If there’s anyone who knows London like the back of his hand, it’s Ken Livingstone. Having fronted the then Greater London Council from 1986, been an MP and the first elected mayor of London from 2000, it’s safe to say Livingstone’s a man of the capital.
Livingstone lost out on a third term as mayor to Boris Johnson in 2008, but has announced his campaign to get back into office in 2012 – a vote for which anyone from Commonwealth countries can register.
We meet Livingstone, 65, in the Labour Party HQ, Victoria to quiz him about the big issues London faces in 2011.
How are Londoners feeling this year?
Everyone’s really miserable. VAT’s gone up, Boris has put the [rail] fares up, the party’s over, they’ve run out of money, they need something to cheer them up. I can tell them: It’s only another 16 months of this tyranny at City Hall.
What does 2011 hold in store?
This is going to be a really catastrophic year. You’ve got the government making all the wrong decisions; you’ve got Boris making all the wrong decisions.
It’s ‘goodbye’ to your library, it’s ‘hello’ the potholes, it’ll be all the cuts they can make the quickest. At the same time you’re getting a reduction in police numbers, so you’re bound to get the increase in crime because kids are wandering around with nothing to do. Less coppers to catch them.
I’m always squashed on the Tube in the morning – is it going to get better?
We need to be planning Crossrail 2 or 3 cos the expectation is that the population is going to carry on rising to nine million, and if you don’t put in the extra capacity, it’s going to be a nightmare.
Are the 2012 Olympics on track?
What’s being built is what was designed. Seb Coe and I built in to the contract …to keep the government and the civil servants away from it. That’s why it’s a year ahead. The question is that the level of security is just dependent on policing.
My worry is if we’re going to see a cut in our policing … [The Games] are such targets for Al Qaeda.
Will there be more student protests?
It depends on the lead the mayor gives to the Met. People have got a right to a peaceful protest and the mayor should specify where that is so that kids who go there will be safe. There’s been a real failure to plan for this properly.
How will government plans to change the visa limits affect London?
Firms not being able to bring talented people in to fill the gap our education creates is nonsense and will be damaging to the economy. If [the government] improves the education system, you create home-grown talent for all these jobs, but simply by introducing visas, doesn’t mean to say some kid who’s not doing too well in school is going to be uplifted by that.
What has Boris done well?
He’s carried on with many of the projects I started [bike scheme, East London line] – for that he deserves my congratulations.
What’s Boris got planned for 2011?
The real problem will be if Boris was elected to a second term, then the mayor who took over in 2016 would say … nothing’s being initiated. So London at the end of this decade will really look as though it was really failing and falling behind as it was in the 1990s after a decade without pro-active regional government.
What are your campaign issues?
After of a long time of celebrity politics I think issues are back in a way since we haven’t seen since the Cold War. Our economic mess, where we’re going with climate change…
What drives you?
A lust for power [laughs], but wouldn’t it look it better to say a sense of duty and service? I love politics, I love ideas, I love running things.
– Carol Driver