Victoria Borwick, Local Councillor in Kensington and Chelsea, Elected member of the GLA and The Deputy Mayor of London to Boris on her experience in politics.
I was born in London and have lived and worked in central London all my life, so I am very passionate about our city and have seen many changes over the years.
Many years ago I wanted to stand as a local councillor, so I worked in a safe Labour area to "earn my spurs"; and as a result of my campaigning I was appointed a Local Authority school governor, and was given the opportunity to serve on other committees locally. This early experience whilst I had a full time job enabled me to get to know community organisations and learn how to work with a wide range of stakeholders.
In 1999, I put myself forward as a list candidate for the London Assembly, as I had not been successful in being selected for a constituency seat. I campaigned across London with all our volunteers. Steve Norris was the Mayoral Candidate and I was very happy to be part of a busy team. Steve has great knowledge about London, and having been Minister for Transport under Mrs Thatcher, was a fund of useful information - particularly about London Transport so it was a fantastic opportunity to learn.
In 2004, I put myself forward as a list candidate again for the London Assembly and once again we campaigned across London, but sadly Ken Livingstone still had the edge! Very frustrating for us all.
In 2008, The Conservative Party opened up the selection of Mayoral Candidate to an open selection and I was the runner up to Boris Johnson, although a long way behind our charismatic candidate! Everyone loved Boris and we had a very busy campaign across London, and at last my determination on the assembly candidates list paid off, as I was duly elected as a Londonwide candidate with Andrew Boff and Gareth Bacon to join our 8 constituency candidates.
As an elected member of the GLA, I joined the transport committee, the Police and Crime Committee - which was the Metropolitan Police Authority at the time; with the Olympic Games looming I served on the Economic Development, Culture, Sport and Tourism and served on the small Olympics Games Security committee learning secrets that I shall take to my grave. I chaired the Civil Liberties Panel in order that we could properly assess the lessons learned, and could continue to make London safer. I chaired the Health and Public Services committee, and led on several investigations for the Assembly including “Responding to G20”, and a review of the use of DNA in policing: “Protecting the innocent” as well as “Streets Ahead” which looked at relieving congestion in Oxford St.
May in 2012, brought the GLA elections again, and fortunately Boris was riding the crest of the wave and swept to victory again, but quite interestingly there was only 62,000 votes in it - so it shows how hard we need to work to keep a Conservative Mayor in London, even with a great candidate like Boris.
Following the election there were changes afoot at the GLA, and Boris invited me into his office and asked me to be his Deputy. The Deputy Mayor of London - wow what a responsibility to take on and to support Boris. The most important thing to me is to make sure that everything we do and everyone we come into contact with feels better as a result of working with us. I am very driven to make sure that we respond promptly to requests that come into my office and that we try and help people who contact us. Most people have absolutely no idea what the GLA does, so all members get masses of correspondence about things that we do not have control over, so we always spend time directing people to the right contact point.
I was a Games Maker Volunteer during the Olympics so had a fantastic opportunity to see both sides of the Games - Boris is keen on volunteering, so all his team were delighted that I took on this challenge which enabled me to see London at its best.
My role as the Deputy Mayor is very busy, not just receiving guests and delegations on behalf of the Mayor but being eyes and ears out in the constituencies learning about what is going on and passing the information back to the Mayor’s teams. I am invited to speak across London on a broad range of topics – London infrastructure projects (ICE), TB, dementia, diabetes, talking to schools throughout London about the Mayor, being an after-dinner speaker at many fabulous London venues including the Mansion House, as well as representing the Mayor at official functions including Westminster Abbey and St Pauls.
More recently I have been following the Mayor's London Health Commission which has been fascinating. We are all users of the NHS and I have been particularly struck by the number of people who are well aware of the problems and are working very hard to put them right, however the system itself is very cumbersome, and does not really work well for pioneers, but certainly I have no doubt of the commitment of those who work in the NHS.
I very much enjoy my time on the London Assembly and consider it an honour to be Deputy Mayor to Boris. There is never a dull moment and Boris is extremely clever, charismatic and committed to London. Since he has been Mayor we have seen great improvements and investment in Transport, crime has come down overall, but the result of London’s success is that we need more housing, which Boris has set about tackling.
Background facts about the London Assembly:
I do want to be honest with prospective GLA candidates – there are 25 Assembly Members, of which we currently have 9 Conservative seats – 6 members who represent constituencies, and 3 from the Londonwide list system. Labour have 12 members, thus we are not in the Majority. The power at the GLA rests with the Mayor, who carries out the executive decision making with his senior team. As Conservative Assembly members our role is to get Conservative messages through to the Mayor’s team and we have obviously been well received with Boris as our Mayor. However, those Assembly Members who had 2 terms with Ken Livingstone know very well how their role was to “hold the Mayor to account” and stop him running away with London’s finances and policies that did not enrich and enhance London. Assembly Members do not have the power to amend the Mayor’s policies.
I am always happy to welcome you to City Hall and let you see the system for yourself!
If you would like more information on my role, do look at a website that promotes women – just like we do at Women2win: http://p.ost.im/NdLBNC