The former Respect Party MP now wants to be the London mayor
Controversial ex-Respect MP George Galloway is officially launching his campaign to become the next Mayor of London at a rally this Sunday.
But can he make a better mayor than Boris Johnson? Here’s what he told LondonLovesBusiness.com:
Q. Tell us a about your London mayoral bid – what’s the kind of response you’ve got so far?
I’m getting ready for the launch of our campaign on Sunday. All the signs are very positive – I’ve seen a tremendous surge in people writing to me to support my bid for London mayor. It’s been a terrific start actually.
Q. Has Boris been a good London mayor?
I think Boris has been a disaster. Leaving aside his personal peculiarities, he’s been indolent and incompetent. His eye has not been on this ball but on another ball namely succeeding David Cameron as the leader of the Conservative Party, as these Bullingdon Boys imagine being their inheritance. He’s been a disaster for London.
No projects by him are in the pipeline. When he became the mayor, all kinds of things that Ken Livingstone had done, from the Olympics to the bikes, were already coming through. However, Boris will leave with nothing coming through. He’s achieved nothing and there’s nothing in the pipeline that can be attributed to him.
For me, it’s been eight wasted years.
Q. Do you think you’ll make a better mayor than Boris?
Of course, Boris is a personality, like his predecessor Ken Livingstone. But now I think London wants a personality of a strong mayor and not a parade of mediocrity that other parties have shown. I think none of them have quickened the pulse of any Londoner.
Q. What is your vision for London?
I have five priorities which are housing, policing, jobs and the economy, culture, and most importantly, more power for London in this era of devolution. In among Scotland, Wales and the so-called “northern powerhouse”, I feel that London is being left behind in terms of recognition for its contribution to the national economy.
Our slogan is a “London for all” the sub-text being “Not just for those dripping gold”. In the last five years, London has been ruled by the elite and for the elite. We’re going to change that.
Q. What do we do about housing in London?
We have to end the situation where foreign buyers are buying properties as a safety deposit box. We have to stop them from parking money in London homes in the belief that they can’t lose money. We’ll take action against those people who’ve caused a surge in empty properties in London.
We’ll insist on 50% of all developments being social housing. This was the policy of Ken Livingstone’s but Boris Johnson cut that to 25% and that was never achieved – but we’ll achieve it. There will be no planning permission given unless the development has social housing.
Millions of people are being driven out of London because they can’t afford to live in the capital. Londoners have more right to be in London than those who aren’t Londoners but can afford the huge price of buying or renting in the capital. We need the people who work in London to be able to live in London. We can’t have people travelling from the coast coming in to do essential jobs in London.
Q. What are your thoughts on immigration?
I’m an immigrant myself, my grandfather migrated from Ireland. The immigrant story is a positive one – immigrants come to Britain to work hard and not to exist on dole money. In every country, where this has been immigration, this has been the case.
Otherwise the United States would have been the poorest country in the world and Bangladesh would be the richest.
Q. What is your key transport policy for London?
We can’t have the high-price, sardine-tinned solution that we currently have. We have to think laterally and outside-the-box for sorting of transport for London. We need a mixture of tackling of demand and tackling supply.
Q. Do you identify as a Londoner?
Well, I was a London MP and I’ve lived here for almost 35 years. My children are born and brought-up here, went to British schools and speak in a London accent. You can definitely call me a Londoner.
Q. A question from one of our readers – how do you feel about reports that the taxpayer is paying £16,000 a week for Tony Blair’s security?
London is paying for all this because of the officers are from Metropolitan Police. In fact, Londoners are also paying for Julian Assange’s stay at the Ecuadorian embassy.
London is paying for all these things that are of national importance. Of course, we have to protect the Queen but she’s not the Queen of London alone but she’s the Queen of the whole country. Why should London pay most of the bills for all these things?
Q. What are your thoughts about Tony Blair?
It’s absurd, I’m making a film called “The Killing of Tony Blair” and it deals with this topic. This man is shameless. I don’t know if he ever had a conscience but he clearly doesn’t have one now.
Q. Your received a lot of flak for your foreign policies on an appearance on Question Time earlier this year, what are your thoughts on the appearance in retrospect?
I was a victim in the Question Time appearance. I didn’t do anything wrong by turning up for a BBC programme, I’m entitled to do that in any part of the land. I think the people who disrupted the show harmed their own cause and not mine. That said, I’m not using the mayor of London to make a difference in foreign policy in the UK.
My views on foreign policy are well-known. If they would’ve listened to me, the world would be a better place. But the mayor isn’t the foreign secretary or the Pope or any kind of president. As the London mayor, my focus will only be on a “London for all”.
Q. What do you think will be the result of your legal action against the General Election results?
I’ve launched a legal action under section 106 and the police are investigating that. It’s a very serious legal complaint. I think that election result will be set aside in the course of this investigation and will create a by-election in Bradford. However, I will not be a candidate.