Ah, Brian Paddick. He's almost as much of a media figure as Boris Johnson, which is pretty well why the Lib Dems opted for him as their challenger to the court of Ken (as we noted at the time). This Londonista even remembers sharing the same South London air with the erstwhile police commander during his softly softly stint in policing the mean streets of Lambeth (our notional file on him recalls his Paul Dacre-baiting antics of personally downgrading cannabis possession and proclaiming his anarchist tendencies on the Urban75 website). As we and every other pundit with a modem predicted way back, "short of a major scandal or untimely death", now it really is a three-way race between Ken (and his alter-eco ego Sian), Boris and Brian on May 1st and he's the first of these to answer our questions and for that we salute him.
Why do you think you should be Mayor and what policies would you bring to the office that would make you stand out against the other candidates?
The current Mayor is tired, out of ideas and no longer listening to Londoners. People on the streets are telling me they are fed-up with Ken Livingstone but they want a serious alternative. Londoners want someone who has a track record of making London a better place to live, someone who can run City Hall competently and free from allegations of malpractice, someone who can get the guns and knives off the street and end this senseless killing of our young people. I was a police officer in London for over 30 years, reducing crime, building better relations between the police and the public, effectively running large organisations and liaising effectively with local councils and central government. I can do the same as Mayor.
Where do you live in London and what do you like best about it?
I have lived in Mitcham, Tooting, Sutton, Pimlico, and Westminster. I now live in Vauxhall. It has great bus, tube and train connections and I can walk to the office, the West End and Covent Garden, all within half an hour. I live close to the river and shops, clubs and bars are just along the road. It’s a great place to live.
How do you personally travel around London?
When I was at university I used to cycle everywhere and when I was in the police I had a police car that I could use off-duty (no – it didn’t have ‘jam butty’ stripes but it did have blue lights and two-tones behind the radiator grill!), so I know the problems motorists and cyclists face. Now I just have my Oyster card and my Network Rail Discount Card. I rely on public transport so I am desperate to get it working better.
What is your policy regarding irritant noise from mobile phone music players on the tube and buses?
On the buses, people should be able to complain to the bus driver, who should be prepared to get out of the cab and talk to young people causing a nuisance, calling for assistance on the radio if necessary and refusing to take the bus forward unless they behave. I also want to increase the back-up to drivers so they can deal with these incidents with confidence, with more mobile patrols by police officers and PCSOs dedicated to safety on the buses. It is less of a problem on the tube, which is very noisy anyway, but watch this space for news about putting guards on every tube train to deal with these types of problems.
Would you have introduced the Congestion Charge and if not will you repeal it?
The streets of central London were never designed to take all the cars that want to use them, so something had to be done and the Congestion Charge is an option, although it penalises those who are less wealthy, which is a problem. The trouble with the existing scheme is it is so easy to forget, so much so that 20% of the revenue is from fines rather than normal charges. I would introduce a system where people have their number plate read and are sent a bill through the post, once it reaches £50. That way, you could travel into London six times a year without having to pay anything and you would never get fined for forgetting to pay on the day.
Do you support the building of a new runway at Heathrow and how would you reduce your own international travel if you become Mayor?
Both the British Airports Authority and those campaigning against a third runway agree that over 10000 flights a year are to destinations that can already easily be reached by train. Even top business representatives in the City do not believe the case for the third runway has been made; I oppose it. As Mayor I would concentrate on developing links and encouraging tourism with Europe and travel everywhere I could by train. I certainly see no reason to travel to Venezuela or Cuba!
What would be your vision for the city by 2020 and how would you achieve it as Mayor?
I want to see a London where everyone, from the poorest to the richest, are proud of our city and the opportunities it provides and as a result, every Londoner wants to do whatever they can to make London an even better place. I want everyone to see public transport as a safe, reliable, comfortable and affordable alternative to travelling by private car. I want to see a London where everyone can be themselves, whatever their beliefs, background or lifestyle and can enjoy their lives free from the fear of crime and intimidation. Whatever I need to do to achieve that, I would do it in consultation with real Londoners, listening directly to them, understanding their concerns and acting to deal with their priorities, not mine.
Do you have any London-based trivia our readers may not know?
My father was a police officer in the mounted branch and kept the crowds in check on horseback during the General Strike in 1926.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
Sick of the tube – the delays, the line closures, the heat and the overcrowding but not sick on the tube.
By 'Race4CityHall', image from the big man's Flickr pool.
Sian Berry (Green Party)
Gerard Batten (UKIP)