Boris Johnson calls for ‘wheel deal’ on London transport to aid economy

12:07 04 October 2011

Mayor Boris Johnson says he can foresee economic recovery as long as investment in London

Mayor Boris Johnson says he can foresee economic recovery as long as investment in London's transport continues

London Mayor Boris Johnson said today that the capital could drive Britain’s economic recovery - if investment in transport continues.

In a barnstorming speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, he urged the government not to scrap spending projects in the city despite the tough financial climate.

He said: “Thanks to the commonsense of this coalition government, the settlement we got last year, we not only have the Tube upgrades, we have Crossrail and Thameslink, which is going to be as fantastic as Crossrail.

“I will not allow that investment and these vital improvements to be jeopardised for a short-term political gain.”

And addressing prime minister David Cameron directly, he added: “I say to my friends in the Treasury - not all of whom I see here; well, Dave’s here - Franklin D Roosevelt offered a new deal.

“I give you the wheel deal: you help us to invest in transport infrastructure and we in London will supply the locomotive of the UK economy.”

Mr Johnson said cutting crime and improving transport would attract businesses and called for “the right tax and regulatory framework - I will say no more than that”, believing “British enterprise will do the rest”.

He said it was “unromantic but true” that the world’s future lay in cities, rather than villages - even though people “yearned for the village, that Eden from which we have all been expelled”.

Mr Johnson boasted of the successful introduction of a shared public bicycle scheme, dubbed Boris Bikes, telling activists: “There’s nothing more villagey than the sight of someone sailing elegantly past, bolt upright on one of these big, blue, burly bicycles.”

Though, he admitted to being unsure as to whether he should be flattered or insulted that not one was stolen during August’s riots which swept the capital.

He claimed the violence and looting did not reflect London, adding: “I’ll tell you who did stand up for London: it was that chap who sat on that rioter’s head, that woman who made the fantastic speech in Hackney and scared them all off... it was the restaurant workers who fought them off with rolling pins and saucepans, it was the broom brigade of Clapham who stood up for London.

“Those people represented the true spirit of London.”

Mr Johnson, who is standing for re-election in May, said his record since being elected in 2008 showed he deserved a second term.

In a speech which failed to mention his Labour rival Ken Livingstone once, Mr Johnson pointed to the scrapping of bendy buses, falling crime on public transport and the launch of the Oyster card on Overground trains during his tenure.

He told party members: “I reckon we have a record to be proud of.

“We have effectively cut the council tax by 10 per cent over the last three years, we have put Oyster on the Overground, we have delivered a 24-hour freedom pass for the people of London - a fact I hardly dare mention in Manchester in case they get jealous - (and) the last bendy bus will leave our streets by Christmas.

“In the new year we will see a generation of Routemaster-style bus with the open platform.”

Mr Johnson, who previously criticised the government’s plans to cut police numbers, said he would not allow the number of officers in the Met Police to dip below what he deemed “safe and reasonable”.

Activists gave the Mayor a standing ovation as he closed his speech saying he had delivered “sensible, moderate, one-nation Conservative government in London”, but there was “so much more to do”.

He added: “I have no doubt it is going to be a tough fight, but with your help we can do it again.”

Mr Cameron, who was in the hall for Mr Johnson’s address, earlier praised the Mayor, who many believe harbours hopes of succeeding Mr Cameron as Tory leader and prime minister.

Mr Cameron told LBC 97.3 Radio today: “At a time of economic difficulty, I think he brings strong, charismatic leadership, he brings people together, he cheers people up.

“I am right behind him because I think the last thing London needs is a return to Red Ken.”

Mr Livingstone later blasted Mr Johnson’s speech, branding him “out of touch”.

The Labour candidate said: “Today we saw the real Boris Johnson - an out-of-touch Conservative, failing to put ordinary Londoners first on the issues that really affect them, from rising fares to police cuts.

“He gave no hope to Londoners facing another steep fare rise this January, which will mean bus fares are up 56 per cent under a Tory mayor, and gave no hard commitment on police numbers, which are in fact due to fall by 1,800 according to his own Metropolitan Police figures.

“Under the Conservatives, Londoners are less well-off and increasingly less safe, under a moonlighting mayor who meets bankers more than the police.

“People in London are feeling the squeeze but Boris Johnson doesn’t see it.”

The Liberal Democrats’ mayoral candidate Brian Paddick said: “Boris’s speech was full of waffle because he’s done so little for London as Mayor.

“He claims other people’s achievements as his own because he doesn’t have any himself and he clearly has no vision for the city’s future.

“During the riots, while people were worried about their safety and their communities, Boris stayed on holiday and then came back waving a broom around like some modern day Mary Poppins.

“Londoners deserve a serious Mayor who has experience of keeping people safe and dealing with crime.”

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