The truth about Brian Paddick

Sian asks just what direction the Lib Dem candidate for mayor, Brian Paddick, thinks he's cantering

The Guardian scored a bit of a coup this week, with three candidates for Mayor – including me - getting out their laptops over the weekend to take part in what can only be described as a stonking row on the Comment is Free website.

It all started when Ken Livingstone published a piece pointing out the uncanny similarities between Boris Johnson and Brian Paddick in the area of transport policy, and denouncing Paddick for announcing a policy to privatise the tube, something he called a “sharp change in Liberal Democrat policy in London”.

Brian is not one to take criticism lightly, and is also often to be found commenting on blogs in the small hours. (I’m almost positive the BrianPaddickDelivers who commented on my blog here is the candidate himself). So, it was no surprise to find one ‘BrianforMayor’ posting a long comment in response,standing up for himself and his transport plans.

Unfortunately, as I have written about here before (Porsche, Bozza and Paddick, 22/02/08, Ken’s accusations are spot on. However much he denies it, the fact is Brian IS in favour of privatising the tube. To be precise, taking it out of Transport for London’s control and running it on a ‘concession model’, the same way as the privatised buses, Docklands Light Railway and - until Livingstone bought it out recently - the Croydon Tram. Brian is proposing putting more of London’s transport systems out to tender, while Ken Livingstone is bringing more of them in-house, and this is a clear difference of policy, as well as a difference from LibDem views expressed in the past, and so is well worth pointing out in the course of an election.

Brian also stood up for his policy of opposing the new emissions-related congestion charge, in very similar vein toBrianPaddickDelivers on this site before. On Comment is Free, however, he was even less convincing, asking "why not graduate the charge like road tax?" despite this being precisely the plan: a zero rate at the bottom, with a large hike at the band G threshold of carbon emissions at 225 g/km. After many paragraphs of blog comments and several hustings, I still can honestly say I have no idea why he thinks the CO2 Charge is a bad idea.

But the most damaging accusation is that he is not pursuing the policies one might expect of a LibDem candidate leading an election campaign in London. It’s also the one where BrianforMayor has the flimsiest defence. His argument that "unlike the other two main candidates neither I or my partner have a car" is no kind of evidence of being a true LibDem on this issue.

Although I rarely dish out praise for people from other parties, the truth is that, on the £25 congestion charge, LibDem politicians were some of my 4x4 campaign’s earliest supporters, and LibDems along with Greens in local councils have been pioneering the same approach to parking charges around the country as well. With BrianforMayor calling these kinds of measures ‘playing politics with the planet’, there must be very many LibDem supporters out there - not to mention councillors and Assembly Members - wondering what happened to their candidate.

The to-and-fro of comments between Paddick and Livingstone continued for several very entertaining posts and that’s why I now owe newstatesman.com an apology. Because, I confess, I did succumb to temptation and get involved in the debate as well. In the end, I simply had to point out my own disappointment in Brian Paddick’s distinctly un-LibDem performance, and eventually took to my keyboard on Easter Sunday; what would otherwise have been a welcome day off (or at least a day spent reading the papers and generally catching up). I’m quite far down the page at 14.26 on March 23 if you’d like to have a read.
I do have a new development to report here as well. Today, while I was at a breakfast hustings with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones (our two Green London Assembly Members) delivered an open letter to LibDem leader Nick Clegg, lamenting Brian Paddick’s desertion of LibDem positions on the environment. Without a move from Brian to change his mind on the Low Emission Zone, tubeprivatisation or the CO2 charge, environmentally concernedLibDem supporters may find themselves with no option but to vote for me, they argue.

I’m very far from being a LibDem candidate (although I was described by the Daily Mail as a ‘chain-smoking libertarian who supports licensed brothels’, so my liberal credentials are pretty strong) but, with Brian Paddick moving increasingly far from his party in a different direction, I do think they have a point.

Sian Berry lives in Kentish Town and was previously a principal speaker and campaigns co-ordinator for the Green Party. She was also their London mayoral candidate in 2008. She works as a writer and is a founder of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s
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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.