Ken launches a return to mayor’s office from his garden chair HQ
RECLINING in his favourite wooden chair in his Cricklewood garden, Ken looks relaxed. The morning papers are strewn over his table, the coffee pot is full and his impressive garden is in full bloom, writes Kate Ferguson. But, as ever with the former L
RECLINING in his favourite wooden chair in his
Cricklewood garden, Ken looks relaxed. The
morning papers are strewn over his table, the coffee pot is full and his
impressive garden is in full bloom, writes Kate Ferguson.
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But, as ever with the former London Mayor and Brent East MP - who
announced his bid to become the
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Labour candidate for Mayor in June - he is hard at work launching a
A few days before we meet, the new Chancellor George Osborne announced a cap is being imposed on housing benefit claims in London.
Under the new rules, which will be implemented next year, four-bedroom houses will be capped at �400 per week, three bedrooms at �340 and two bedrooms at �290, regardless of where they are in London.
Ken teamed up with Westminster North MP Karen Buck to oppose what he describes as devastating cuts.
He said: "Around 80 per cent of the people on housing benefit in
Westminster will be above the limit the government is setting. It is going to be catastrophic.
"We are going to end up with the situation that anyone who is poor is not going to be able to live in an area, like North Westminster. Now, where are they going to go?"
Housing, along with policing and transport, are what Ken anticipates to be the big three issue's in the campaign to become Mayor in 2012.
While the housing cap is likely to
affect central London boroughs
hardest because of the higher rents there, Ken warns that the flurry of cuts in
funding for education, jobs and
benefits, could lead to lengthening dole queues in Brent. He said: "Brent is particularly vulnerable to cuts because we have quite a high proportion of the population in relatively low skilled and unstable jobs so you could get quite a lot of people losing their jobs.
"If you get rid of half a million jobs in the public sector, they won't be able to spend money in shops and support the local economy - which we
"Unemployment came down very dramatically in Brent under the last Labour Government, and that could be going up very dramatically."
This stark warning came just days after Brent Council announced it was upping the estimate of cuts it will have to make from �53m to �90m over the next four years.
Since becoming Mayor in 2001, Ken came, for many, to symbolise London, but he remains a Brent boy at heart, having served as Brent East MP from 1987 until 2001.
"The nicest thing about Brent is that it is one of the most diverse
communities on earth. London is the most diverse city on earth and here, in Brent, you have communities from everywhere. I love it."
So what does the man the papers nickname Red Ken do to unwind? Sitting in the mid-summer sun of his impressive wild garden, which boasts kiwi and cherry trees, a large pond, and a thimble berry bush, it is easy to
anticipate his response.
"My garden. It is where I relax and do all my thinking. So when I am
weeding or sifting my soil I can think through issues in my head.
"When I moved in, it was just a lawn. Everything in this garden I planted and there are no pesticides or chemicals, and it is a real haven for wildlife.
"It takes a long time to get the garden as nicely overgrown as this. I couldn't bear to move.