Now one election is over, it is time to start preparing for another one. Though I suspect most of you will be less interested by this one as it only affects London; the London Mayor and Greater London Assembly election. It has been my plan for some time to run as a GLA candidate for the Conservative party, having helped them battle at the last election. But the other day someone said to me "you're running for Mayor?". I laughed and said "no, no, I don't have the experience", thinking she was joking. She said "and what experience do you need to have to be Mayor? I can't see the others being any better qualified". This got me thinking. Is this something I could do? The answer of course, is yes.
I have over the last few years become angry at a minor elite in politics, pushing out the regular person, the little guy. I love and believe in Conservatism, but I do not believe in my life being dictated to me by a small group of people who went to Oxford and Cambridge, studied PPE and grew up with millions of pounds in the bank account (and that goes for Labour and the Lib Dems too).
So I have decided to throw my hat in and try and be selected as the Conservative candidate for London Mayor.
And this is what I propose to do:
• Improve the stock of housing for low income workers in London
• Sign up business in London to provide a living wage
• Improving the bus network in tandem with investment in the underground
• Improving the living spaces of London; growth in green spaces and air quality
• Eliminating child poverty in London by 2021
• Continue making London a fantastic place to do business
This how I would do it:
Housing - The simple fact is, there are too many people coming to London and not enough homes being built. Of those being built, too many are being bought as buy to let investments or as foreign investments. Those described as 'affordable' are often clearly not (£440,000 for a one bed flat! Come on developers) and rents are so astronomical it is almost impossible to save. I'd do the following:
• Allow private developers more latitude to build, but require 25% of the property to be sold to the government as social housing at a discounted rate. The developer can sell the remainder as they please. The government can then allow low income workers to 'rent to buy' the flat at a means tested affordability rate. This then allows the low income workers to buy the flat while renting and still gets a return on investment for the government. It would also be an opportunity to replace some of the horrific social housing stock with higher quality homes.
• Require landlords and agencies to give insight of local rents and rents paid by previous tenants to prospective tenants. This way, they know they are not paying above the odds
• Establish a public register of government/council owned brownfield/surplus land to be offered to private or public bodies able to develop it
• The introduction of a Help to Build risk sharing loan guarantee which will enable small developers to access adequate finance
Living wage - It is criminal that people in London (and the rest of the UK) need support from the government to live because the minimum wage does not support them by itself. This year the living wage is £9.15 an hour in London. I would motivate companies to pay their staff this living wage and for all those who do sign up to it, they would see a decrease in NI and tax payments to ensure they do not have to cut staff in order to pay the living wage. Steve Hilton, Cameron's former strategist, believes this would increase the tax and national insurance take by £2.8bn and reduce welfare costs and bureaucracy by another £1.4bn, a net benefit of £4.2bn. He proposes cutting the same amount from companies' national insurance payments.
Improving the TFL network - Two major things:
• Invest in automation on the tube and remove train drivers. It's mad that in London we pay drivers over £60,000 a year while most countries have driverless trains. I've been on the DLR and it works. Not only will it save money but it also eliminates the threat of strikes from greedy transport workers
• Invest more in buses, ensuring they are on time and more regular. The bus network is fantastic and is a lifeline for most working people in London, myself included.
Improving living spaces - London's air quality is dire and estimates believe it contributes to 10s of thousands of premature deaths. It makes our quality of life lower and simply doesn't make it a nice place to live
• The first step is not to just reduce diesel vehicles, but to ban them from London. Diesel vehicles can produce 22 times the amount of microscopic Particulate Matter and 4 times the amount of Nitrogen Dioxide - both a big concern for health as they can damage lungs and blood vessels and are a cause of heart disease and strokes. By 2021 I would ensure not a single diesel vehicle was in London
• Investment in cycling - Making cycling safer and a more attractive option for Londoners is critical to improving the environment and reducing pollution. Sky-ways are an option for the future in busy areas and we should consider building them to make cycling safe. But cyclists, you have a role in this too. More stringent rules on bike safety, such as wearing a helmet, using lights and banning use of mobile phones and listening to headphones while cycling. Some of you are entries for the Darwin awards according to the way you cycle
• No congestion charge for electric-only vehicles, while some very busy areas (such as Oxford Street) would become bus, taxi and electric vehicles only at certain times.
Eliminating child poverty in Britain by 2021
It is disgraceful that in 2015 we have child poverty in Britain. Not only that, out of the 10 worst performing constituencies, 6 are in London with 3 constituencies having 40% or more child poverty. That is simply unacceptable. I would propose reducing this by:
• Dealing with the housing issue and promoting a living wage, as mentioned earlier, will go a long way
• Signing up London's big business and entrepreneurs to finance a major effort of philanthropy, with new ideas and resources targeted at improving young peoples' lives
• A focus on training and education for young parents to give them support in getting back into work and setting a positive example for their children to follow
A fantastic place to do business
All this costs money, and in order to have the resources to invest, we need fantastic business in London. Improving the environmental quality and investing in TFL will help this, but more work needs to be done in the following areas:
• Enhance funding for apprentices aged 19-23 to boost higher level qualifications gains. This will not only help business but also young people seeking work.
• Investment into London airports. Gatwick and Heathrow are in daft locations, with long and slow journeys to them to travel. A new, massive hub airport which will serve Britain for the next 100 years is needed to ensure we can continue to grow our businesses with international partners.
• Liberalise change of use from offices to shops and vice versa
These would be my priorities. So what do you think people? Nick Mazzei, the bro-mayor, the comprehensive school boy, the outsider, being Mayor?