Alison Cork is an entrepreneur specialising in home interiors, and a television presenter. She is the fifth Conservative Mayoral hopeful to answer our questions.
Why are you standing for Mayor of London?
I’m a Londoner born and bred, as are my children, and I feel a great emotional attachment to our Capital. I’ve lived all my life in London, and built my businesses here. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that London has defined me. It has certainly given me my opportunities in life, for which I am very grateful. I want London to be a City of opportunity for as many people as possible. A place where people feel safe, respected and inspired to fulfill their ambitions. It’s a joint effort, as I think that we all as individuals have our part to play, and a responsibility to contribute to our individual communities. But those communities can only thrive if London provides the infrastructure to support its citizens. That’s what I want to see done properly and why I want to be Mayor.
What sort of campaign should the Conservatives run?
I think the Conservatives should run a positive campaign which addresses the issues closest to the electorate. Whilst it is right and fair to comment on the track record of the incumbent mayor and his failings, a truly strong campaign has the courage to focus on what it is offering to the public, as opposed to what the opposition is not doing. In London that has to include crime and housing, but there are many other issues besides, including transport, environment, education, the face of retail and London post-Brexit. I also think this election will be fought largely through social media, as that is increasingly how people digest and debate news. Having said that, I think there is absolutely no substitute for meeting people face to face and hearing what they have to say, and from a personal perspective, this is one of the aspects of campaigning I find most enjoyable.
What would you do to reduce crime?
As with any challenge – I would look at both the short and long term solutions. What are the quick wins and what needs time, planning and investment. For me a quick win would be to put bobbies back in direct contact with residents in their patch. There are roughly four million households in London and 30,000 police – so if as an exercise, each bobby spoke to 2-3 households a week just to establish a contact and have a brief conversation – that’s London covered. Think of the potential positive impact. I also think we need more, not fewer, community centers to provide a supportive space for young people. I would also advocate a weapon amnesty – every little helps. I would be tougher on sentencing for violent crime. Longer term I would look at how other cities have reduced their crime rate and take learnings from that.
What would you do about housing?
Ideally, we need bespoke housing solutions for the 21st century, and whilst we can and should repurpose existing housing stock, I would also look to the many unused or underutilized industrial estate areas, which can have considerable square footage, to create self contained communities with a mix of housing and the services needed to underpin the community. I also think we could use the vacant space around transport hubs, particularly some train stations, more productively. This would be especially relevant in commuter belt areas. I also have some tax efficient proposals to enable employers to help their employees on the housing ladder.
What would you do to improve transport?
It goes without saying that bus and train services need to run on time and be affordable. Many people spend a large proportion of their working week travelling, and the least we can do is make that a palatable and reliable journey. In terms of London traffic, which is obviously closely linked to pollution levels, I would embrace driverless technology to reduce the number of cars on the road – the vast majority of privately owned cars spend 80 per cent of their time parked on the kerb. Let’s reduce that number, reduce pollution, traffic and travel times in the process, and make the cars that are on the road work harder.
Finally, whilst you haven’t specifically asked about business, I think it is incredibly important to acknowledge that 2.4 million people in London work in small businesses. These are people from every community and age group. These people and these businesses are the drivers of the London economy. I know from my own experience, they have to deal with all the challenges thrown at them day after day and they don’t have a voice as they are simply too busy doing what they do to ensure they can survive. London’s economy depends on the success of these businesses and workers and I have the experience to be their voice.