For political parties in London it’s choose-your-mayoral-candidate time.
A couple of weeks ago the Greens selected Sian Berry as their candidate for the May 2016 election; any day now the LibDems are expected to announce Caroline Pidgeon is their woman for the race; and on Friday Sadiq Khan upset all expectations except his own and won the Labour Party ballot for the position. The Tories are expected to announce their man for the job by the end of the month.
UKIP too is selecting and reckons to announce the party’s mayoral candidate in a couple of weeks. And, as it happens, I’ve thrown my hat into the ring…
I was enjoying the white beaches, blue skies and blistering heat of Sardinia last month when the news website Breitbart London, jointly run by Nigel Farage’s former election strategist and right-hand man Raheem Kassam, published an assessment of UKIP’s ‘runners and riders’ for the mayor contest. Kassam reckoned my ‘tough stance against gay marriage’ and my campaign against the London mega-mosque could cause the party ‘operational and public relations problems’ – but nonetheless scored me 6/10.
Then, on successive days over the August Bank Holiday weekend, Breitbart published each candidate’s responses to ten key questions, seven of which were common to all and three of which were tailored to the individual. The other candidates’ responses are here: Suzanne Evans, Richard Hendron, Elizabeth Jones, David Kurton, Shneur Odze and Peter Whittle.
I was abroad and I missed out on the Breitbart exercise, but my formal party interview was postponed until this coming week. So here are my responses to Kassam’s questions and assessment:
Question 1: What makes you the best person to represent UKIP in London in 2016?
AC: For three decades I have lived and worked at street level in east London which is about as far from Boris’s Westminster/Whitehall/City Hall bubble as a Londoner can get, and my track record for standing up for ordinary people against the establishment powers-that-be is as good as anyone’s.
Locally I cut my political teeth campaigning – both successfully and unsuccessfully – against the council’s social cleansing, imposed top-down ‘regeneration’ and the large corporate developers who make people’s lives a misery.
I have lengthy experience of UKIP-style grassroots and outsider politics. For a time I was the sole Opposition councillor on Newham Council and, later, leader of the small Opposition group. In 2008 I stood for London Mayor against Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone and also for the London Assembly.
Q2: If it were a straight choice, would you rather be a London Assembly member or UKIP’s Mayoral Candidate?
AC: In May 2016 I’d rather be UKIP’s Mayoral Candidate. The May election almost certainly will be held prior to the vital EU referendum and I want to bend every sinew to promote London’s own case against the EU.
Debating at hustings with Sadiq Khan and maybe Zac Goldsmith about London in the EU will be a great high-profile opportunity to promote the ‘Leave’ campaign.
Q3: Uber – are you for it or against it?
AC: I am in favour of commercial competition in principle, and we’ve seen that under pressure from Uber the black cabs recently reduced their fares for off-peak long-distance rides. This is good for the customer.
But the black cab is an iconic part of London scene and a safer choice especially for women at night. It must retain its privileged status as, for instance, the only taxi that can be hailed on the street.
Q4: Tube strikes and union drivers. What is the solution?
AC: The tube drivers’ unions held us to ransom before the Olympics and filled their wallets at our expense. They must not do it again.
So, eyeball them and see who blinks first.
Advertise externally for new drivers and introduce driverless trains as soon as possible.
Q5: How do you feel Boris has done as Mayor? What would you keep, what would you change?
AC: He’s brought fun, laughs and global media attention to London. When he retires as mayor next year he ought to do stand-up at the Hammersmith Apollo rather than on the green benches at Westminster. He also removed the western extension of the Congestion Charge zone.
But he and his Russian billionaire friends who push up property prices simply do not understand London’s burgeoning housing crisis caused also in part by mass immigration. Ordinary young people – the future of the capital – cannot afford their own home and are being squeezed out by the lack of affordable housing.
Q6: What are the best things about London in your estimation?
Q7: What are the worst things about London in your estimation?
AC: The widespread poverty caused by London’s exorbitant cost of living.
Also the personal pushiness on public transport that is threatening to the elderly and vulnerable. I’d welcome back some old-fashioned English queuing!
Q8: You left the Christian Peoples Alliance party and joined UKIP. Why?
I left CPA in 2012 having been variously joint-founder, leader and CPA local councillor since 1999. I had no major issues with the party. I just thought I’d done my bit.
I met UKIP MEP Gerard Batten in 2008 when we both stood for London Mayor and he started encouraging me to join UKIP. Four years ago or so I sat on the same political panel in Tottenham as Nigel Farage and he impressed me by his forceful but, then, politically lonely opposition to the EU. In 2012/13 UKIP confirmed its gutsy anti-establishment status by standing alone against the imposition of gay marriage by the metropolitan political class.
In 2014 I threw in the towel and joined the party.
Q9: You have run a lengthy high-profile campaign against the proposed Tablighi Jamaat mega-mosque at West Ham. That can’t make you an attractive UKIP candidate to the Muslim community can it?
AC: When I started the campaign in 2006 I got all the knee-jerk insults – racist, Islamophobe, bigot, Christian crusader, the lot. But while I strongly opposed these mosque plans and the separatist ideology behind them, I like and respect Muslims and slowly bit by bit this message got through.
Further, I campaigned closely with moderate Muslims who also oppose the fundamentalist Tablighi Jamaat ideology and their mosque plans. There is no single ‘Muslim community’; there is a variety of ‘Muslim communities’.
Lastly, I live in the Green Street West ward of Newham which according to the 2011 Census has the highest concentration of Muslims in London. They are my neighbours and I like and respect them even when I don’t agree with them. I think they know that.
Q10: You took a strong stand against same-sex marriage. That isn’t going to get UKIP votes from the LGBT-types.
AC: Alone of all the national parties, UKIP too stood against same-sex marriage. This gained the party a lot of recognition and votes from social conservatives like me.
The gay marriage debate centred on adult rights and issues and ignored the rights and nurturing needs of children. Also, in order to make their legislation fit the lifestyle of many gays, the government – like a monster Ashley Madison – deliberately undermined the loyalty and faithfulness implicit in traditional marriage.
But currently there is no political will to repeal the Act and, like UKIP, I do not seek to do so.