Before Christmas, the researchers and I had put together a detailed document that outlined all the major issues and presented policy options for him to decide between. The day before we all departed for our holidays, we gathered in County Hall and sipped champagne in plastic cups. Boris was looking more relaxed, relieved that the spotlight would be momentarily dimmed. As we said our goodbyes, I handed him the 146-page dossier for his holiday homework. If eyes could groan, believe me, his would have done.
The dossier hadn’t crushed his spirit too much because in between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve a document dropped in our inboxes entitled; ‘Why I Want To Be Mayor’.
The 5,000 word missive laid out his thoughts on the policies he wanted, the positions he felt we should take on the major issues and what he wanted to campaign on. It opened with his big picture vision, and then went into each major policy area, outlining what our attack on Livingstone should be, and what we should be proposing as an alternative. It was incredibly detailed and dripping with clarity. It was Boris the policy thinker and political strategist rolled in one. It showed his determination to control his own destiny and silence his critics.
It was – essentially – what would become the manifesto. Indeed, looking back on the document now, it’s amazing to see how many of the positions he outlined went on to become core parts of his agenda. It was all there; a focus on tackling gangs, scrapping the £25 congestion charge and the western extension, scrapping the bendy buses, introducing a bike hire scheme, championing a new airport in the Thames Estuary, a new Routemaster, fining utility companies who dig up the roads and his desire to shake up the Metropolitan Police. It was a serious agenda, and it showed he had a clear view as to what he wanted his mayoralty to be about.
It was also a thoughtful, heartfelt outline of what really drove Boris to want to do the job. And in it emerged a personal priority that would become a major theme in the election.
In the run up to Christmas, there had been a wave of tragic youth murders that belied the overall drop in crime figures. At one point, a teenager was being murdered virtually every week and the issue dominated the media. By the end of the year, 27 teenagers had lost their lives.
Boris was genuinely moved by these murders. To him, it was unacceptable that London could be a city where the young had no future. In the faces that stared hauntingly out from the police ‘murder’ posters, he saw hope for young Londoners extinguished. He saw the appalling prospect of a whole generation of kids condemned to a life in the gangs. It was a situation he knew would take root unless something was done.
He felt strongly that it was the personal responsibility of the Mayor to take action. He was so appalled because he felt, above all, that London should be a place where the young prosper. London should be a place that championed and nurtured ambition:
‘I want to be the mayor who CHAMPIONS AMBITION, and that means helping young kids cheat the dreadful fate of being sucked into a gang. This is where I think I can make the biggest difference to London, and I want as many policies as possible to be aimed at ending the INEQUALITY OF AMBITION. I have had a very privileged and very lucky life – and I want kids across London to have the kinds of chances I have had. I will use sport, and art, and whatever powers I have over education and skills to help achieve this. That is the chief objective of my mayoralty.’
It was the insight into what was driving him that we wanted. He wasn’t trying to be clever, or funny. His only audience was the campaign team. This was no newspaper column. It was genuinely what he wanted to do as Mayor.
Yet another exclusive behind the scenes glimpse from "Victory in London" by Alex Crowley
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