"As a resident of, and the PPC for, Portsmouth I am seriously considering standing for London Mayor. No, seriously, hear me out!
I live in Portsmouth , but work in central London. I have a two hour commute to and from work each day. Like millions of others I spend an average of at least 40 hours a week in our capital city.
We commuters are a large part of the reason why London is a thriving and successful city.
Commuters are equally, if not more, dependent on London's public transport systems; we also rely upon its police force; we occasionally need its health services; and we are all affected by issues that concern citizens' quality of life, even if mainly during daylight hours.
Yet none of us has a direct say over those in a position to improve our experience of our capital city, and this bothers me. Surely it is the duty of London's politicians to consider the commuter as well as the tourist and the resident? After all, the 7/7 bombers may have attacked in the city, but Londoners were not their only victims. Localism and accountability are, rightly, the buzz words of the moment: and shouldn't this in particular apply to London's mayor? So it's strange that, as champion of the underdog and such bizarre causes as the current regime in Venezuela, Ken Livingstone has consistently ignored the plight of commuters as London's second-class citizens.
There has been much criticism of "Zone 1" Ken. He has interfered at Borough level; he has trampled rough-shod over local accountability with hair-brained strategies that were never in the original scope of London's Mayoralty; and decisions that rightly belong to local politicians have been usurped from those most qualified to take them.
Why can't this meddlesome Mayor focus his energies elsewhere? Somewhere that delivers improvements for all of us; somewhere that isn't governed by the politics of envy, but that instead embraces the politics of reality. The decisions he makes for our capital affect more than just those who live in it: and the 2012 Olympic Games are a unique but illustrative example of that.
The mayor should encourage Boroughs to work together, and he should recognise that the needs of all those who visit or who live or work in our capital city deserve due consideration.
I have long thought that all Londoners should have a capital card, entitling them to certain benefits such as discounts for tickets to enjoy the wealth of arts events that London serves up every day. This concept could be extended to commuters too. Why shouldn't anyone who holds a season ticket be entitled to similar advantages?
And I wouldn't stop there.
Access to health facilities for those with minor (but worrying) ailments is severely restricted for commuters since people can only register with GPs where they live. This means that commuters lose time that is valuable to London if they need to see their doctor; or they can't see their doctor if they're already at work; but they can wait for two hours to see a nurse; or they have to pay extra to get prescription medicine at a medicentre. It's high time that the NHS adapted to meet the needs of its patients, and not the other way around.
Beyond these arguments about the quality and customer-focus of London's public transport and police there are wider issues that deter people from working (and perhaps eventually living) in our capital city.
One of these is key-worker discrimination. "Key workers" is a term that appears to be restricted to the Public sector. I'd argue that the optician's receptionist, for example, is a key worker too. Housing polices that allow faceless bureaucrats to determine who is important to a community and who performs an invaluable service are as unfair as is any discrimination that seeks to make life better for some but not for others who are in the same boat.
Over the next few months I will be surveying commuters from Portsmouth to find out what they'd like to see a London mayor achieve for them: I would encourage my colleagues in the commuter-belt to do the same; and, if you wish to, you can submit your ideas for a commuter mayor's manifesto via [email protected].
Every candidate for each major party who has stood for the candidacy in the past has had a London home; but is this a necessary qualification for the role? I should imagine that, until now, living in London has been seen as a prerequisite to win the mayoral election.
Whatever happens during the months ahead I am certain that I will have done more for the people of Portsmouth - where I live, than Ken has ever done as Mayor for the people of Willesden Green - where he does. And who knows? I may even get the chance to prove my point to the beleaguered residents of, and commuters and visitors to, our great capital city."