Londonist Interviews: Mayoral Hopeful Warwick Lightfoot

By Londonist Last edited 137 months ago
Londonist Interviews: Mayoral Hopeful Warwick Lightfoot

The third of our interviews with the Tory candidates for London Mayor. Previously, Victoria Borwick and Andrew Boff.

Warwick Lightfoot has, no doubt, spent a lifetime tolerating jibes about his Tolkeinesque name. He's also acquired an outstanding CV that includes stints as Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea, Special Advisor to the Chancellor and 20 years experience as a councillor. Most impressively of all, he's the first Tory candidate to admit to vomiting on the Tube. Read on...

Where do you live in London and what do you like best about it?

I live just off Ladbroke Grove. The best thing is the Portobello Road, my neighbours and the fact that I live directly opposite the 23, 52 and 452 bus stop. It is a very mixed community. There is a lot of social housing like Galsworhty House opposite me. I have lived there for 25 years and I have neighbours, who have lived in the street since the 1940s. Our local community is under a lot of pressure. Our shops and local market face huge commercial challenges from rising commercial rents to competition from the supermarkets. In my street alone we have lost our laundrette, the stationary copying toy and everything shop and our bookshop.

How do you yourself travel around London?

For shorter journeys I walk otherwise it is bus or tube. And I realise that I am spoiled by having a bus stop opposite my front.

What is your policy regarding irritant noise from mobile phone music players on the tube and buses?

It is straightforward anything is fine until it interferes with other people, where there is a problem Transport for London staff should be able to deal with it.

Would you have introduced the Congestion Charge and if not will you repeal it?

I am against road pricing. It rations road space by driving low income people off the road. The need to use car or van does not neatly correlate with income. So I would not have introduced it. Nor would I have introduced in the manner that the present Mayor has done with deliberate changes to London's traffic management, that has undone the whole purpose of the scheme, which was to speed up traffic. The western extension of the zone has been a huge mistake in terms of traffic management and flew in the face of the results of the public consultation. Given the contracts involved no serious Mayoral candidate can glibly talk of getting rid of the congestion charge. I would want to review its operation, look at variable charging rates, windows in the day when it might be lifted and I also would want to review the western boundary of the zone.

Do you support the building of a new runway at Heathrow and how would you reduce your own international travel if you become Mayor?

I am against the building of a new runway at Heathrow. An airport on the scale of Heathrow should never have been developed so close to so many residential communities in Greater London. There is no acceptable case for Heathrow's expansion. BAA should concentrate on ensuring that it offers better value for money for the passengers who currently use it by providing better and more comfortable facilities for travellers. There are important competition issues that need to be gripped by the competition authorities to ensure that BAA treats people travelling to London more fairly.

As far as my own travel is concerned I am reluctant to go on planes. I am not afraid of them, but I do not like my ears popping and the whole experience of being in a pressurised cabin. As Mayor of London my job will be to work for the people of Greater London, concentrating on the things that matter directly to them. I will not attempt to run any sort of Toy Town municipal foreign policy. I will be prepared to travel to promote London when it is really necessary, but I will make fewer foreign trips than the present Mayor, because I shall be concentrating on London rather than trying to run an alternative foreign policy.

Why do you think you should be Mayor and what policies would you bring to the office that would make you stand out against anyone else who wants to be?

I am a Londoner. I was born in Barnet and I have been involved in London politics as a borough councillor for 20 years. I know and understand the challenges that Greater London faces. As an economist who has held two of the top advisory jobs in Whitehall at the Department of Employment and the Treasury I know how to make the case for government investment in London's transport system to central government. I appreciate that London is governed by a complex web of institutions from central government departments to the London borough councils. I understand that for the Mayor of London to offer Londoners genuine added value you have to be able to work with other people.

Londoners tell me they want world class public services that match London's international status as a capital city, they want value for money from the £10 billion that is spent through City Hall and they want their tax bills to be controlled. I am offering a programme of public service reform that will ensure we get both world class public services and value for money.

What makes me stand out: my own life experience. I was born into a single parent family. My mother had left my father, because he beat her up and brought me up on her own. She had the same worries about money, getting a house and childcare as other single parents. I had little interest in school until I was about 15, but thanks to the teachers at my comprehensive school I managed to get the opportunity to go to a good university. I have had similar life experiences and my family faced many of kinds of problems that thousands of Londoners have. It has given me a practical appreciation of real social need and the importance of giving families pportunities.

London has booming financial markets and is the powerhouse of the UK economy, but London also has the highest rate of unemployment of any UK region. Thousands of Londoners are trapped in unemployment on estates across Greater London. There is no a shortage of jobs in London, but Londoners do not get the work that is available. I appreciate the need to ensure that London's prosperity is translated back into jobs for Londoners living on our estates and I have the experience and a team of advisers that I believe will enable me to tackle London's entrenched unemployment problem.

What would be your vision for the city by 2020 and how would you achieve it as Mayor?

London must be an exciting and electric place to live and work. My vision is of a world city with the successful financial markets and the exciting arts and cultural scene that we have got today, but matched by the high quality public services that Londoners expect. There will be new railways lines such as Crossrail and the Chelsea Hackney line.The tube will be clean, air-conditioned and will work efficiently. London's buses will have windows that open enough, so that they are properly ventilated and they will be driven with consideration for the passengers. There will be more trees, London will be greener. The lasting legacy of the 2012 Olympics will be better sports facilities not just at Stratford, but throughout the communities that make up Greater London. It will be safer with more police on our streets and better management in the Metropolitan Police Authority. And work will be underway on planning Greater London's big infrastructure investment that will ensure that London flourishes and is safe. As well as planning for better transport part of that work will be planning better flood defences and a new Thames flood barrier.

Do you have any London-based trivia our readers may not know?

Yes. My granddad as a 14 year old boy was going round Whitechapel in a pony and trap with his father in 1911, when he witnessed the siege of Sidney Street. A group of armed anarchists led by Peter the Painter robbed a jewellers and took refuge in a house in Sidney Street. The Police called on the army for help and Winston Churchill as Home Secretary directed operations in what would now be called an incident.

Have you ever been sick on the tube?

Yes. I had some sort of viral infection, left work early in the afternoon and was pretty ill.

Would you vote for this man? If so, click the 'recommend' link below.

By 'Race4CityHall'

Image taken from Warwick's campaign site, which includes podcasts and an RSS feed. Good man.

Last Updated 10 August 2007