As the London mayoral election approaches it is time for each of the parties to choose who their candidate will be. I recently went along to one of these hustings to see the Conservative candidates that could become mayor. Each of the candidates were surprisingly different despite the obvious crossovers in policies. The four candidates that had been shortlisted for the mayoral candidate were Zac Goldsmith, Syed Kamall, Andrew Boff and Stephen Greenhalgh. Each of them was different with Andrew Boff towards the right of the Conservative spectrum and Zac Goldsmith the clear favourite amongst the supporters. It was interesting to look at how each of them prepared themselves as this was not a normal hustings. Each of the four candidates had a 3 minute opening then a 15 minute interview with the same questions asked to each one. Although it did not supply as much excitement as the usual kind of hustings it allowed the audience to come up with their own conclusion on the performance of each candidate.
Stephen Greenhalgh was the first of the four candidates to speak and his track record put him forward as a likely successor to Boris Johnson. He has previously worked as deputy mayor so his experience in the sector is well justified. However, his nerves were clear to see and the least competent speaker of them all. He may be a very good politician but not necessarily the best at being the front man for the Conservatives in London. Despite this he did make some excellent points on the current housing crisis with a suggestion towards using GLA and TfL land for a “right to build” scheme. This was much like the plans of the other three candidates. Each of them recognised that housing is a big issue to Londoners and that at least 40,000 homes need to be built every year with great success than previous years.
Andrew Boff was the next candidate out of the green room and gave an impression much like the new labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Andrew went for a more casual look with a non-matching suit without tie in order to appear more relaxed. To myself and a few around me it just seemed scruffy. However his message was opposite to Corbyn and a very right wing candidate. In looking at terrorism and how to combat it in London Boff wishes to knock down unused administrative buildings and reinvest in the policing system. He believes that if the police are asking for more resources such as guns then they should be given it automatically. I understand that he means if the police need something for their jobs then they should get it but his point seemed quite controversial. Each candidate seemed to suggest an increase in policemen on the beat but failed to give statistics and goals. Zac Goldsmith and Syed Kamall suggested that London was a target for terrorists and that we need to start from the grassroots to prevent citizens of London from going abroad to support terrorist groups.
Zac Goldsmith was the obvious favourite for those in the room as the introduction showed. His policy against another runway at Heathrow has made him popular with the green party as well as those in the local area who have to live with the noise of the planes from Heathrow. Goldsmith has a clear popularity with those in his constituency as well with his majority increasing in the last election as well as a majority in a referendum that allowed him to become a candidate for mayor. Air pollution was one of the main topics that appeared and his statement was that the congestion charge does not help the situation with air pollution as it just simply reduces congestion, so an increase in price would not help those around. It would instead lead to more people becoming frustrated with the current Government.
Finally Syed Kamall enthused with energy appeared on stage to round off the night. He was the candidate that surprised me the most, his passion was sincere and his points unique and valid. He suggested that crowdfunding could help to expand cross rail so that those who would potentially use it can invest to help to make it happen faster. Furthermore he would introduce a referendum on a Thames Estuary airport to make flying easy for London businessmen and residents. What struck me most was his plans on the environment. He courteously complimented Boris Johnsons’ work on an ultra-green zone as the other candidates did throughout their interviews. However, he mentioned the use of Zip Cars to reduce emissions as well as the improvement of electric car facilities. This consisted of an introduction of standard car batteries which could be swapped at charging points so that an empty battery could be placed in and a full one taken away.
Each of the candidates clearly want to be the next mayor of London and their desire for that comes through. One aspect that I did not expect was the criticism of the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan whom they each called a machine politician and I certainly did not expect this towards all Conservative voters. All Conservative party members now have the opportunity to vote for their favourite candidate and hopefully the results will be appearing in the coming weeks. I don’t usually look into the short list for each party but it was quite interesting to see the different choices for each party and I very much look forward to the debates between parties once all the candidates are chosen.
This article was written before Zack Goldsmith's selection as the Conservative candidate.