Stephen Greenhalgh was the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime and has also served as Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
Last night saw the farewell party for Boris Johnson - the first and only Conservative Mayor of our capital city so far. Boris is a political phenomenon and it has been a privilege to serve alongside him as London’s first Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime. Government and governance have become second nature to me after a decade in the engine room of London government. However Boris taught me that the Mayor of the greatest big city on earth needs to do more than govern.
The zenith of the Boris Mayoralty was the Olympics.
I remember Boris offering to take me to lunch and it took about 30 minutes to get to the restaurant as tourists and Londoners from all over the globe wanted a selfie with the blond one. I have not experienced political celebrity like it and he is the greatest political brand of my generation.
I was encouraged by Boris to have a bash at the Mayoralty. Once in Shepherds Bush in 2008 he asked me if I wanted his job. I answered in a shot: “Of course!”. Who in local government wouldn’t want to be Mayor? Therefore I went for selection this time around and was supported by Conservative Home whose lobbying got me on the Conservative Party ballot.
Then Andrew Boff, Syed Kamall, and I were all trounced by Zac Goldsmith for the Conservative Mayoral nomination. A hard campaign finished with us losing City Hall by some margin. Apparently, private polling indicates that Boris could still have won London. This would have been an incredible electoral feat for someone who has been in high political office for eight years in a city that has grown younger and more diverse.
In all Mayoral elections the public need a clear message and an effective messenger. I have no doubt that Zac was the best Conservative candidate this time around. Nonetheless I would like to think that my campaign message was on the right lines. I vowed that as Mayor I would make London less expensive for hard-working people by cutting Tube and TfL overground rail fares by three per cent annually, saving an average commuter £900 over four years. Unfortunately this put me at odds with Boris who had pledged to “invest” or spend taxpayers’ money to deliver the Tube upgrades after years of chronic underinvestment under Ken.
I still believe that my pledge was deliverable even after the government removed TfL’s revenue support grant over the comprehensive spending review period. Fare payers should support the running costs of the Tube and not become the “piggy banks” that prop up TfL’s capital programme. Currently TfL appears to be more like the Mayor’s piggy bank rather than a lean and efficient public transportation network provider.
If a Mayor focuses TfL on both making and saving money, I believe that you can protect or even increase capital expenditure. A combination of increasing TfL’s revenue from external sources and selling off just some of TfL’s extensive landholdings is the key. This was the approach that worked for the Met police who have kept police officer numbers at around 32,000 despite finding £600 million savings over four years.
By putting bobbies before buildings and selling off old Victorian police buildings as well as New Scotland Yard, we raised £1 billion to reinvest into frontline policing to create a new era of “Digital Dixons” equipped with Body Worn Videos and tablets who can fight crime on the move, instead of being stuck behind desks in police stations.
Therefore, unsurprisingly, I believe that Sadiq Khan’s fares freeze for buses and the Tube is entirely deliverable, whilst maintaining capital investment in the network. Only time will tell whether Khan can or can’t deliver!