestion charging.

We still have some appalling traffic problems but that has been a huge step forward.

Many of the policies that I am pushing in my manifesto have been tried and tested elsewhere
Darren Johnson
Name one thing that has become worse.

The divide between rich and poor is growing. It becomes obvious when you look at spiralling property prices where ordinary people are completely unable to get on the property ladder.

If I was moving to London now I wouldn't have a hope of affording the rent, never mind buying a property.

What can London learn from other cities?

We can learn from cities like Stockholm where they have introduced low emission zones to ban the most polluting vehicles.

We can learn from Barcelona how they have used their planning powers to get solar panels on new buildings.

Many of the policies that I am pushing in my manifesto have been tried and tested elsewhere.

Who is your London hero?

Sir Joseph Paxton. He was the man behind the 1851 Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace. But he was also the first person to come up with the idea for a London underground railway, although they did not go with his idea in the end.

Tell us something about yourself that people might find surprising.

In 1979 we had mock general elections at our school and I won, which was a great start to my political career.

But to my shame it was standing as a Conservative Party candidate.




SEE ALSO:
My London: Ken Livingstone
27 May 04  |  London
My London: Simon Hughes
26 May 04  |  London
My London: Steve Norris
25 May 04  |  London
Mayor of London election candidates
14 May 04  |  Politics


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