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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Mayor of London elections – Rob Blackie: “I want to make sure there is an efficient transport system, keep crime low, and to make more affordable housing.”

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 Liberal Democrat candidate, Rob Blackie

Rob Blackie is running for the upcoming London Mayor elections on 2 May 2024. He has a range of plans for the future of London, including fixing the Metropolitan Police, improving access to public transport, and solving the housing crises. But is he a serious challenger to Sadiq Khan?

Taking directly with The Asian Standard, Mr Blackie put forward his views for the changes needed for a better future for London.

I started by asking about one of the key focuses of Mr Blackie’s campaign: tackling the issues of spiralling levels of crime in the city.

Mr Blackie commented: “People in London feel let down by Sadiq Khan’s failures on crime.”

Mr Blackie goes on to share that he has personal experience of this, having been the victim of a violent mugging back in in 2003 – where a gang of youths attacked him with a metal pole. He feels that this incident gave him direct experience of an issue of deep concern for Londoners.

“I know from personal experience what its like to be a victim of crime. The most fundamental job of the government is to keep people safe.”

This led to Mr Blackie researching the issue – and coming up with some concerning results, including the shockingly low rate of successful investigations of sexual offences.

“I think that this is completely unacceptable.”

Mr Blackie goes on to outline what needs to be done.

“There are two levels of things that need to be fixed in the police. The top priority needs to be sexual offences.”

The Met currently has 6,000 officers stuck in the back office when they should be on the front line. We train police officers to a high level, and then not to use them is a complete waste.”

The second is getting local policing fixed. The number of policing teams has fallen dramatically in the last decade. The important thing is having a good relationship between the community and the police, then people will share intelligence with the police, and this can stop crimes before they happen.”

I asked Mr Blackie on his views on stop and search powers for London police.

“Over the last year, something like 80,000 stop and searches took place in London. Two thirds of those were for cannabis. That’s a lot of time the police could have been doing something more useful.”

Mr Blackie also feels that stop and search can hinder relations with the police and the community, especially for younger people. which could be a valuable source of intelligence.

Leading from this, I asked about an issue vital to Londoners – the knife crime epidemic.

“Firstly, it can’t just be from the police. The police themselves would say that. It has to be about engaging young people in things that stop them sliding into crime.”

“One of the key things we need the police to do is build a relationship with young people. Speaking more broadly, police that spend years on their beat will build relationships with people. “

Mr Blackie outlined that police in London are so overstretched, with technology that is not up to standard, that it can take police up to two hours to respond to an incident of shoplifting – further breaking down the links between the community and the police.

Another key issue for Londoners is the Ultra Low Emission Zone – or ULEZ.

Mr Blackie: “Clean air is obviously very important.”  However, Mr Blackie thinks the latest stages have been rushed through, and there is not enough help for tradespeople.

“I do think there is a challenge where people have work vehicles. For tradespeople, who might drive a van around, it’s quite difficult to replace those vehicles. There should be more help for people to make that transition.”

I went on to ask for his views on the current housing crises.

“We need to address quite how bad the housing crises is now. The cost of housing is becoming well beyond affordable. The biggest cause of homelessness is now rent increases. There are also reports of children spending many years in temporary accommodation, which is unacceptable.

The fundamental thing is to build more housing. London has been growing over the last ten years, but housing hasn’t kept up. There is a lot we can do to build more.”

Mr Blackie has also been critical of Sadiq Khan’s management of transport in London. I asked him what has gone wrong, and what he would do to fix it?

“Sadiq Khan loves a short-term election gimmick. He has frozen single fairs, but not travel cards. This sounds like he has frozen some fares, but in reality, he has only frozen certain fares. A lot of this benefits go to tourists, and people from outside London. This takes a lot of money out of the system.”

He goes on to describe the costs of problems such as The Elizabeth line opening late causing millions of pounds being lost.

“So, to fill that gap, Sadiq had to cut maintenance, so now you see a lot of tube lines falling to pieces. That’s why there are big problems with the Bakerloo and central lines, which have had the least maintenance.

Sadiq Khan has contributed to a badly maintained tube system, and therefore one that breaks down more often.”

The growing crises in the Middle East has resulted friction between communities in London, and incidents of hate crimes increasing. I asked Mr Blackie his opinion:

“The main thing to is to keep everyone feeling safe, while respecting free speech. That’s a difficult balancing act, but we need to make sure that the police have enough resources to be able to balance those two difficult things.”

Mr Blackie then went on to outline his opinions on how Sadiq Khan’s administration has failed.

“His failure on crime, in particular sexual offences. Also, more broadly on policing, for which we will be seeing the results of for years to come.”

Finally, I asked what his vision for London would be if elected.

“What the Mayor can do is make sure there is an efficient transport system, keep crime low, and to make more affordable housing.”

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