Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
The Lib Dem who would be mayor answers your questions
Q: Isn't the post of mayor of London the most fascistic post ever devised in British politics, doing away with pluralism and concentrating so much power in one person? Don't you feel a bit uneasy about standing for such a post.
Furthermore, I must say that as a resident of Cambridge I'm disgusted
that Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London have all been granted devolution, but the rest of us suffer under the continuing impotence of city or county councils with limited executive and fund-raising power. The Lib
Dems aren't doing enough to see that other regions of the UK have to
chance to get local empowerment.
One of the reasons I'm running for mayor is that I think the first mayor is going to establish the blueprint and I'm determined that that ought to be an inclusive blueprint where you really do involve the members of the assembly, reach out to the community, involve the boroughs, the voluntary sector, business, individuals, residents, pensioners - so that this is a very different style of government.
I do agree that there is a real risk that someone could come in and form this as a one-man band type of post.
I'd love Michael Kilpatrick to come to a Lib Dem conference because he would find out that Liberal Democrats are pushing very hard to get regional governments across England. Talking with people as we do out in the community there's a real disenchantment with politics because of this feeling that power is all the way away in Westminster and that even local boroughs and local councils have very little control over what they do. People are asking for that power to be brought back locally. I'm very much a supporter of English regional government.
BBC News Online: Would you like to see mayors right across England?
A: It doesn't have to be a mayor system. I like the idea of an assembly system. If it must be a mayor system I think it is very important that somebody is there who is determined to be inclusive and will involve the broader community.
Q: Why is there a Lib standing for London Mayor when you have zero chance of winning without encouraging the mandatory deportation of Libs from throughout the country to the capital?
A: I think we do have a very good chance of winning. The two other parties are rather in disarray - they're both divided. You can look at the Conservative Party or the Labour Party. If you look at the Labour Party, they've often said that, if Ken Livingstone wins the nomination we'll get half the Labour Party voting for us and if he doesn't then we'll get the other half. So these parties really are split.
But it's a different election. People in London are looking for someone who can solve their problems. My business background in finance and transport may not have made me a celebrity, but it's given me the skills to really put together answers to London's problems - practical solutions to the problems of Tubes, buses and trains, tackling the problem of crime, looking at the regeneration of deprived communities.
News Online: It seems what you said in your speech today and are saying now is that you think you are going to win because all your opponents have problems of some sort.
A: I think I'm going to win because I have a very strong message and because I have a good background and skills. It's up to the other parties who they choose to put up against me. We've been the first party to select and I'm very proud of my party in making the decision to go for someone who in a sense has a non-traditional background and recognises the importance of actually solving problems in London.
News Online: It was quite a negative speech you made today though, considering it was your first major speech.
A: Well, teasing the other candidates was a relatively small part of the speech. All the rest of the speech was based on policy and what I intend to do.
It's true that people then focus on the jokes because they like them and it's a chance to laugh, but it does also make a point that our party has made a choice for something different, for choosing someone with a very distinctive background and as I say I think our party has done the right thing in doing that.
Q: To show that you are really serious about solving the terrible congestion problems we face in London, will you set a road traffic reduction target for London? Would you endorse that suggested by the London Planning Advisory Committee?
A: We have already set road traffic reduction targets and the Liberal Democrats have as a party, looking in fact for quite a stern target of something close to a 10% reduction by 2010.
So in London as mayor I'll be putting together a programme that very much looks at road traffic reduction because we do much need to improve public transport and we can't do that without making more room for buses. And in addition we have serious air pollution problems. And the economy is really damaged by the gridlock we've experienced. But the key to it is really getting better public transport.
I have to look again at those targets [set by the LPAC] as we go out and develop our programmes. We will be setting targets. We'll be doing it quite publicly. It's important to have a target to work to, for people to test you against.
Q: Isn't a bit embarrassing to be the mayoral candidate for a party that doesn't believe in mayors?
A: We always said that we preferred a different system, but we were not going to step out of the arena if the system we wanted wasn't chosen. We think it's actually more important that a Liberal Democrat is in place because it will ensure that the pattern for mayors is set as a very inclusive one and a very consultative one and that's the goal that we want to achieve.
Q: The contest for London mayor is perceived as a two horse race between a high profile Labour candidate and a high profile Conservative candidate. Should your party have chosen a proven candidate, such as Simon Hughes? What can you do to make it a three horse race?
A: There are eight months and by the end of that you'll know my name quite well. It obviously means that I have a lot of work to do, but I'm not afraid of that. I'm enjoying very much the campaign, which is going out on every high street in London because I want to talk to people directly. I want to explain my policies to them, have them tell me what their issues and ideas are. That's the way I think I will become known and it's the way I want to become known, as someone who's gone through this consultative process in London.
News Online: Have you been on a lot of high streets so far?
A: We've been on about five high streets so far, but in a very quiet way because we've been trying out how this works best. We don't want to disrupt the traffic as much as anything else and to make it easy for people to come and talk to you. I will be launching the high street campaign shortly after the party conferences.
Q: Don't you believe an elected GLA will only create a further level of bureaucracy for London? Do you think that building a new home for the GLA is a waste of money which could be spent on improving the Tube, cleaning the streets, better housing?
A: Personally, I'd much rather have a much simpler building. All we need is offices to get things done. And if there's going to be a celebratory building for London at some point I'd be quite happy for that to be off in the future, after London has dealt with some of its key problems.
Q: In the referendum last year there was a great deal of apathy in many boroughs. How are you going to create enthusiasm for the position of mayor?
A: There's much more enthusiasm in the mayor's race because it's about issues that affect people at eight o'clock in the morning when they go to work. That should significantly help.
I didn't see a lot of campaigning in the referendum. There were leaflets through people's doors and there was a little bit on television, but nobody was really going out and campaigning on one side or the other. That's why we're determined to take our campaign out on the streets and also to use technology like Websites.
News Online: Is it going to be a nasty campaign?
A: It will be interesting to see what sort of campaign is going to be. There will be times when we tease each other, but that's part of being in this world. But most of the time I hope we'll be talking about issues, just as I did in my speech.
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