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Speech

Boris Johnson: Keep the UK motor going

Boris Johnson , Monday, October 4 2010

Boris Johnson

I want to speak directly to the three million people who use the London Underground network every day and the first and most important thing to say is that I deeply regret the inconvenience you are suffering as a result of this strike.

And I say to the leaders of the unions that this gesture is nakedly and blatantly political that it has nothing to do with health and safety or improving the terms and conditions of work of their members; and I say to our legislators at Westminster that it cannot be right that a ballot can lead to strike action when less than half the union members take part. 

It cannot be right that 3000 people should be able to hold the city to ransom stop people getting to work, and to jeopardise the economic recovery, when the measures we are taking to reform ticket offices are an inevitable  consequence of the success of the automatic oystercard system, when some ticket offices are selling  fewer than ten tickets an hour and when we are able to make these changes with no compulsory redundancies with no loss of earnings and with no station unstaffed at any time.
 
So I must tell the union leaders that the time has come now to ignore their lackeys in the Labour Party who seek to foment unrest for their own dismal political ends. It is time to come to the negotiating table and sort this thing out. I tell you, conference, and I tell all the London travelling public, that this strike will not succeed and it must not succeed, and I want to thank each and every one of the hard-working London Underground staff that have come to work this morning and who are helping us hour by hour to get an ever growing number of trains to run.
 
We will get London moving because we must get London moving because London is the motor of the UK economy and that is exactly the point that I make to the Treasury.
 
If you come to City Hall I can show you the physical evidence of the cuts we have been making over the last two years a whole Marie Celeste floor of deserted desks waiting to be rented out to another agency.
 
I could take you to the London development agency where the headcount is falling from about 600 to about 153 or to the backrooms of London Underground where 1000 jobs have gone with more to follow under a £5 billion programme of savings. We have cut the colour photocopying, we have cut the business cards, we have even cut the sandwiches from the TFL board lunches but I cannot and will not recommend that this country should embark on a programme of cuts to London's basic transport infrastructure - the buses, the railways, the Tube. That would damage the ability of this country to compete internationally and to generate jobs for decades to come.
 
When you look at a London bus you are looking at seat fabric from Huddersfield and windows from Runcorn and destination blinds from Manchester with bodywork and chassis assembled all over the country, from Falkirk to Guilford to Scarborough to Leeds to Rotherham to Blackburn to Ballymena. And when you look at the Tube railway you see rails that are made in Scunthorpe where there are 350 jobs and conductor rail from Chard in Somerset where there are 180 jobs, concrete sleepers from Sandiacre in Derbyshire, and 800 people working on signalling at Chippenham in Wiltshire and ballast for railtrack quarried in Yorkshire and stockpiled in Wellingborough, and 60 jobs making timber sleepers at Boston in Lincolnshire, the constituency of my old friend and colleague John Hayes. And I hope that my old chum will join me with all his redoubtable campaigning fire and fight for London transport and I hope we will be joined by the people of Derby where we are making our new air conditioned trains and by the people of Crewe where rail parts are manufactured and by the people of Coventry and Portsmouth and Worthing.
 
What do we have in Worthing? We have the congestion charge correspondence unit and if that body is not popular anywhere else it is popular in Worthing and I hope that every MP and citizen of these towns and cities around Britain will join me in supporting London's transport budgets not just because they produce jobs across the UK but because a London where people can move cheaply and easily across the biggest and greatest city in Europe is indispensable for the success of the whole UK economy.
 
It is not just that London exports £20 billion in tax to the rest of the UK London is responsible for a third of the UK exports of services. There would be no insurance industry in Norwich if it was not for London. There would be no financial services industry in Edinburgh, and great international law and accountancy firms would have no offices in Birmingham if they did not have offices in London. And that is why I will stick up for the city of which I am mayor and that is why I believe it is good for the whole of the UK that we are tackling Labour waste axing pointless schemes, and investing the money in  making London an ever more attractive place to live in and to invest.
 
We are helping to produce a safer city with bus crime alone down 30 per cent and the murder rate down to its lowest level since 1978, and I am proud of the work we are doing under Time for Action to boost mentoring and volunteering, but also to take the kids who do get caught up in crime, and to help educate them with a special new unit at Feltham where we have been able to bring the rate of recidivism down from 80 per cent to 7 per cent and that believe me is a good investment for society.
 
We are pioneering clean, green technology with more electric cars already than any other city in Europe electric or zero-carbon taxis now promised by both leading manufacturers, and we have an incredible vision for a post-Olympic London in which we harness the Olympic investments to drive improvements across East London starting with green investment zone at the Royal Docks assisted with new river crossings, perhaps even including a cable car which we have decided to name in honour of the sage of Twickenham, Vince Cable, and in which I hope he will come with me one day so that we can look out at the City and Canary wharf and brood on their importance to the UK economy. And I will defend the importance of financial services to London and the UK even when I am the last politician in the UK willing to do so, but that defence would be easier if they lent more to struggling businesses if they showed some restraint in their pay, and if they made some greater collective sign of their commitment to wider society. Because in tough times, when budgets are being cut, it is absolutely vital that these people show greater awareness of the difficulties of those who are less well off.
 
That is why we are proud of the 24 hour freedom pass that we introduced and that helps so many people on low incomes, and concessions for war veterans and young people, and that is why we are so proud of the things we are doing to improve the quality of life for everyone planting trees improving urban realm putting in bicycles.
 
And given the staggering lack of originality of the Labour party in choosing their candidate, we want to continue our work, and so I say to my friends in government I am proud to be standing here speaking for the first time to a Conservative party conference in power.
 
And I say to my friends in Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds and all the other compartments of the train, or the skilift you pick your metaphor, that are powered by the London economy, let's defeat the union militants, let's confound the doomsayers and the gloomadon poppers, let's continue our work of creating the best big city on earth to live in, and let's keep London moving, and let's keep the great London economy motoring for the good of the whole UK.

Boris Johnson

Boris has been Mayor of London since May 2008. From 2001 - 2008 he was Member of Parliament for Henley.

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