Victoria Borwick is Deputy Mayor of London. In this interview, she gives Parliament Street’s Charlotte Kude her prospects for London seats in the general election and for the upcoming mayoral election.
CK: From your experience as Deputy Mayor of London, what are the biggest issues that the city is facing at the moment?
VB: “I think the main thing is that people want to have money in their pocket so it’s really important that we can make sure that we go on helping the economy to recover. Boris has done that obviously, by freezing the council precept that people pay on top of their council tax for the cost of the GLA. And of course he also brought it down. If you think that every year that Ken Livingstone was in power he raised it raised it raised it and Boris said no, that’s got to stop. It’s people’s money and we’ve got to respect that people need to have their money in their pockets. So I think the economy is obviously the first thing. Then I think people are looking to make sure they’ve got jobs or they can get apprenticeships for their young people. The good thing in London is that we’ve seen the unemployment rate go down, the employment rate go up and I think there is quite a positive boom right now. The one thing about Boris is that he is so positive about London, whether he is going out on overseas trips or with what he’s doing in London himself. His energy means that people want to invest in London, it means that people want to do well in London, want to trade in London, and as a result the London economy is doing really well. And of course if London’s doing well, most of the country’s doing well because so many people are dependant on their jobs, whether they work or whether they use TFL and crossrail construction projects. So when you look at the map of all the supply side companies, it’s really important that London does well. Then there are basic things like people just want to feel safe, and that is why Boris has insisted on keeping the number of police high at 33 000 and also crime continues to go down. We’ve obviously got to be vigilant but I think it’s really important that generally people are feeling safer.”
CK: Which of these do you think will most affect the result in marginal seats?
VB: “I think people will look around and see their local issues. They tend to look around their own locality and if they’re in work and they can get to work because the transport is working and they feel safe, then I think they are generally much more positive. Inevitably in an area like this, which is going to be affected by the mansion tax, people are going to consider it. I was quite interested about how that came up when I was talking to a few people this morning. They were obviously concerned. Some of these people have been living in these houses for twenty, thirty years and when they bought them, they weren’t worth two million, and now they’re saying why should we suddenly pay a tax for a house we’ve lived in for so long. We’re pensioners, we don’t have a lot of available cash and yet we’re going to be taxed on something, And they’ll think if the residents move out, there will just be more overseas people who might not actually live here but just buy it as an investment. I think people in London are very anti mansion tax because they can see that it isn’t beneficial to keeping communities together. I was born in London, I lived in London all my life, and one thing about London is that you ask a Londoner where do you come from and they say I come from Brixton, I come from Turnham Green and they always relate to a place where they live in, it’s their community. They don’t say they come from London. People see their area in London as their patch and I think that’s why it’s really important to keep those communities strong.”
CK: So you’re optimistic about our prospects for London seats in May?
VB: “I think the point is that all the candidates are working really hard. Lindsey Hall is trying to make sure that we actually win in Westminster North, we’ve got Angie out everyday with her troops in Ealing, and we’ve also seen a fantastic turnout for Mary this weekend. Last week I was out with Charlie Dewhirst in Hammersmith. We’re all beavering away trying to make sure that we win those seats and we’ve put over the conservative messages.”
CK: What about the GLA, will the next election be fought on the same issues?
VB: “I think people tend to vote about what’s going to affect them. I think you vote because it’s going to affect you. You have to make it important for people to say yes I do want to vote. Boris got in with a one million vote mandate, which is larger than any constituency, larger than some countries, and he fought for a one London. He didn’t fight for one particular part of society or another, he said no, this city needs to have the best services and be the best city it can be for everyone. And he is very strict in that sense on that. He wants to make sure that the policies that he brings in are good for everybody: transport policy, bringing down crime is good for everybody; it’s good for the old, the young, the sick, the disabled. And talking briefly about transport, we’re very pleased that all the crossrail stations are going to be disabled accessible but it’s not just wheelchairs, it’s people with buggies, it’s people with suitcases. It just makes London a much more welcoming city.”
CK: How crucial is it for the Conservatives to select a strong candidate for the mayoral election? Can we win London without Boris Johnson?
VB: “I think Boris is absolutely special. I wouldn’t be his Deputy Mayor if I didn’t think he did a fantastic job. As you know, he’s going off to be an MP and therefore we have to choose somebody who is going to be another advocate for London. The thing about Boris is he has gone out, he’s really pushed not only in the UK but also abroad, he’s been a fantastic figurehead for London, he’s encouraged businesses, he’s encouraged investments, and powers of the Mayor are not unlimited but what he’s done is he’s used his voice to be speaking up as to why London needs these investments, why London needs all this extra infrastructure. You’ve got to have somebody who’s prepared to speak up for all London, who’s not going to speak for one part of society, but who’s going to be someone who all Londoner are going to say ok, that’s the person who’s going to fight for London and I think that’s what makes it important. It is the most amazing job and we’ve already had several people who’ve put themselves forward to be candidates so we’ll just have to see how well they do in the selection process and hopefully over the next six months someone will step forward and we’ll all go yes, we’re going to get behind him or her and let’s win London for the Conservatives again!”