Page last updated at 09:38 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 10:38 UK

Interview: Winston McKenzie

Winston McKenzie
Age: 51
Family: Separated, five children
Education: Comprehensive school, South Norwood
Lives: Croydon
Career: Former boxer, motivational speaker,

To put it lightly, Winston McKenzie does not fit the usual mould of a London mayoral candidate.

The only independent, he is also the only candidate who claims to campaign in a 55ft "dodge ram" truck, "complete with banners and under-car flash lighting".

And he is surely the only candidate to have his own campaign rap: "My desire, is to take it to the wire, and see Ken retire."

But the former boxer must be taking it seriously - just to get onto the ballot paper was quite a struggle.

Each candidate has to secure at least 330 backers, including at least 10 from each borough - as well as a 10,000 deposit, returnable only if they secure 5% of first preference votes.

Without a party network to call on for help, Mr McKenzie's team of four spent hours cold-calling potential supporters and travelling across London to get the nomination forms signed.

Two property developers made a contribution to his fighting fund and he got on the list. Now he says he has got his eyes on the top seat at City Hall.

'Great ambition'

"It was hard, but I'm a pugilist. I've done a lot of cold calling and got a lot of great responses to my surprise."

"At the end of the day it's a question of how much do you want it? And I want it."

What he lacks in political support, he makes up for in self confidence - he says his father installed "this great ambition in me from a very early age" and the confidence to "strive for better".

Cut crime, more youth facilities
Reform congestion charge, scrap western extension
Lobby for better elderly care
More help for carers and mentally ill
Stop and search 'Lily pad' policy

"I want to run the country one day - the first black man in Number 10 Downing Street."

Born in Jamaica, he came to England with his family aged five. His father Dudley was a big boxing fan - which might explain why Mr McKenzie and three of his brothers all went into the sport. The most successful was the youngest, Duke, who won three world championships at different weights.

Winston McKenzie's own career was cut short early when he was diagnosed with two detached retinas. It was a crushing blow for the young Mr McKenzie and he admits he became " a bit of recluse" for a while and his marriage suffered.

But he decided to try to "put something back into society". Since then he has taken part in various projects, largely working with children in schools and with underachievers.

'Sticking plaster'

His long-time ally Marianne Bowness, a former mayoress of Croydon, introduced him to charity work - he has been involved with various Croydon-based causes.

He has also tried his hand at various jobs, working as a car mechanic, sales assistant, factory work, running a pub, lecturing in schools in greater London and setting up a "mini Olympics" for teenagers.

And he has been trying to break into politics. In 2004 as an independent at the Brent East by-election he came seventh with 197 votes, in 2005 he stood for Robert Kilroy Silk's short-lived Veritas party in Croydon North and picked up 324 votes, again coming in seventh.

It's impractical any politician to put a figure on how many houses they will build
Winston McKenzie

He had hoped to enter this year's mayoral race as a Conservative candidate under the party's "open primary" system.

Having said all that, being an independent seems to suit him. He says he is a rebel and would not do toe the party line anyway.

He certainly says things a mainstream politician would not. Getting more police on the streets is "a waste of money - that's just a sticking plaster".

Green issues, currently riding high on most political agendas, are not a priority: "I'm all for wind farms and a cleaner, greener society but I'm not prepared to break the bank."

'Feral' youths

Promises to build 50,000 affordable homes are "ridiculous" when the economy looks to be in trouble - "It's impractical for any politician to put a figure on how many houses they will build."

He added: "London does not need a career politician. I'm a man of the community, I understand what's going on out there."

He says the three frontrunners in the mayoral race do not know how to deal with knife and gun crime. He warns against an epidemic of "feral" children.

But he does not want to see more police: "Bringing more police on the streets is a waste of time and money, what we need to do is get to the root of the problem and create specific facilities. We want the children to be supervised."

Police officer searching man
Mr McKenzie backs stop and search if it is "transparent and fair"

His solution is to use school buildings to open up more after-hours youth facilities, making use of local youth workers and volunteers to give youngsters an opportunity to "better themselves" with activities like acting, music, arts, drama, IT and sports.

Stop and search is fine as long as it is "transparent and fair", he says, but it is essential each stop is recorded. To save time writing the forms, he wants police to be given a gadget allowing them to send information back to the office where it would be recorded - and the person stopped would get a ticket. He calls this his "lily pad policy".

On the congestion charge, he would change the timetable so it operates from 6am to 10am and 3pm to 6pm and would scrap the western extension immediately: "It's ruined too many lives and businesses."

Youngsters 'cheated'

He also feels strongly about care of the elderly, "horrendous" abuse suffered by old people in care and the "disproportionate" number of black people treated as mental health patients: "It is quite unfair."

But what is his motivation in trying to break into politics at all?

"Politics would give me a sense of power which I could use to help make a difference in peoples' lives, particularly our disenfranchised youngsters who I feel have been cheated by society," he says.

He contrasts his own "splendid upbringing" in the 1960s with what awaits youngsters today - he said people now have to pay, through private education, for facilities that he had enjoyed for free.

I detest racism as I have suffered that throughout my life, but I do not carry a chip on my shoulder
Winston McKenzie

"It's the rich and the well-to-do that are able to bring their children up reasonably well, those who cannot afford private education suffer immensely," he said.

As the only black candidate, he hopes to bring "inspiration" to people, particularly youngsters, but says race does not play a large part in his campaign.

"I believe that if you have the skill and the know-how and you can do your job, come forward. I detest racism as I have suffered that throughout my life, but I do not carry a chip on my shoulder," he said.

"My aim is to bring the whole of society together. We now live in a multi-racial society which makes us very rich."

The odds are certainly stacked against him, but Mr McKenzie - who is taking his campaign "battle bus" across London - does not seem overly concerned.

"My outlook on the mayoral race is that if it's God will, then anyone can win, from the least expected candidate to the very popular... If it's God will, I will be mayor of London."

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  Councillors Councils
Party +/- Total +/- Total
CON 257 3155 12 65
LAB -334 2365 -9 18
LD 33 1804 1 12
PC 31 205 -1 0
OTH 10 898 0 0
NOC - - -3 64
159 of 159 councils declared.

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London Mayoral results
Overall results
Name Party Votes
Johnson CON 1,168,738
Livingstone LAB 1,028,966
Paddick LD 878,097
Berry GRN 409,101

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Results in more detail

London Assembly Results
Overall results
Party Constit' Top-up Total seats
CON 8 3 11
LAB 6 2 8
LD 0 3 3
GRN 0 2 2
BNP 0 1 1

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