Newslinks | 4th September 2007

The NewsEditor

Boris Johnson Launches Mayoral Bid Boris Johnson successfully launched his mayoral bid yesterday. His campaign speech is reported, in full, below:

“If you want to know why I am campaigning to be Mayor of London, it is because I love this city and I want it to be greater still. “It is the direct result of London's success and of its population gain that we have the huge pressure on house prices which is the single biggest worry for Londoners. Of course it is the Mayor's job to set out a housing strategy, but I want to work with the boroughs and with locally elected politicians and experts to provide the most flexible possible solutions to our housing needs. We need to build houses that will still be sought after in a century's time for the quality of their design and their architecture.

“There is huge scope to help people on to the housing ladder with more imaginative shared ownership schemes. And lowering the bottom rung of that ladder, so that struggling young Londoners not only have a place they can call home but a stake in the equity of that home.

“And as a user of the Tube, as a user of the buses, as a motorist and as a passionate and committed cyclist who has cheated death on streets throughout the capital, I say it is time we got this city moving. It is time we Londoners had the transport system we deserve and so we need to be ruthlessly logical in our analysis of the Congestion Charge.

“Almost every day someone asks me whether I will scrap the Congestion Charge and my answer is that I am not going to scrap something that was sensible in its objectives without a better solution. If you look at the polls - as you must - you will find that most Londoners still think it a success in the sense that the number of cars in the central zone has gone down. “If it is meant to alleviate congestion, then it is certainly not working. If the decline in journeys within the C-charge zone has simply been matched by an increase in journeys around the perimeter, then it is carbon-neutral and an environmental fraud.

“If you want to find savings to help subsidise travel for those on benefits - and I don't disagree with the objective - then how about getting rid of The Londoner, a bizarre newspaper glorifying the Mayor and his works which costs us millions. Do that rather than doing deals with left-wing dictators so that Venezuelan slum children are effectively subsidising TfL.

“I think I speak for all Londoners who have sat in despair as we wait sweltering between Tube stations. We don't want any more buck-passing or blame-dodging or not-me-guvery. What we want is someone who will focus on getting the job done. It seems incredible to me that we can design a mobile phone the size of a credit card and yet we cannot produce a system of air conditioning small enough to fit in the Tube.

“And if you ask why I was chewing my tie in frustration on the Tube it was yes, because I had just had my bike stolen in Labour-run London for the seventh time in seven years.

“I want to use my powers to encourage more kids to take up cycling. My team is now investigating bike loan schemes for schools. But how can we encourage more cycling when those bikes cannot be kept safe?

“We need to change the culture of casual theft and incivility on our streets in which stealing a bike has become as mundane and habitual as spraying graffiti or spitting gum on the street or playing your music intolerably loudly on the bus.

“How often have we sat on public transport and watched as someone engages in provocative or aggressive behaviour? And yet it's no use us politicians asking the public to rise up against anti-social behaviour if they don't have the confidence that the police will be there to back them up. I have a huge respect for the police, their dedication and the risks they take. I want to beef up the Safer Neighbourhood schemes so that the Police Community Support Officers are figures of real authority and respect.

“I want to make sure that in giving under-16s the right to free bus travel - which is a good idea in principle - we are not just turning our buses into glorified getaway cars for the minority of thieves and vandals who threaten to wreck the privilege for everybody. To tackle the problems in our society, I believe in supporting the grassroots organisations that do so much good in steering kids away from crime and towards lives of achievement and fulfilment.

“And at the same time my team is looking at the costs of 24 hour policing because it is when you build up people's basic confidence in the police presence that you and I finally have the courage to insist on the politeness and consideration that make such a difference to our lives. “I promise you that as Mayor I will be wholeheartedly on the side of the active citizen and against the thugs.

“I glory in the diversity of this city. I will use the Mayor's new powers over Adult Education to promote the unifying role of our common language especially among the poorest and neediest in London and as Mayor, I will work as hard in the interests of Zone Six as I will for Zone One.

“It is only right that London should get some lasting benefit from the Olympics, and at the very least it seems to me there should be discounts for children from all London households.

“I reserve the right to make jokes but be in no doubt that I am deadly serious in this campaign. Over the next few weeks and months there will be people across the City who will be discovering that I mean business as I unveil my Cabinet for London.

“Londoners invest heavily in Britain and in London and they deserve a better return on their investment. To that end I hope you will begin by making the small investment of voting for me.”

The launch attracted much favourable media attention, with the Sun in particular keen on Boris' words regarding bendy-buses. In addition to this speech, the Johnson campaign team released a number of pledges, some of which will be of great interest to readers of LondonUnlocked (highlighted below)...

Develop a plan for 24-hour Safer Neighbourhood policing Explore sanctions for those under 16 who abuse free bus travel Use the Mayor's communications budget to promote understanding and integration – not himself Lobby the Treasury for a better deal for all Londoners Develop English language teaching - not just courses but looking for innovative ways to reach out to communities, allowing them to reach their full potential and access services Work with business to secure proper, employer-based apprenticeships Protect the Freedom Pass and make sure TfL doesn't overcharge boroughs Look to design a new iconic bus that Londoners can be proud of, and phase out the dreadful bendy bus Secure a firm commitment to Crossrail Make the Congestion Charge fairer and more flexible Investigate bike loans to school children Plant more trees Be a procurement force for and with boroughs – helping to provide better value for money Increase sporting facilities for London children Develop a Cabinet for London Butt out of local planning decisions Increase shared ownership schemes – allowing more people on the housing ladder

LondonUnlocked has put in a bid with Boris Johnson's campaign team and hopes to run an interview with him soon.

Tube Strike Update

As the BBC reports, the planned Tube strike went ahead, and looks to continue until the early hours of Friday morning, bringing misery to thousands of commuters.

Faster Eurostar Debut

Eurostar is set to make its inaugural journey from London to Paris on new high speed lines, allowing it to cut journey times between the two capitals by 20 minutes. The BBC reports:

Seven services to Paris and five to Brussels will start running from Ebbsfleet from 19 November and a ticket office has been opened at Bluewater Shopping Centre two miles from the station.

Trains have always travelled along the French section of the route at high speeds, but were forced to slow down on the British side because they shared a track with commuter services in and out of London.

Richard Brown, chief executive of Eurostar, said: "Today marks Britain's entry into the European high-speed rail club.

"We can now run trains at high speed all the way from the Channel Tunnel to London, making journeys between cities quicker, more convenient and far greener than flying."

He said journey times to Paris, even for people travelling from Yorkshire, would be broadly the same as for those flying due to lengthier check-in times at airports.