In the run-up to the general election on May 7, we’re chatting to leading figures in all five major parties. Eddy Frankel met the Lib Dem head honcho to chat Godzilla, Prince and 1D.
Why should London vote Lib Dem?
‘I just think it’s a very liberal place, small L. It’s a place where people don’t go around finger-pointing and judging each other, where they welcome the outside world. Liberalism is all about being unstuffy, unprejudiced, comfortable with the modern world, and open to the endless possibility of how to change things for the better. We’ve brought Londoners tax cuts, more apprenticeships, better schools: I like to think those are the kinds of things Londoners want and have benefited from.’
Some Londoners want more independence. Do you think the city should get it?
‘It must have more, as must all the constituent parts of the UK. For far too long, Londoners have had to go on bended knee to ministers in Whitehall and to decision-makers in the Treasury every time they wanted to do anything.’
Is gentrification a problem?
‘Not in and of itself. I’ve got no problem with areas becoming more gentrified over time, as long as it doesn’t mean that people who are less fortunate are elbowed out to the margins.’
So what do you think is the biggest threat to London’s future? I’m hoping for the answer to be Godzilla.
‘Well, other than Godzilla, I think an exit from the European Union would be an unmitigated disaster for London. I worry terribly, given what’s happening with the Conservative Party and UKIP, that if we pull out of the EU, the first thing that will happen is that London will completely lose its prosperous international character.’
So should we fear UKIP?
‘Not UKIP as a political party, but what would happen to the country if they had their way. I think if we turn our back on the world, which is what UKIP wants, we’ll become a meaner and smaller-spirited country.’
What can London learn from your constituency in Sheffield?
‘They’re so completely different. But the pace of things is just a little bit more civilised [in Sheffield].’
So London needs to chill?
‘Just a little bit, just slow down a tad. Life isn’t quite so breathless there.’
What do you drink to unwind at the House of Commons bar?
‘I literally never, ever go to the House of Commons bar.’
Oh, stop it, sure you do: I bet you’re always getting rowdy and doing flaming sambuccas with the Tories.
‘Oh God, isn’t that embarrassing! I just never go to the bars, ever! I haven’t been in the last…I can’t even remember.’
Is it because you don’t like anyone there?
‘Well if I had a choice between hanging out in the House of Commons bar with a bunch of politicians or going home to see my kids, it’s such a slam dunk no-brainer that I’ve just never ever done the former.’
Okay, fine, but what do you drink to relax?
‘Wine, and it tends to be Spanish. There’s a white wine from the north of Spain called Al Bariño, which comes in all shapes and sizes, which I like a lot.’
How about a favourite London restaurant?
‘I haven’t been there for a while, but I really like the food every time Miriam and I have been to Moro.’
What was the last cultural thing you did?
‘I went to see Prince at Koko, it was absolutely amazing. He started with “Purple Rain”! I spent a year in Minneapolis, more than 25 years ago now, when he was at the height of his powers. So the last time I saw him was that long ago. How weird is that?’
Do you have a favourite work of art in London?
‘This is very parliamentary, but “The Burghers of Calais” [by Auguste Rodin, in Parliament Square] is just fantastic. I’d single that one out. The hands! The great big hands! It’s astonishing.’
How do you feel about Zayn leaving One Direction?
‘I can’t say I have very strong opinions, but it’s a very serious issue – you read about girls committing self-harm [because of it] and I just wish some of our youngsters wouldn’t take it too much to heart.’