It was announced in the past hour that Boris Johnson, Conservative MP for Henley, former editor of The Spectator and basically a witty toff who is best being a TV presenter, sometimes brilliant, sometimes a cringeworthy clown, has been selected to be the Conservative candidate for the Mayoralty of London.
Unlike in NZ, the Mayor of London has wide ranging powers, these include setting the budget for the Greater London Authority (GLA) , the Metropolitan Police, Fire Brigade, Transport for London, London Development Agency. These roles are being extended to include planning powers, strategic policy on waste, culture and sport (!), climate change and board appointments for GLA bodies. In other words, a helluva lot.
Ken Livingstone is a Marxist who does deals with foreign wanna dictators, eagerly wastes Londoners money and essentially despises the productive and well off, treating the GLA as a vehicle to apply socialism to London as best he can. He sees himself as knowing what's best for Londoners in housing, business and transport - he hates the private car, but has little interest in dealing with the chronic overcrowding on public transport, he hates traffic congestion but runs the congestion charge more as a penalty system than traffic management - he wants more housing, but wants to specify and dictate what he wants - he wants less crime, but doesn't want to confront the public housing ghettos that both breed crime and destroy property values.
In short, he should go, and sadly Boris is the best alternative. Boris's thoughts so far are somewhat encouraging. He wants to be tougher on crime, closer to a New York model to be intolerant of small offences that add to fear of crime and insecurity. He wants to change the way buses are funded so that companies who run them are incentivised to give good service and generate fares, not just operate a route. Beyond that he is seeking ideas, and wants to spend the money collected for the GLA more efficiently. So I have a few ideas:
1. Pay the Police based on how local residents perceive safety for themselves and their property, which means tackling all crime that matters to people - assault, vandalism and theft. A zero tolerance approach may take a lot of courage, but it could change much of London.
2. Get out of the way of housing, and don't encourage more public housing ghettos. Much valuable land is taken up by appalling council housing operations that have essentially abandoned families in environments of squalor, it is time to seriously confront this and consider options for selling or demolishing them, and opening up more land for construction.
3. Be courageous on transport. The buses can run at a profit if you get rid of politically correct concessions and charge people more to use them at peak times. The tube could have significant investment in it if it cost significantly more to use at peak times (pricing the tourists onto off peaks). Make operating and maintaining London streets a separate corporate activity and demand a comprehensive study into best practice maintenance and traffic management, which by the way probably wont reside in anything done by UK local authorities including TfL - Ken virtually ignores street management. Open up investment into new roads in London to the private sector, you might be amazed at how and where some new toll highways might make a huge difference to traffic in London - if Crossrail can be a multi-billion pound tunnel, you can do the same to complete ring routes.
4. Treat waste management on an objective cost/benefit basis. Encourage recycling to be a privatised activity and waste collection to be on a competitive cost recovery basis.
5. Don't do anything on culture and sport, cheerlead the Olympics, but people don't need politicians to help them to play, just stay out of their way.