By Chris Papadopoullos, City A.M. 24th July 2015
5edcd6a5-ea9e-48ec-800d-f34d63008571Candidate Stephen Greenhalgh tells Chris Papadopoullos why he should be Mayor
“You know what, Chris?” he bellows in the middle of a crowded Westminster café, prodding at my arm. “You know what?”
“I’m the only candidate who has spent over a decade in the engine room of London government.”
Conservative Stephen Greenhalgh, deputy mayor for policing and crime, is certainly more bolshie blue than shrinking violet in his campaign to succeed London mayor Boris Johnson.
Tomorrow, he competes with six others for three spots on the Conservative shortlist for its mayoral candidate.
“I’m the only challenger who will start punching above his weight, and I’m already heavy” he says.
He claims to be someone who knows how to govern – “I’ve walked the walk,” he says. It’s hard to be sceptical.
In classic Conservative fashion, he slashed council tax by 20 per cent while he was head of Hammersmith and Fulham council making it the third lowest in London.
He was also successful in cutting crime. Under Greenhalgh, a drop in crime of 25 per cent followed his decision to put more police in the town.
His crime fighting success led to a call from Johnson, who appointed him deputy mayor for policing and crime.
Since then, victim-based crime across London is down 20 per cent and he has helped the Met Police make £600m in savings. At the same time, he ensured more money is spent on front-line policing, with 2,600 extra officers put in neighbourhoods.
Yet he has not been without controversy. Greenhalgh was recently forced to defend his decision to purchase three water cannons after home secretary Theresa May rules out their use. However, some view May’s move as an attempt to embarrass Johnson and stifle any chance of him succeeding David Cameron as Tory leader.
But now Greenhalgh wants to tackle the capital’s wider problems.
Forget expanding Heathrow, he argues, you need a light version of Boris Island – an airport that would be built in the Thames estuary – which he says would be a “long-term solution rather than a sticking plaster”.
Heathrow’s expansion comes at a great environmental cost and would put another million Londoners under noisy flight paths, he says.
Driverless Underground trains and lower fares are also a target, and he says he will not let labour unions get in the way.
“I’ve wound them up before, I know how to fix them”.
He believes strikes can be avoided through smarter management.
“Strikes are avoided by being clear about the end game – the unions are good people”.
But if worse comes to worst he would plough on without union agreement.
Greenhalgh wants to tackle Generation Rent and get more people owning their own homes.
He wants to free up publicly owned land for 50,000 homes for what he calls essential city workers – these include teachers, police officers and nurses.
He also wants to reform the much-hated Section 106 – which requires big house builders to give some proportion of their development to local councils – that can take years to negotiate.
If Greenhalgh is shortlisted tomorrow, he will face a race against two others to be the Conservative candidate which will be decided in September.