Lib Dem mayoral contender launches campaign for City Hall

Rob Blackie is focused on tackling crime as he hopes to improve on the party’s recent series of fourth-placed finishes in London, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Rob Blackie (credit Andrew King Photography) (2)
Rob Blackie (credit Andrew King Photography)

The Liberal Democrats’ London mayoral candidate launched his campaign today (Tuesday 19th) by arguing that Sadiq Khan does “not deserve” a third term due to his record on crime.

The party’s City Hall contender Rob Blackie also dismissed the chances of Tory candidate Susan Hall, claiming that the Conservatives have “given up on London” by selecting her.

At his campaign launch in Brixton, Blackie told an audience of journalists and party members: “My top priority is crime and policing.

“Sadiq Khan’s failure on those issues is the main reason I am standing against him.

“Violent crime has risen by 30% in London since Khan has been in office. Sexual offence clear-up rates have halved in the last eight years.

“Sadiq Khan blames everyone else for this but himself. The buck stops with him and we will call him out in this campaign.”

Sources close to the Labour mayor have previously argued he is tackling crime “with one hand tied behind his back, in the face of over £1bn of Tory austerity cuts to cops and youth services”, while adding that he “would welcome the Lib Dems joining him in making the case for the government to properly fund our police”.

Blackie also described Conservative candidate Hall as “beyond the pale”. He said: “Far from embracing London, she attacks it. Liking tweets that call our city Londonistan and venerate Enoch Powell.

“Does she even like London? She certainly doesn’t love our great city. When the Conservatives chose her as their candidate, they gave up on this election.”

Hall’s team has said she “engages with many people on Twitter without endorsing their views” and that she is “proud to celebrate London’s diverse communities”.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Blackie said he thought Hall becoming mayor was an equally bad prospect for London as a third term for Khan. He refused to say whether one was worse than the other.

“I think they’re both terrible in their own ways,” he said.

“I think Sadiq Khan, if you look at his record particularly on [tackling] sexual violence, we’re catching half as many people who commit sexual assaults as we were eight years ago.

“That is his core job as mayor, is to run the police, and that is a collapse, so I cannot have any time for him on that basis.

“Susan Hall on the other hand I think is just symptomatic of the modern Conservatives, who are way out of tune with modern London.”

In his speech, Blackie attacked Khan for overseeing the construction of the Silvertown Tunnel in East London, which will open next year. The candidate called it an “own goal for the environment”, as he believes it will worsen the area’s pollution.

He said afterwards that he would be making further announcements soon regarding his plans for the tunnel if he became mayor. Green Party mayoral candidate Zoe Garbett has said she would like to see the tunnel repurposed for use only by pedestrians, cyclists and buses.

Further announcements are also expected from Blackie on how he would seek to “tweak” the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez), as the candidate said he wants to make the scheme “fairer”.

“On the whole, the car part of it, people have adapted now. It was difficult for them to adapt at the time, but that adaptation has happened,” he said.

“We’re still seeing a few more problems with people who drive their vans for work. It’s harder for those people to adapt, and that’s where we’re looking at [potentially making changes].”

On the controversial issue of low traffic neighbourhoods, the candidate declined to say whether he was supportive of them in principle, only commenting: “I think they are absolutely up to local communities to take a judgement on.”

Hall has pledged to encourage councils to remove LTNs, arguing that they are part of Khan’s “war on London’s motorists”.

Asked what would be a good result for the Lib Dems, Blackie said: “Winning.”

He added however that he would also like to see the party increasing its vote share across London.

He said: “We are growing in London over time, more councillors, more MPs – that’s been the trend in recent years and I’d like to see that continue.”

Blackie’s launch comes just days after Khan launched a “love letter” campaign to persuade Lib Dem and Green supporters to “lend him” their votes in what he called a “close two-horse race”. The Lib Dems have come fourth in the last three mayoral elections, losing their £10,000 deposit each time.

Tuesday also marked the start of the official pre-election period for the mayoral race and London Assembly contests. The election is expected to involve more than 3,600 polling stations across London on 2nd May. The stations will have more than 12,000 staff and will open between 7am and 10pm. Votes will be counted on 3rd May.

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