Lib Dem Rob Blackie launches London Mayor manifesto

Lib Dem Rob Blackie launches London Mayor manifesto

We didn’t get one of those eye-catching Liberal Democrat stunts at the launch of the party’s mayoral hopeful Rob Blackie’s election manifesto ahead of polling on May 2, despite the presence of party leader Ed Davey and despite the event taking place in a south London boxing gym. Blackie nevertheless managed to aim some blows at his front-running rivals Sadiq Khan and Susan Hall.

Khan had left Londoners disappointed, while the Conservatives were “in free fall” in the capital, with a candidate who “doesn’t even seem to like London,” Blackie said. “Susan Hall can’t win and Sadiq Khan can’t deliver. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

“Fixing the Met”, with a new focus on tackling violence against women and girls, was his top priority, Blackie said, citing figures from Baroness Casey’s 2023 review of the service revealing that the clear-up rate for sexual offences had halved since 2016, from 18 per cent to nine per cent. He called this a “shameful record”.

A new unit would be tasked initially with getting the rate back to 2016 levels, along with strengthened local police teams, more backroom staff to get officers back onto the front line, and 500 additional special constables, he said. And “stop and search” for possession of cannabis and laughing gas would be a lower priority under a Lib Dem Mayor.

New priorities for the Met would be funded initially by reversing Mayor Khan’s pay as you go Tube fares freeze, which Blackie described as a “phoney election year partial freeze” mainly benefiting tourists, as well as by bringing in a “voluntary” tourist tax.

He would then increase Transport for London fares in line with inflation year on year, he said, to shore up the network’s finances, fund Tube maintenance and provide a stable basis for borrowing and long-term government funding. Buses would be a priority, he added, accusing Khan of axing 22 million miles of bus routes. His mayoralty would trial making buses “hail and ride” after 10pm, “allowing you to flag down the next bus even if you are not at a stop”.

Khan’s housing and climate change record also came under fire. The Mayor was heading towards missing his 2030 “net zero” target by as much as decade, Blackie said. He promised greener homes, more allotments, more charging points – encouraging a switch to electric vehicles as a “more effective” response to climate change than road user charging – and £500 grants to homeowners to instal solar panels on their roofs.

City Hall’s London Plan development blueprint was hindering housebuilding, he added, with over-complex requirements for builders in the form of “70 hoops you have to jump through”. The plan would be overhauled to make it “easier and faster” to build, he said, suggesting a new focus on overall numbers, with a City Hall development company set up to deliver more homes directly. “The key thing is to get more homes built, of all types, private and social,” he said, adding that genuine Green Belt land supporting biodiversity would continue to be protected.

A vote for the Lib Dems, Blackie concluded, would also be a vote for a closer relationship with Europe, with the longer-term aim of rejoining the European single market and customs union. “Brexit has been a disaster,” he said. “I want to see the day when Britain is at the heart of Europe again.” More immediately, he would introduce a “London Passport”, supporting EU citizens’ right to remain in the UK, countering the “incompetent” and sometimes “feral” approach of the Home Office, and pilot an “Erasmus-style” exchange scheme for young Londoners.

Blackie, who was interviewed in detail by On London earlier this year, is currently polling at 10 per cent, one point ahead of Green mayoral candidate Zoë Garbett. Along with Garbett and Susan Hall, he is also running in the London-wide section the London Assembly elections, which also take place on 2 May.

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1 Comment

  1. Catherine Norman says:

    As a Tory voter for most of my life (Voted for Blair) I am a landlord with a modest portfolio – I have no pension so the two properties I have will look after my care. What will Rob Blackie do for the modest landlord who’s being battered by reform and high costs? I want to rent my property out to who I like, without pets, without children, no benefits – anyone I choose. Why are we being held to account for the way this government has lied about building affordable homes? The private sector is the private sector – we should be left alone. We don’t lean on the government so why is the government leaning on us? Kindly reply Thanks.

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