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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Mayor of London elections – Tarun Ghulati: “I am a humble, straightforward person of integrity and honesty. My vision is that it’s all about the people, not the politicians who blur this vision for a better London.”

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 Independent Candidate, Tarun Ghulati

Tarun Ghulati is a highly experienced international financier and businessman – and now he has set his sights on becoming London Mayor in the upcoming elections.

With a history of some of the highest-level jobs in banking – including Chairperson, President, SEO, Board Member and Strategic Advisor delivering solutions to banking and financial organisations across the world. He has also lived and worked across different countries and continents.

But can he translate this financial and cultural background into success in the race to be London’s next Mayor?

I met with Mr Ghulati to question him and bring him to account on his ideas for a better London.

I wanted to ask Mr Ghulati the key question of whether he could bring his undoubted skills in the finance world to the complex issues faced by London.

“Firstly, I have been a banker all over the world I have been involved in financing city projects like this. I used to run credit and risk for 15 countries from Hong Kong from HSBC, financing large projects for the government, for city-states.

I am certain that I have the right knowledge and experience to drive London forward.”

With his background in banking and finance, I asked Mr Ghulati what he would do about the considerable debt of the current London administration.

“It is quite simple. I will bring in more money. I have run businesses twice the size of the London budget. This is not a problem for me. We need to use the money more wisely.”

Mr Ghulati went on to put forward his ideas for London’s transport system:

“You may know that the transportation system is one of the oldest in the world. We need to put money into the buses and the underground and make sure that they operate efficiently. It is about knowing what works for London.

To do this, I will deploy money into infrastructure. If you ask anybody travelling around on the central line, they will tell you that it’s not working. The lines are not functioning very well, there are delays. I will build the infrastructure needed for the people of London.”

With high crime rates plaguing London, I asked him about his experience in policing.

“Firstly, when I was In City Bank in India, I was helping the Delhi Police in North India. More recently was a strategic advisor to the global cyber alliance. Cybercrime is similar to physical crime. You must look at crime holistically.

Safety and security are at their lowest ebb today. It has never been worse. Twenty-one teenagers lost their lives last year, eighteen of them to knife crime. Policing is ineffective to the extent that police officers want to do their job, but they are being diverted away from where they should be.”

I asked Mr Ghulati what he thinks the roots of violent crime are in London.

“Firstly, we need youth and community engagement. Cultural sensitivities are also important. There are over two hundred nationalities that live here. I have lived on all continents, dealt with people, and run large businesses. You do not become successful running things unless you understand people and raise them with you.”

Mr Ghulati continues:

“These are challenging times. The world as we speak is at an inflection point. There is a war going on in Europe and the Middle East. The politicians are swaying from one way to the other, trying to woo one community and then the other.

They are sitting on the fence. The people of London have been let down. There is a need for bold, decisive leadership, not from somebody who has been part of the problem.

It needs somebody that has run large businesses, worked with people from all over the world, dealt with these cultural sensitivities, faced these issues straight on.”

I asked Mr Ghulati if he felt his Asian heritage and experience of working in India gave him insight into the issues facing London’s large South Asian community.

“Most certainly. However, it is important to remember that the South Asian community is a broad brush. India is a sub-continent, with a huge and varied demographic.

I spent the first 30 years of my life in India. I have worked with the people there and run large businesses including working for HSBC. Apart from that, let us not forget that the UK is also home to lots of people from Europe.

My heritage includes my family legacy, who have been involved in public service through the 19, 20 and 21 centuries. That heritage gave me the values that are key to me – honesty, integrity and trust.”

I wanted to explore Mr Ghulati’s mission statement that he wants Londoners to feel, ‘safe and empowered’. With current issues between different communities leading to a huge rise since the start of the crises in the Middle East, I asked how he hopes to achieve this.

“We need cultural sensitivity – and that’s not going to be achieved by a candidate who has never stepped overseas. Solutions must be found, and they should not be to raise other communities to the ground. I believe that it is my moral responsibility to make sure that all communities sing from the same hymn sheet.”

Mr Ghulati went on to talk further about bringing safety to the London community:

“If the issue is not addressed properly, it will get worse as it goes on. It could be a small supermarket stall in the corner, and somebody can walk in and steal something, but they won’t be prosecuted under a certain level. Staff are leaving, businesses are suffering. There is an element that needs to be tackled, and it needs to be tackled with a fervour that people have not seen.”

Mr Ghulati also went on to talk about his substantial management experience and how that could translate into positive change for Londoners:

“I am also the longest-serving committee member of the London Chamber of Commerce.

I mentor youth all over the world – something that is a priority for me. You give them your time, and you see how people try. I met a waiter in Southall, I gave him some time and three meetings. He called me up recently and now he is an investment banker. That’s what matters when you give everybody the respect that they deserve, and you treat people as equals.”

One of Mr Ghulati’s key policies is helping the 2.2 million Londoners currently living in poverty. Although admirable, can someone of his considerable wealth understand the needs of London’s poorest?

“You may not know this, but I started my journey not as a banker. I started in a place called Rajasthan Airport. I did something nobody else would do today – I used to go to restaurants, shops, and hotels and collect empty bottles of tomato ketchup. The bottle is red when it is served on the table, but when it is used it becomes black. My idea was to recycle those bottles. I went on to build my success from this.”

He also described an initiative successful in India that he would like to bring to London:

“We have started something in India. Millions of young people are fed a protein drink for free. It’s already gone for testing here; I want to make sure that it is available for free here. These children need nourishment they need a meal.”

Mr Ghulati also outlined his philosophy on helping people:

“It’s not just about having a certain amount yourself. If you go on an aircraft, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before you help a child. Success comes when you take people along. It is all about people, that is what matters to me. It is also important to focus on helping the next generation.”

Most of my work has been not-for-profit, whether it has been helping businesses scale up or helping education and other aspects. That is exactly what London needs.”

I wanted to talk with Mr Ghulati about his statement that he wants to help London’s young people. With issues such as distrust of the police, high crime rates and gang culture, I asked him what his strategy is.

“Well, firstly there will be youth engagement. Sports people can be useful as role models and representatives.

The sorts of things that will reduce crime are educating people and providing opportunities. I am very passionate about this, and I take it seriously. We need to approach this situation holistically – I would not simply put it at the foot of the police alone.”

I followed this statement from Mr Ghulati by asking him: So, you think it is not just a policing issue, it’s about engaging with young people as well?

“One hundred per cent. The police need to be made more visible. Police stations need to be re-opened where they have been shut down, there needs to be investment in the transportation sector, the safety and security aspects. But at the same time, it does not mean that the police can resolve this problem.

2.2 million people are living in poverty, which is about 25% of all Londoners. They feel they have been set aside, and that nobody cares. It’s the responsibility of the mayor to ensure that everybody it helped to progress. Because when a plane takes off from the runway, a lot of factors come together. If one factor is faulty, the aircraft can’t take off. I want London to run well.”

I also asked Mr Ghulati about his plans to scrap the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ):

“I want London to be the greenest city, and also the most connected. That is not going to happen unless we make London’s air cleaner. The biggest cause of the pollution is congestion.

We need to remove barriers to movement, the 20-mph speed limit, and the low-speed neighbourhoods. When you remove those, that is where the clean air will come in. You plant more trees; you introduce more recycling schemes.

There is no need to keep a policy that is badly designed. It’s a disaster of a policy that I will abolish.”

Finally, I asked Mr Ghulati about his vision for London if elected:

“If one link in a chain is broken it affects all parts of the chain. I want to see London thriving. I want real opportunities for youth. I want to ensure that the transportation system works effectively and fairly for all.

I also want to make sure that people feel safe and have affordable housing. When you provide all that, particularly for the next generation, people start to rally around, and communities start to come together.

I am a humble, straightforward person of integrity and honesty. My vision is that it’s all about the people, not the politicians who blur this vision for a better London.”

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