On 1 May Londoners will face an important choice. They must decide whether Ken Livingstone deserves another four years in City Hall, or whether the time has come for Ken – and for London – to move on. The case for change is overwhelming. The mayor has had eight years to get to grips with the major problems experienced by Londoners every single day: the constant threat of crime in our communities; the chronic state of our transport system; the drastic shortage of affordable housing. The same old problems still plague London, and we need a new mayor with new solutions.
So who's best placed to provide those solutions? Certainly not Boris Johnson. I like Boris. He's a bloke who can make you laugh. But as Mayor of London he would be a serious liability. Not only because of his tendency to throw careless insults at minority groups (black people, Chinese people, and gay people having all been undeserving targets at one time or another) but because Boris has absolutely no idea of how to run a city. He has no executive or public sector experience. In the pack of mayoral candidates, Boris is the joker.
But I'm not in this race for the laughs. I offer serious solutions for London. I've lived in this city all of my life, and I believe passionately in its potential.
I spent a thirty year career in the Metropolitan police force, fighting crime on the streets, and rising to the post of Deputy Assistant Commissioner. I know about leadership and I know about the importance of getting results: I'm ready to deliver real change in London.
Let me outline three key areas in which, as Mayor, I will provide serious and practical solutions to London's problems.
First, every Londoner will be safer. I will personally chair the Police Authority and lead the drive to get knives and guns off the streets in London. I will act to stop the closure of small police stations in the capital. I will also lead a major drive to rebuild community spirit in order to bring Londoners together with the police to work for a safer city.
Second, every Londoner will have better transport. Public transport must be safer and more reliable. That's why I have developed a comprehensive plan to get London moving: new bike and car hire schemes; a cross-river tram; ultra-light rail tramways from Oxford Street to Stratford and from Waterloo to Deptford; and improved bus services with unlimited changes of bus within an hour for the price of one journey on an oyster card.
I also want to operate the tube like every other form of transport run by the Mayor and Transport for London. I want a "concession model" where TfL sets the fares and service standards, and a contractor is paid a fee to deliver the service. By streamlining the tube in this way I believe that we can cure the common forms of travel sickness that plague the underground: delays, cancellations, signal failures and strikes.
Third, every Londoner will see better housing. I will take action to ensure that nearly one hundred thousand empty properties are turned into sustainable homes at affordable rents while using surplus publicly-owned land for new community land trusts, providing long-term low-rent housing without the need to build on London's precious green spaces. I will also wage a war on homelessness – which is utterly unacceptable in twenty first century London – and ensure that communities have a real say on local housing developments.
These are serious solutions for the real problems London faces today. If Ken could deliver real change, he would have. But eight years after he moved into City Hall there is still much to do. For strong leadership, a proven track record and a determination to improve life for Londoners, I am the candidate who will deliver.
Brian Paddick is the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London