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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Mayor of London elections – Howard Cox: “I would like to heal division and bring people together. To get London motoring again.”

The race for the next London Mayor has started. Londoners will go to the polls on 2 May 2024. To help you decide who you think best represents you we have spoken with your Mayoral candidates. Here is our exclusive with Reform UK Candidate Howard Cox

Reform UK was founded recently in 2021 as a relaunch of the Brexit Party. Since their inception, they have surged in popularity, with both voters and MPs leaving the Conservatives to join this new voice in the UK, particularly with people who feel disillusioned by the Tories.

Their candidate for London Mayor is Mr Howard Cox. He is also the founder of the Fair fuel campaign, who lobby to freeze fuel tax and to get prices down. His key policies are to scrap the ULEZ, cut crime and build more affordable housing.

Mr Cox comes from a business background, running a business development consultancy firm for UK small and medium enterprises, and is a fellow of the Institute for Independent Business.

I started by asking him what he would do about the friction between communities – such as the growing anti – Semitism and Islamophobia in the capital.

“My solution is to bring the parties together, and also the community leaders together. I recently went to one of the marches in support of the Jewish community and I was very impressed by how everyone was working together. I have also been to the marches where there were extremists, and there was a lot of hate phrases being shouted.

I want to build a situation in London that is less divisive. I think the current London Mayor is actually fuelling division. I want a London that is a friendly and safe place for everyone.”

Although as London Mayor foreign policy is not part of the remit, the crisis in the Middle East is something many communities have strong feelings on. I asked for his view:

“I want a ceasefire, but also the hostages released. I don’t support Hamas and I don’t feel that anyone with an ounce of intelligence would support them at all.

We need to get the sides to come together. Me and my colleague will be talking at the Mosque in Mordon, one of the largest in Europe. My first question will be what do you want from the London Mayor?

I want both the Islamic and the Jewish communities to feel safe in London. The only way to do that is to get them around the table and to start talking.”

Something that is key to both Londoners and Mr Cox is his Fair Fuel campaign. I asked if he could outline it for our readers.

“In 2010 there was a thing called a fuel price escalator. It meant that every budget fuel prices would go up with inflation, plus one or two pence. This meant that the government would charge more and more tax to the UK’s 37 million drivers getting to work, getting education, getting to hospitals. It also effected logistics, delivering goods.

I got together with associations such as the RAC to set up and organisation to stop this madness. We now have 1.7 million supporters across the country, and 150 MPs. We have managed for the last 14 years to keep fuel duties frozen.

If it wasn’t for this campaign fuel campaign, fuel prices would be about 50 to 80p more per litre.”

Following from his campaign to help motorists, I asked him about his campaign to scrap ULEZ. Surely with pollution in the capital a problem, how can he defend this policy?

“In the last few years, fuel technology has improved incredibly. It’s nothing to do with the ULEZ, it’s because technology has improved. ULEZ is a cash grab. It hits small businesses and the poorest hardest.

Plumbers, electricians – they are not coming into central London anymore. ULEZ has cost £500 million to £1 Billion of GDP.

I know a midwife who does shift work. She has to pay 2 charges. I am in favour of clean air. You don’t do it by hitting people’s pocket. You do it by incentivising clean fuel technology. “

Mr Cox also outlined a worrying factor that is not widely discussed:

“The most polluted area is down in the underground transport system. Pollution is 2000 % higher than at roadside level.

There are so many anti – driver policies across the UK, speed bumps, cycle lanes, parking costs. It’s just ludicrous.

We need to work together, with cyclists through to truckers, to see how we can use our roads fairly, safely and honestly.”

Mr Cox supports drivers, so I went on to ask about his policy to “ditch the low traffic neighbourhoods and 20 mph zones” Aren’t these safety measures?

“There is no proof that they have improved safety levels. There is a study by Belfast University that shows that driving at 20 mph does not cause any more incidents than 30 mph. Also, there are more pollution because the engines are not running efficiently.

London is gridlocked. There are cycle lanes the size of HGV’s. I will introduce an expert for doing two things: looking at each road in London, and what is the safest and most correct speed limit. I am all for 20 mile per hour limits outside schools for example.

We need to get people using cleaner technology, including electric vehicles and fuel catalysts. Those are the sorts of things we need to introduce.”

Mr Cox has stated that he wants to tackle crime by increasing police visibility with knife crime and violence in the capital, does he feel this is enough to stop crime spiralling out of control?

“It would certainly help. At any one time, there is only about 5% of police that could walk on the beat, who are actually on the street. 90% aren’t. And where are they? Sitting at a desk filling in forms.

I have talked to the police, who have said we will vote for you if you get rid of all the bureaucratic stuff that we have to do. I talked to one member of the police that said he wanted to stop crime and communicate with the people that he is looking after.”

“Something else that I want to introduce is – where do people go in the middle of the night to find a policeman? 999 doesn’t get the response they wanted. There are 24-hour stores such as supermarkets and McDonalds as well. We will introduce police access points. It would also help stop shoplifting. We need to put police back into the community.”

Mr Cox continues:

“I would increase stop and search, but it has to be intelligence led. It can’t be simply because some youths are looking suspicious. However, if they did get intelligence, they would have every right to see if they were carrying any dangerous weapons or drugs. If they have any weapons, it would be a mandatory custodial sentence, it’s as simple as that.

The police numbers are there. We have done the analysis on this. If we triple the number of bobbies on the beat, it will make people feel safer, especially women.”

I went on to ask about another key policy of Mr Cox, housing. I asked what he would do about the spiralling rents and waiting lists, which can often lead to homelessness:

“I want to increase the amount of affordable housing available – and I mean really affordable. My daughter lives in London, and she is on good money, £50,000 per year. But she can’t afford a place.

One of the largest landowners in London is TFL. They have a lot of brownfield sites that are sitting there empty. Bear in mind that we wouldn’t have to buy them, as the mayor’s office owns TFL, and therefore those sites. So, I would insist in buying affordable housing.

I would also for housing associations and mortgages to have more support from banks. Planning is also held up by ‘not in my backyard’ types. I do not believe Sadiq Khan has done anything near enough to speed up the planning processes. There must be affordable homes.”

I asked Mr Cox about his controversial stance on climate charge.

“I’m a climate change realist. I presented evidence from scientists in Parliament on Net Zero. We are not all nasty, gas guzzling fossil fuel lovers. We all want to breathe clean air. But we have to be practical. Net Zero is going to cost the nation incredibly. I did a report with the alliance of British drivers and the motorcycle action group with independent economists. We worked out the cost of the 2030 ban on new diesel vehicles, both to the economy and individuals. The cost of introducing that ban is five times the potential benefits.

I do not think there is a crisis. CO2 is a positive gas, we need it, it helps with photosynthesis. CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is only 0.04%. If we doubled that to 0.08% the whole of Africa would green up.

“Our problem is that people like Al Gore, Bill Gates, WEF are making money out of scaring us with climate change. I want objective debate that shows both sides. The BBC for example will not interview anyone who is a ‘climate change denier’. I’m not a climate change denier. I’m a climate change realist. I really do not believe we have a crisis. The number of hurricanes has declined over the years. We need to stop the scaremongering and not use emotion rather than fact.”

I also wanted to get Mr Cox’s view over the controversy regarding Lee Anderson, now a Reform Party member. I asked, how do you view his comments about Sadiq Khan that many are terming Islamophobic?

“I know Lee Anderson pretty well from before when he was a Conservative. He has highlighted an elephant in the room that there is division. There are extremists taking hold of one side of the argument. He believes that there should be peace in the middle east. He is not a racist or an Islamophobe. But he has highlighted the fact that there are hate speeches coming out of the people who are doing these marches – and they are not genuine people who support the Palestinians. I believe in a two-state solution, that both peoples have a right to exist, they have the right to prosper and be healthy. Unfortunately, there are extremists that support Hamas. These very left-wing groups are trying to paint Lee Anderson as a nasty person. He’s not.

I do not think that Sadiq Khan is being controlled by Islamists at all. He gets death threats from left and right. Lee Anderson is a good friend, but I do not defend his words. They were crass.”

I asked Mr Cox about Mr Anderson’s refusal to apologise for his comments:

“He says that yes, the phrasing was clumsy, but the sentiment was right. There is an issue with extremism in our society at the moment. People are scared. People have been threatened. I know a Jewish Black Cab driver who is afraid to go out at night. That is not right. People are worried about their safety because of political extremists. That cannot be right.”

With this extremism and worries for people’s safety, I asked Mr Cox what he would do about the rise in anti – Muslim hate crime in the capital.

“The first thing I would do is to see Sir Mark Rowley, the head of the Metropolitan Police. As police and crime commissioner for London. We need to do is get more bobbies on the beat and get to the bottom of where this extremism is coming from. Remove these poisons. I think the Muslim faith is a wonderful faith, and I share its core values. I would like to build a community in London, talking about the positive things of all our faiths.”

Finally, I asked him to outline his vison for London if he is elected.

“I’m actually going to quote Lee Anderson. We want our London back. I’m a proud Londoner, I was born in London. We need to get the economy of London moving again. The big £15 billion-pound black hole of a debt that Sadiq Khan has created is not going to be easy to get rid of. He manages a £21 Billion pound budget, and he has wrecked the economy. All based on a lot of virtue signalling tosh – spending 6 million pounds on renaming stations for example. My view would be that if my policies do not contribute to the benefit of London and the workers and businesses of London then I shouldn’t be in the job. The divisions in London are currently so big – between cyclists and drivers, Muslims and Jews, I would like to heal division and bring people together. To get London motoring again.

But above all, I want people to feel safe. If Mark Rowley doesn’t agree, he would go. Honest people are being victimised, and yet there are other groups that they won’t touch. There are hate marches going on, and that has to stop.”

“I am not a career politician. I’m in this to help people.”

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