In the run-up to the general election on May 7, we’ve been chatting to leading figures in all the major parties. Eddy Frankel met mayor and parliamentary candidate Boris Johnson to talk pubs, housing and Assyrian friezes.
Why should Londoners vote for the Conservatives?
‘I hope Londoners give us the chance to bed in what I think is a very strong economic recovery. I really hope that over the next week people focus on the real choice, which is going forwards with David Cameron or going backwards with Ed Miliband. With this extra dimension that Labour can’t form a government except with the Scots Nats, there’s a real risk of Labour being held to ransom, and truckfuls of London taxpayers’ dosh growling away up the motorway to Scotland.’
What do you think Londoners want to see change?
‘I think that the number one crisis for London is housing. The Conservative plan for 200,000 new affordable homes across the country, the ISA to help you buy and part-rent-part-buy schemes – I think these should be very attractive.’
How about gentrification – do you think it’s a problem?
‘Gentrification can be fantastic. It can mean new businesses in the area, falling crime, rising employment. What I want to see, though, is that investment coupled with new housing being built that will allow everybody to live in the area. So we insist that when you have new private developments, you’ve got to have a certain proportion of affordable housing.’
Why do you think some people dislike the Tories?
‘I don’t know. I think the poll of polls gives us a small lead, so I’m quite bullish. The Conservatives are the party for everybody: the party that supports working people from absolutely every part of this country.’
You’ve been called a ‘Tory election weapon’. Are you a weapon?
‘I don’t know if I’m a weapon. My job is to try and help my party get back in, and I’m doing everything I can. I’m more of a cog in the machine.’
How do you feel about the way the media portrays you?
‘I think politicians have absolutely no right to complain about the media. I said that putting the Scots Nats in charge of the government of the country would be like putting Herod in charge of a baby farm, and people shrieked with indignation! We have become absolutely squeamish, namby-pamby and soft in our political discourse. Politicians should be grateful that the media even bother.’
So you’re never even a little bit hurt by the ‘buffoon’ comments?
‘On the contrary. I’ve become quite pachydermous. I’m not saying the bullet hasn’t been made that could penetrate my hide, but this is the sixth election I have fought. I’ve seen it all before.’
When was the last time you got drunk?
‘I never get drunk. I am capable of drinking the most phenomenal amount, but I never get drunk.’
Where do you drink?
‘I love pubs. I used to go and just sit on the pavement by pubs, or stand outside and drink in the evenings. That was one of my great pleasures in life. There’s a place called The Narrowboat in Angel, where I go with my wife. The atmosphere down there by the canal is just fantastic.’
What was the last cultural thing you did in the city?
‘I took my daughter and pootled down to the British Museum and had the most blissful afternoon. We looked particularly at the beautiful Assyrian friezes that, thank the Lord, were rescued from Iraq in the middle of the nineteeth century. Otherwise, they would now be destroyed. It makes me literally cry to see what’s happening. I cannot comprehend how the world can stand by and watch this happen.’
You must know all about the big trends in the city. How do you feel about things like the cereal café?
‘Cereal Killer? Of course I know them! And they were very badly treated by Channel 4. The point was: ‘Who can afford this sort of cereal?’. But actually if they create jobs, if they bring buzz, if they bring happening stuff to the area, that’s good for everybody!’
Do you ever get fomo?
‘…Full of moving objects?’
What? No. Fomo is ‘fear of missing out’, a defining modern attitude.
‘No, I don’t suffer much from fomo, because I am a…foTO: fan of Time Out. Will that do?’
Want more election chat? Read our interview with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.