THE BLOG

A Night on the Stump in Westminster and Harrow

24/11/2014 11:18 GMT | Updated 21/01/2015 10:59 GMT

It's 10 30 pm and I am tired, but tonight has emphasised to me why I embarked on this long process of trying to become London's mayor - and I thought I would set it down before the satisfaction I am feeling about the evening has dissipated.

First, eschewing my bike because I had two meetings to go to and needed to get to Harrow by 8 30pm, I took the Tube to Westminster to speak at the AGM of the Labour Transport Group. They had invited all the Mayoral candidates - or non-candidates - to come along but in the event there was only Diane Abbott apart from me. She spoke first as she knew she would have to go and vote, and while still not declaring her candidature, made it plain she intended to stand and campaign on diversity.

Then after she left, I spoke for around 15 minutes and was warmly received. I emphasised that London's transport system needed to be more affordable. Ordinary people could no longer afford to live in central London and therefore they should not be penalised by having to pay much higher fares for living further out. A one hour bus ticket, for example, would be a simple innovation to help them.

Then I had to dash off to Harrow West CLP whose offices fortunately are near West Harrow Tube station on the whizzy Metropolitan Line. I gave a speech focussing on Boris's record, transport, housing and the mayoral process.

The questions were friendly but well-informed and the toughest came from a young man at the back who asked about devolution and the Green Belt. After I replied - I am all for devolution but some will have to be to the mayor as well as the boroughs which makes for difficult answers when talking to councillors, and am very wary of Green Belt development - he complimented me on the way I answered what he said were 'exam-style' questions. Another chap asked a question about the mayoral process and then said how pleased he was that I was standing, even if I didn't win as I would raise the right issues and that it was great to see someone who was not an ex Cabinet minister and not from the Westminster village throwing his hat in the ring. 'You've got my vote' he said.

My vision of creating a more affordable, liveable and sustainable London has resonance in the grassroots. They know that Boris has helped to create a divided London, one where only the rich can afford to live and use its facilities to the full. That is the key aspect a new mayor will have to work towards changing. Rent controls for private tenants, a greater supply of social housing, more affordable transport, and sustainable jobs - all those must be top of the agenda.

The chair, Jeff Anderson is a train fan and asked about trams. There were, too, questions about QPR from the local Assembly Member Navin Shah, which made it all very jolly and indeed the whole group of around 20 people were wonderfully friendly and engaged.

As I went to leave, the first young man came up to give me his card and it turned out he was David Perry the leader of the council. He said how much he enjoyed the presentation and to drop in for coffee next time I was in town. Then a really young man, Abdul who is 17, asked to have his picture taken with me and said he had written a piece about why Ed Miliband should be Prime Minister - and I asked him to send it to me.

I have now got round nearly half the CLPs in London and spoken in all at around 70 meetings. It is evenings like this that show there is a thirst for debate and a desire to see people who are not career politicians enter the fray. And it is evenings like this which make all the hard work worthwhile - and thanks to the kindly shopkeeper who heated up the two samosas that were my dinner in his microwave. Next week Cities of London and Westminster, Orpington and Hackney & Shoreditch.