We put our questions to the London Assembly Conservative group leader, Andrew Boff.
Congratulations on being re-elected last week. How was the election for you?
Tiring (when it stopped my husband suggested I volunteer to distribute pizza leaflets as pushing messages through letterboxes had become a tough habit to kick) and rewarding (I was delighted that, despite the national mood and the 2008 election being freakishly good for us, our vote only went down about two and a half percent and we got the Mayor we wanted).
While Boris Johnson’s re-election has been a boost for the Conservatives nationally, what do you think the meaning is of the difference between the Assembly and Mayoral results?
It proves that Boris appeals to people who aren’t Conservatives. We found this a lot when when canvassing having a special “Labour for Boris” classification. It means that Assembly members from the other parties were elected by people who also voted for Boris. They need reminding of that.
The Labour, Green and Lib Dem groups have come to a formal agreement on their approach to the Assembly. You didn’t seem to be happy about this. Why was that?
The Assembly needs to grow up. It’s not a decision making body, it’s about scrutiny and, like the house of commons, scrutiny should come from all parties.
The other parties are punishing the 700,000 voters who didn’t vote for them. It’s pathetic and authoritarian. Whilst I expected that from the Greens (who aren’t exactly superglued to the concept of liberty) I was astonished that the Labour Party felt it necessary to promise cash to buy the support of the smaller parties.
Congratulations are also due for being elected as the leader of the London Assembly Conservative group. How do you plan to use your new found power?
It’s not a power but a responsibility and duty to co-ordinate the aspirations of my group in the most effective way for the mutual benefit of those Londoners who have put their faith in us. I happen to lead an enormously talented and experienced bunch of people and the challenge as leader is to harness that.
You’ve a reputation for being independent minded and willing to ask awkward questions of the Conservative Mayor. Is that a help or a hindrance in your new position?
It’s a strange reputation to have as I think you will find few Tories more Tory than I am.
The great thing about being a Tory is that we are all awkward (think herding cats) and mistrust authority. Boris is the authority in London so we, whilst agreeing with his broad manifesto, will not shrink from robust interrogation.
This is what makes the stitch up on the Assembly so stupid as it is based on the assumption that we will be supine in our dealings with the Mayor. We weren’t in the previous term and will not be in this one. As we have the magic number of nine members (over one-third of the Assembly) pundits have said that this means that the Mayor’s budgets will inevitably be passed as two-thirds is required to reject them. Whilst this may be likely it is not a fait accompli and he will have to earn our support.
You’ve expressed concern about the brothel raids in the East End in the run up to the Olympics on the grounds that you think it makes women less safe (as I understand it). What change in approach do you think we should adopt towards sex work in order to protect potentially vulnerable women and men?
You can read the report I submitted to the Mayor here .
There is hardly any evidence that either sex trafficking or prostitution increases during the period of an Olympics and a lot of evidence to suggest that it stays the same or even reduces. I found that raids on brothels which are not causing problems of anti-social behavior result in the displacement of women away from their support services and that it makes it less likely that violent attacks are reported. The law on prostitution is a very difficult one to police and to expect officers to turn a blind eye to brothel keeping is not reasonable.
They may, however, prioritise the crimes they encounter, as they do when a rape is reported to them, and I am looking for an extension of this principle in the policing of prostitution. I have the agreement of other parties on the Assembly that an investigation needs to look into this issue with the aim of making women safer.