“As mayor, I will stand up for London and work to make it greater still”: interview with Zac Goldsmith, Conservative candidate for Mayor of London

By - Thursday 17th March, 2016

After speaking to Labour’s Sadiq Khan, Andrew Hamilton-Thomas interviews Conservative candidate for London Mayor, Zac Goldsmith

Photo by Andrew Parsons, used with permission.

What makes you passionate about London and what is it that you want to see and plan on changing if you win office?

I was born and raised in London, and I love this city: its achievements, its deep sense of possibility, its confidence in its many identities. Under Boris, we’ve bounced back from financial crisis to become greatest city in the world. I’m in this race to protect that success and make it work for Londoners across the board.

My plan will start to fix our housing crisis by doubling house-building to 50,000 per year, growing our transport network to unlock the land that we need to build. It will make our streets safer by giving our police the tools that they need. And it will protect and improve our living environment by cleaning up our air and investing in green space.

As mayor, I will stand up for London and work to make it greater still. I look forward to continuing to work with Steve O’Connell, who is a great champion for Croydon and Sutton, and working together with the government to secure the necessary powers to fund the Tramlink extension to Sutton.

The need for affordable housing, better transport, a higher living wage and the need for more police are just some of the issues that Londoners face on a daily basis. What are some of the issues that you’ve come across when speaking to the residents of Croydon and Sutton on the campaign trail, and how do you plan on addressing these issues if you’re elected as London Mayor?

I have visited both Croydon and Sutton on many occasions on the campaign trail and residents have raised a number of issues with me including the Tramlink extension to Sutton, the need for more homes and how we make our streets safer.

The only way to increase house-building in Croydon and Sutton is to close the gap between supply and demand, which is why I have committed to doubling house-building so that we deliver 50,000 homes per year by 2020. I will do this by ensuring that any land with housing potential has the road, rail and tube links that it needs to be viable for development, and ensuring that we make the best possible use of all public sector brownfield land around the city.

“I will support the sensitive use of intelligence-led stop-and-search to decrease knife crime, an issue which I know concerns many in Croydon”

To keep Croydon and Sutton’s streets safe, the police must have the resources and tools that they need to keep us safe. I am pleased to have worked with the Home Office to successfully protect the police budget, which means that neighbourhood policing in every community across London can be protected. Crime has fallen by 18.4% under Boris – but violent crime among young people has increased.

As mayor, I will clamp down on knife crime by working with the government and online retailers to stop the sale of knives without proper age verification. In addition, I will support the sensitive use of intelligence-led stop-and-search to decrease knife crime, an issue which I know concerns many in Croydon.

But to do all of the things that Croydon needs we have to have a strong economy, and a mayor who can work with the government to deliver. That’s what I can offer.

Some say that your affluent upbringing puts you out of touch with understanding the needs and frustrations of Londoners, particularly in areas such as affordable housing and better transport. What do you say to them?

I know that I was dealt a good hand in life but I have always worked hard to play that hand well: to stand up for what I believe in and to challenge things that were wrong. That’s what brought me into politics.

Voters should judge me on my record. The people who know me best, my constituents in Richmond Park and North Kingston, gave me a big thumbs up at the last election, returning with the biggest increased majority of any sitting MP. You don’t get a result like that by failing to empathise on bread and butter issues like housing, crime and transport.

Sadiq Khan, by contrast, turned the safe Labour seat he inherited in 2005 into a marginal. That tells you all that you need to know about how the people of Tooting feel about his record.

Boris Johnson promised Croydon residents an extension to Sutton and Crystal Palace, which he wasn’t able to deliver. You’ve pledged to take up the baton if elected, but there’s still a big question mark as to where the funding is coming from. Can you expand on this now?

I am a big supporter of the tram and am keen for the network to be extended to improve access to public transport in South London. Outer London needs better transport links, particularly in boroughs without the tube like Sutton, which is why I am backing the Sutton Tramlink extension which will create new jobs and unlock land for thousands of new homes.

As mayor, I want TfL to keep a greater slice of the property price uplift in order to finance transport infrastructure projects like the Sutton Tramlink. TfL have confirmed that much of the cost of the Tramlink could be met this way, with the remainder coming from local businesses through business rates and TfL’s existing capital budget. But we will need new powers from government to make it happen, which is why it is so important that London elects a mayor who can work with this Conservative government to deliver.

The current mayor has said that the Crystal Palace extension remains a potential future opportunity, and that the next step is to get greater clarity of what is planned for the Crystal Palace area. That’s what will drive the potential demand volumes and route for the extension.

When I asked Sadiq about the current situation with the trams he stated that Boris cancelled Ken Livingstone’s plans for the extension back in 2007-8 and that the implication that he drew from this is that if evidence from the past is what we can rely upon, you can’t believe a word that the Tories say. What’s your response to that?

I have stood up for my local community in parliament for six years, delivering on my promises to them – which is why they returned me with one of the biggest increased majorities at the last election. I am proud of my record and I will stand up and deliver for all of Greater London, just like I have for Richmond, should I be elected mayor in May.

Khan’s claims about the tram extension do not hold up to scrutiny. Ken himself admitted as mayor that “TfL had not been able to actively develop the Sutton extension”.

“Londoners have no idea what they’re going to get with the Corbyn-Khan experiment”

Sadiq Khan has a record of flip-flopping on issues which matter to Londoners. Despite claiming that he opposes building on the Green Belt now, Khan has a record of supporting it. In 2008 he tried to justify it by saying “last time I checked, we were an island”. In 2009, he was the minister who led on plans to build on the Green Belt as part of the South East Plan, claiming that it was “essential to increase housing stock in the area”. And just last month, Khan said “building on the Green Belt would be something we could look into”.

This isn’t the only time that he has u-turned dramatically. Khan now opposes Heathrow expansion, but in 2009 he told the Evening Standard he was “firmly in favour” of Heathrow expansion.

This is yet another example of just how unprincipled Sadiq Khan is. He is perfectly willing to contradict his entire record in office in order to get elected as mayor. As a result, Londoners have no idea what they’re going to get with the Corbyn-Khan experiment. But if they judge him by his record, as opposed to his fantasy promises, it is clear that he presents a massive risk to London.

We’ve seen video interviews with Sadiq on your Facebook page with the caption, “Khan can’t explain how he’ll pay for his £1.9bn transport experiment – which means that you will”. When I presented Sadiq with this, he responded by saying that he has a fully funded package to freeze fares over four years, and that you’d have to explain to Londoners whether or not you’d have to increase fares by 17% if the number that you put on the cost of his transport project is correct. What would be your response to that?

TfL has publicly confirmed that Khan’s fares policy will cost £1.9 billion, and experts agree that the money just isn’t there to freeze fares. Khan himself said on the floor of the House of Commons that taking money out of the transport budget would mean “less investment” and “more overcrowding”. Khan’s experimental fares pledge would leave Transport for London with a £1.9 billion black hole, meaning that he would have to cancel essential transport upgrades, hike mayoral council tax, or cut mayoral funding to the police and fire service.

Even TfL commissioner Mike Brown has confirmed this at City Hall and professor Tony Travers has confirmed that Khan’s fares freeze means that “money wouldn’t be there” for tube upgrades which would mean ‘more crowding’ for Londoners.

My action plan for Greater London will ensure that the night tube goes ahead, start Crossrail 2, strengthen strike laws and protect the freedom pass – so that Londoners can move around their city easily. As mayor, I will be able to work constructively with government to secure funding for Crossrail 2, whereas Khan has shown no ability or willingness to work with this government and can only offer unworkable experiments that will hurt London.

Any closing statements for Croydonians and Londoners?

Over the last eight years, Boris has put London back on the map, but our city’s success hasn’t yet been felt by all Londoners. This election is a chance to lock in and build on Boris’s achievements, ensuring that everyone feels the benefits of our city’s successes. As mayor, I will stand up for Croydon by aiming to deliver a train every 15 minutes, by devolving suburban rail services to TfL, and cracking down on knife crime and gang violence.

Andrew has interviewed Zac Goldsmith’s Labour opponent Sadiq Khan, and will speak to all of the candidates for Croydon and Sutton’s seat in the London Assembly. Read all of his articles here.

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas

Andrew is a BA Hons graduate in Politics with Media and Culture studies from Kingston University with a strong interest in current affairs and the media. As well as being politically active in Croydon North Labour Party, he is also a regular contributor to the online current affairs magazine, The Orator and a regular feature writer for Premier Christian Media Trust. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMaurice7

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