by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2004-06-11
As London went to the ballot box on June 10 to vote for a new mayor for the capital, SomethingJewish invited all the candidates to respond to a series of questions on where they stand on general as well as specific issues. Find out what Conservative candidate Steve Norris said.
1. Why should Jewish Londoners vote for you?
When any Londoners asks me what I will do for them my answer is always the same: I will sort out the issues that affect every person in the capital, rich or poor, black or white, Jewish, Christian or Muslim, gay or straight, young or old. That is the most important responsibility of any Mayor.
London is one of the great cities of the world. It is a vibrant capital where millions of people can achieve their dreams. But it is also a city of sharp contrasts. Over the past four years, it has become the most violent city in the country. The Mayor has real power here â and a sizeable budget - to speak up for Londoners who want more effective action to sort out crime and policing in the capital.
My top priority will be to make London a safer place in which to live and work. Crime is simply too high a price for living in the city. Under Ken Livingstone, you are more likely to be mugged here than in New York, where the success of Mayor Giuliani shows what can be done. I will insist that many more of our police are out on the street, deterring and preventing crime before it happens. I will take a zero tolerance approach towards so-called ânuisance crimesâ and crime on public transport, and will double the budget for youth schemes to offer young people an alternative to mindless illegality.
We also need to do much more to get London moving. I have promised to deliver a cleaner, faster transport system fit for the 21st century with a start to air conditioning in stations and tubes running till 3am at weekends. Instead of the congestion charge I will fund free school buses for primary school children, charge utility companies for digging up the road and introduce a lorry ban in central London in the morning rush hour. I am also determined to do much more to encourage walking and cycling when one in ten car journeys are under a mile long.
London is one of the great cities of the world. But it could be so much better.
2. How have you worked with Jewish Londoners (either personally or professionally)?
Over the course of my time in business and politics I have been fortunate to work alongside some extremely talented Jewish Londoners across a massive array of projects and in a variety of occupations.
3. What do you understand about Jewish life and culture and the contribution Jews have made to London life?
I truly believe that Londonâs great strength, indeed its defining feature as the greatest city in the world, is its diversity. I do not have to tell you what a contribution you make to the social, cultural and economic health and vibrancy of the capital. You do not need to hear me trotting out various platitudes about your success. The Jewish community play a hugely important role in the cultural, social and economic life of the city, totally disproportionate to the size of the population.
4. If elected mayor what would you do to help promote Jewish culture in London?
As Mayor, I am committed to making London the undisputed global centre for the arts. I will work with the owners of Londonâs tourist attractions, concert halls, galleries and theatres to introduce a Londonersâ Card to encourage those who live in the city to make full use of the many attractions in our great city.
5. What will you do to help facilitate better relations between ethnic and religious groups in London?
As Mayor, I will ensure that I will be able to consult with and call upon for advice the leaders of the different ethnic and religious groups in London. Together we will be able to support activities that strengthen the relations between Londoners from different backgrounds. There has been a Jewish community in London for many centuries that has played a significant part in the success of London. I hope that this positive role model will be built upon throughout the 21st century by other faith groups.
6. What is your position on the conflict in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians and how do you think the situation can be resolved?
I hope and pray for peace and tranquillity in the region for all those who live there. I deplore violence in all its forms. But I believe strongly that the Mayor has a solemn duty to represent all Londoners and be a source of harmony rather than discord. Ken Livingstone may think it is amusing to call Ariel Sharon a war criminal or to advocate that the Saudi Royal Family should be hung from lampposts. I do not believe such offensive interventions benefit anyone. I will be devoting my time to sorting out the problems facing London and Londoners â that will always be my priority.
7. They are calls by some to ban the practice of ritual slaughter of animals used for food. This practice is paramount to both the Jewish and Muslim faiths, what is your position on ritual slaughter of animals for food and do you support those who think it should be banned or those who do not want it banned.
Kosher and Halal practice is dominated by concern for the humane treatment of the animals involved and for the hygiene of the food produced. I will not give my support to those who think the practice should be banned.
8. What steps will you take to ensure that the rising tide of anti-Semitism is curbed?
The Mayor does have a hugely important role to play in opposing racism in whatever form it takes. London is the most diverse city in the world and the Mayor can take a stand to show his contempt for those who support such activities. There have recently been some extremely worrying attacks on synagogues, schools and other Jewish institutions, and against individual members of the community. In addition, the rise of the BNP, and particularly the prospect of them winning a seat on the Greater London Assembly, would be a stain on our cityâs reputation. As Mayor, I am determined to create a safer London for all Londoners, and will play my part in ensuring that the community receives all the support and protection it needs. We know from history that it is the responsibility of all good people to stand up against anti-semitism â I will stand up and be counted on that score.
9. Name some Jewish people you admire and respect and tell us why?
Itâs difficult to pick out only a few from so many: Iâm continually amazed that such a small group of people has managed, amongst many other things, to produce between them over 160 Nobel Laureates.
For what itâs worth, here are three choices, in no particular order:
Yehudi Menhuin â one of my most treasured possessions is a personal letter from him to me thanking me for seeing him when I was London Transport Minister. He was and will always be one of my all time heroes.
Michael Howard â who has transformed the fortunes of my party and is now earning the public affection and respect he richly deserves.
Chief Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks â an inspirational leader who has worked tirelessly to improve relations between the different communities and faiths in the capital. And the funniest religious orator in London bar none.
10. What is your favourite Jewish food and why?
Salt beef sandwiches and latkas from Blooms. Why do you think?