In the third of our series of one to one interviews with London's Mayoral candidates, reporter George Odling spent time with Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon to discuss London’s housing crisis, Heathrow, Boris Johnson "over a barrel" and being a 100/1 outsider for the job.

FROM OCTOBER: Tory mayoral hopeful Zac Goldsmith talks Jeremy Corbyn, tax credit cuts and Heathrow expansion

FROM NOVEMBER : "I'll probably die in Tooting": Our interview with Labour's mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan

Heathrow Airport

Caroline Pidgeon referred to the Government announcement that a decision over whether to grant Heathrow a third runway would be delayed until the summer as "a political" one, given the impact approving a third runway would have on the mayoral campaign of her Tory rival Zac Goldsmith.

She said: "I think it is just kicking the decision into the long grass quite clearly for political reasons.

"The Lib Dems are the only party that is completely united against a third runway and Heathrow expansion.

"We continue to strongly believe that and oppose any airport expansion in London and the South East. We don’t agree with expansion at Gatwick either.

"If you improve transport links at places like Stansted and Luton then we can make the most of existing capacity."

Richmond and Twickenham Times:


Ms Pidgeon believes London should follow a more continental model with regard to being able to hop on and off buses within a short space of time without incurring additional costs.

She said: "You go to the rest of Europe and can hop on buses as many times as you like and I think it is about time we got that in London.

"People rely on buses to get to the railway stations and it is really important that we have a way to get on buses like they do on the tube."

Her rival for the top job at City Hall, Sadiq Khan, revealed plans for a £1.50 unlimited trip ticket that was valid for an hour last year, a policy very similar to one Pidgeon put forward herself in 2008.

Ms Pidgeon said: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

"It won’t be the first or last time one of the candidates tries to steal our policies."

Race for London’s top job

2015 was a rough year for Ms Pidgeon’s party, as the General Election resulted in the Lib Dems’ number of MPs cut from 52 to eight, with high profile defeats such as Vince Cable in Twickenham and Ed Davey in Kingston and Surbiton.

Bookies have the Lib Dem candidate at a long 100/1 to win, but Ms Pidgeon insists she is not daunted by the tough task ahead of her.

She said: "The race is still wide open.

"People don’t know the candidates tremendously well this time round, and there has been a great response to the fact that I am a woman.

"I am the most experienced of the three candidates, having served on the London assembly and worked on London’s issues for so long."

Ms Pidgeon added: "Since the general election we have seen many Lib Dem by-election wins, for example in Sutton, Kingston and Hampton Wick.

"No one knows what will happen in May."


Solving London’s housing crisis is the cornerstone of each candidate’s campaign and Ms Pidgeon, who served as a board member on London and Southwark’s housing association from 2002-10, believes turning the Olympic precept, set to expire in 2016, into a housing one would help solve the desperate need for additional homes.

She said: "We have a very clear and costed plan for housing.

"Each household currently pays £20 a year towards the Olympic games, which is 38p a week, and raises £50-60million a year.

"We could borrow against that to raise £1.5-2bn to build council housing, and I mean council housing specifically because we need genuinely affordable homes.

"Public sector land could be used to help build a further 150,000 homes for private rent and private sale.

"To make sure we are building the housing we need for London and we need about 50,000 homes a year."

Ms Pidgeon said a building company could be set up and run by City Hall to ensure the work was done properly, and create extra jobs.

"What is really important is just that we get these homes being built.

"Places like Barking riverside has masses of land that you could build so many homes on but they are only building about 120 a year there.

"We have to have mass home building."

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

On Boris Johnson and her rivals for his job

"I think the last two mayors have had very, very big personalities and larger than life characters.

"I think Londoners just want someone who can get the job done.

"My opponents are running because they want to be something. I am running because I want to do something."

Half price travel before 7.30am

Ms Pidgeon said Londoners on a lower income who need to travel very early in the morning should be helped, and half price tube travel before 7.30am could be paid for by removing funding for the Garden Bridge project, as well as some perks enjoyed by Tfl employees.

She said: "Scrapping the Garden Bridge would raise £10million in the first year.

"I completely believe Tfl employees should have free travel, but there is a perk in which they can nominate anyone in their household, even a lodger, to have free travel as well. This is too much."

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

Pidgeon's rivals Conservative Zac Goldsmith and Labour's Sadiq Khan

She was heavily critical of Boris Johnson’s relationship with union bosses, and said once the proposed deadline for 24-hour tube services had been announced, they had the Mayor "over a barrel."

Ms Pidgeon said: "We are in a very, very bad position in terms of our industrial relations because Boris Johnson has never properly and formally sat down with the unions.

"I think he might have passed them in a corridor or something but never formally sat down.

"Boris Johnson and TFL messed this up from the start with their deadline. Immediately then the unions could hold him over a barrel and start making more and more demands."

"They did quite rightly raise concerns about working late shifts but occasionally it has seemed some are just spoiling for a fight.

"What we need to do is to start off with having a good relationship with the unions and there has been a failure right from 2008 from Boris Johnson to establish that relationship."

Standing up to developers

She also criticised the current Mayor for supposedly failing to stand up to developers, as office space is turned into housing across the borough.

She said: "We don’t want everybody to be travelling into the city to work, we want people to be able to work locally and it is time we challenged the developers on this."

She said rules that make it easy for developers to convert office space to housing without planning permission should be scrapped immediately.

"Boris seems to be far too cosy with developers for my liking. I don’t really feel he has challenged them enough."

On the Sutton tram

Ms Pidgeon said: "I am completely supportive of extending the tram to Sutton and have worked with the councillors and Tom Brake MP to help secure this.

“As Lib Dems we are fully committed to it and think it would really improve transport links for Sutton residents and provide more jobs.”