This interview was conducted in the summer of 2008 and appeared in Total Politics magazine.

How has the mayor’s job differed from what you may have expected on your first day?

It’s infinitely better and more difficult.

Difficult in what way?

Just the complexity of running a big city, but like any job over a period of several years it gets easier after the first year or... for the first 18 months it’s always pretty tough, but after a while you start to understand how it works, where the bends are, where the joints are and you start to work out how to make things happen. So it’s been obviously a pretty steep learning curve for someone who was a... shadow whatever-I-was in the Tory party...

You’ve forgotten already.

... and basically a journalist, but it’s been incredible fun. I mean, the single most difficult thing we’ve had to deal with is the impact of the worst recession we’ve had for 50 years. We’ve had to work extra hard to try to protect Londoners and to keep things moving, and to keep doing things because one of the difficulties you face is that people will say ‘listen, times are so tight, things are so tough, you should just concentrate on getting the Tube moving, keep the buses going, cut costs, protect people in every possible way’. We’ve done that – we’ve cut huge amounts of waste out of the system, we’ve held fares down as low as we possibly can and we’ve done a huge amount to give people skills and give people opportunities. But in the end this is a great city with a great future – you’ve got to keep projects coming and you’ve got to keep chucking the ball down the pitch for us all to chase after. And so there are lots of things that we want to do, going forward over the next two, three, four years.

What might have you done differently if the recession hadn’t happened? Was there something that you know you would’ve done that you’ve not been able to do because of it?

What I would’ve liked not to have done is delay Crossrail by a year or not to make some of the very considerable savings that we’ve made in TFL. I mean, it would be wonderful instead of having just two cycle superhighways to have 12 within one big bang so everybody could see it. I would have liked to have done the cycle hire scheme all way out west. You’re obliged to cut your suit to your cloth, or whatever the expression is, and that’s been tough. There are things that we’re going to do that we’re having to do with private backing – we’re building this enormous moving thing in the Olympic park, it’s going to be absolutely fantastic. It’s the biggest piece of public art in the history of the country and we have had to get private money to do it. We’re going to put a cable car across the Thames, and we’ll put some money towards it but we’ll need private backing as well. I would like to have gone ahead – if you look at the big ticket items – I would have liked to have been in a position to fund a big extension to the Croydon Tramlink. We are going to put a lot more trams into Croydon, we’ll be greatly expanding that network, but we couldn’t do it in a big bang in the way that would’ve been nice. So, funding has been a real problem.

How frustrating is it when you’ve got control over a certain amount of the budget but a lot of it comes from central government? There have been well-publicised supposed spats between you and George Osborne. Give us a flavour of those negotiations.

The mayor of any capital city is always going to have stresses and strains with government, and there’s no doubt that I think that there was a long and scratchy period when we were negotiating the TFL budget settlement, and that took an awful lot of doing, and everyone will remember there was a period where people were saying ‘Crossrail? Forget it’. But I was told several times by senior cabinet ministers that Crossrail was just not going to be something the coalition could deliver given the funding constraints they were under. Then I was simultaneously told that we couldn’t have the upgrades of the Tube because it was all too tight. But those two criticisms were nothing compared to the very serious reservations the Treasury had about continuing with support for free travel for older people in London or for young people or all the travel concessions we had, or for maintaining the bus network, which is an expensive business because it’s an amazing bus network but it costs money, so I had a huge amount of pressure coming in from all sides saying ‘these are luxuries, Crossrail’s something that could easily be shelved – no-one’s even heard of it’. I was told about two years or 18 months ago, the advice given to me was to stop talking about Crossrail. Just don’t mention it, take it off the oar.

Who was saying this?

I can’t tell you.

Why? Because you’d have to shoot me? What kind of people?

People in government. The message was ‘you’re going to create a political problem for yourself’, but I thought that was complete madness, because even if you have high-speed rail bringing in huge number of people to mainline stations in London – to Euston, Paddington – you need Crossrail. The Central Line can’t possibly cope with that volume of passengers, and so we won that argument and then we had to win the argument about the upgrades.

But how did you win the argument – were you saying ‘well, look – I can’t win next time if I don’t get these things done’?

In politics there’s an air war and a ground war in all big budgetary arguments, and you’ve got to win both. The air war is literally going on the airways and talking about it, the ground war is talking about it and making the business case, and actually to give George and Dave their due they did understand that there is a strong business case for Crossrail. And I think what the Treasury has really now got is that London is the motor of the economy – London drives this thing. If you starve London of energy and growth potential, what’s going to happen to the rest of the country?

But why are you the only politician effectively sticking up for the city of London? You don’t hear anybody else saying anything about it at all.

I think we’re entering a very weird political climate, and we have been for 18 months or two years. We’re in danger of becoming as a country really adverse to wealth creation and hostile to wealth creators, no matter whether they’re bankers or anybody else. And I have to say that alarms me, and of course I want to see bankers – as I was telling old Paxman last night, just to drop a name – doing their bit, and I want to see a much greater sense of euergetism and philanthropy or whatever you want to call it. I think it’s incredible that you’ve got the gap between rich and poor opening up now in a way we haven’t seen since the Victorian epoch, but what we haven’t got that they did have in the Victorian era is that sense of duty on the part of the real titanic figures who are making them money. In those times people really thought it was disgraceful not to endow schools and hospitals and libraries. I mean, look at Carnegie – the endowments people made in the economy. I’ll tell you what’s happened – and you won’t be able to print all this – what’s really gone wrong I think is that in America it’s thought acceptable to give and be publicly identified as being generous and a big person on the stage of giving, and I think in Britain we don’t like that and we’re nervous of it, and I think people that have money are nervous of being seen to give in that way. So you see people who have shedloads of dosh who just go and buy grouse moors or something.

But how can we switch that round? I think you’re absolutely right – in America there is this culture of philanthropy which there just isn’t here, and I think it’s partly because rich people don’t like to put their heads above the parapet because they’ll get them shot off by the media. In America that doesn’t happen.

Yes. I think it’s utterly sickening that editors who are on £2.8m a year are continually inciting the media to orgies of hatred to anybody who’s earning money in this country, and I think it’s mad – we need to have a more generous spirit.

Going on to the Olympics, it’s incredible to think it’s only a year away now. That is going to dominate the last period of your first term, and yet you could have it all taken away from you and Ken could be cutting the ribbon...

Well, we’ll see. I think it’ll be a very tough fight but I’ve no doubt that we can win and I think that we’ll have some fantastic things to say about what we’ve done and of what we will do. If you look back over the last couple of years people say ‘ah, it’s just a few bicycles on the streets’. Actually, London’s a lot safer. The murder rate in London is now the lowest since... I don’t know...


1978, thank you. And that makes a big difference to people and what they feel about their city. Bus crime’s actually down. Bus crime partly because of the alcohol ban is now down by 25 per cent or 30 per cent compared to when I came in. This makes a difference to people’s quality of life – we’ve put in huge numbers of trees, we’re on a massive campaign to electrify vehicles in London and so there’s an agenda to put the village back in the city and to create a sense of trust, neighbourliness - improve the quality of life. And in all sorts of ways I think it has been working and I’m very proud of a lot of the things that we’ve done. There are endless things you could do to make small improvements to people’s lives. You can put the Oyster on the Overground railway network – that is an appreciable convenience that people... Next year do you know what we’re going to do – this is a world exclusive – you will be able to when you get on a London bus, you won’t even need an Oyster anymore. You can get out your Visa card and swipe it like that, and eventually that’ll happen on the Tube as well. So these incremental changes and improvements to Londoners’ lives we will be driving forward. But then the big picture that I will be selling to people in 2012 is what we intend to do for the city for the next 25 years and the really big areas of growth. Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea is going to be studied and we’ll be able to use the tax increment financing to build two new Tube stations in that growth area. It’s going to be one of the biggest opportunity areas in all the area around Battersea power station, it’s going to be absolutely incredible. But the only bigger opportunity area in the whole of Europe was of course the Olympic Park, Stratford – everything going to the east of that, south-east of Stratford. So the story that we are going to be telling is about all we’re doing to drive investment in that part of London and to transform it. If you think back to what Canary Wharf was like 30 years ago when I was I starting in journalism it was a wasteland. It’s now one of the most successful financial districts in the world. So there are things you can do by energy and application that can make a real difference to people’s lives. We will have a very powerful vision for development in east London and accompanied not just by a cable car but by a new tunnel under the river to supplement the Blackwall tunnel. I think you’ve got... just on London generally, and where we need to be as a city, we’ve got to be the best place on Earth to live in and to invest in, and I think there are some things we need to start getting right and one of those is clearly the general approach we have to taxation, and I don’t think we can endlessly go on with the top rate of tax at 50 per cent.

Well, again, you’re the only Conservative that’s talking about it...

Well, I don’t care. I think it’s essential that someone does. Look what’s happening to Pfizer – now, maybe it’s all to do with some decision, they’re pulling out of some particular lines of pharmaceuticals they have been making in the UK. I’m perfectly prepared to accept that explanation. But if you’ve got very senior executives who’ve got a choice of living in a jurisdiction with a tax rate of 50 per cent or a jurisdiction with a tax rate of whatever happens to be 35 per cent, I’m afraid these things start to tell. It doesn’t happen immediately, it doesn’t happen in a...

Do you think it already is happening?

Well, I look at decisions like the Pfizer decision and I am worried. So, get that right. I think we need to set out a vision – a plan for bringing taxation down as the economy grows and indeed using taxation, not just top rate but also National Insurance – all sorts of ways you can cut taxes to stimulate growth. Look at cutting National Insurance for heaven’s sake, get business moving number one. Number two, I think we need to have a plan to deal with the potential for vexatious union activity. I know we’ll see... strikes of the kind that don’t have the proper support of their...

But when you were elected you said you’d try to negotiate a no-strike agreement, but there’s been no progress on that.

I’m afraid that the unions aren’t interested in such an agreement at the moment. I think a more profitable way forward has got to be...

You haven’t sat down with them to ask them.

There’s got to be... as soon as I got in I was informed very firmly...

You would’ve known that before the election that they wouldn’t be very keen on it, but if you don’t actually talk to them how do you then try and persuade them.

I do talk to them. I talk regularly to the unions. I have a meeting of the South East region of the TUC

But what was the last time you spoke to Bob Crow?

Well, as I never tire of saying I am more than happy to... Seriously, the South East region of the TUC come in so often and we talk about all these issues and I talk to Brendan Barber, but...

But to negotiate a strike agreement you’re going to have to negotiate with the individual unions, don’t you?

I’ve got absolutely no problem about talking with a union that is not in a dispute with TFL and obviously what I won’t do is get in and negotiate and pull the rug out from under my negotiators. So, as soon as Bob Crow and the RMT cease to be in dispute about one thing or the other of course I will be more than happy to sit down. There’s a great conversation to be had, actually about all the investment we’ve secured in the Underground and the way we’re going to work together or the benefit of Londoners. But what I do think would be useful would be to help set the context for how we improve the Tube, it would be useful if the government could bring in a threshold so that you didn’t have endless strikes triggered by a minority...

And they show no sign of wanting to do that?

Well, my impression is no. My impression is that David Cameron is very keen on it and that matters a great deal.

And isn’t the best no-strike agreement to introduce driverless trains all across the network? You’d solve the problem immediately.

Yes. Two days ago I had the huge pleasure of getting on a Jubilee line train and sitting in the cab with a wonderful driver who’s a lady of... you know, she’s worked with us for four years and it was inspiring to see how it worked. On the Jubilee line now for the last four weeks we have been running an automated system so basically... I don’t want to minimise what she had to do but all she had to do really was push a button to start the train moved off and then it stopped automatically the doors opened automatically, she didn’t have to use the brake, no throttle, it was –

There we are, if you lose in 2012, there’s a job.

It was inspiring and this is what we will do across the sub surface lines and eventually across the tube network. The sub surface lines are the district, circle, metropolitan lines. So technological progress will make a great deal of difference and as we’re driving all that forward I don’t want to see us being held to ransom by people who want to block progress. Look what we had to do with ticket offices. When you’ve got the oyster card working so well, it would be completely crazy not to reflect that factor in your arrangements. If you’ve got people who want to, if the customers want to see staff on the station platform rather than sitting behind ticket offices reading books or whatever then we should help that to happen.

Now just on the Olympic stadium – who is to blame that we were in a situation where it could actually have been demolished immediately afterwards?

It was an absolutely crazy solution. When I came in, I was told ‘Sorry Buster, you can’t have football in this stadium, it’s got to be an athletics dustbowl, that’s what we’ve told the IOC and it’s got to be athletics and athletics alone.’ And I said bollocks to that. I mean, it’s an obviously perfect resource for a football club, it would animate the whole area, it would bring jobs, it makes sense with our legacy ambitions, and so  

I suppose the point is that had the football people been brought in from the beginning, we wouldn’t be in the situation where one of the bidders was talking about wanting to virtually demolish the whole thing.

Frankly, it is stupefying, but I don’t want to blame anybody because the Olympics is one of those areas of life where actually people have worked very, very well across parties so I don’t want to get into... But it is pretty odd that we got into a position where we’re spending nearly half a billion pounds building a stadium with no clear football vocation for it so I did find that mystifying and by the time I arrived at City Hall it was too late to stop that but I think we’re going to get to a good solution, one way or another.

Moving onto the election in 2012, do you fear that there’s... I mean Gordon Brown effectively at least in part lost the election for Ken Livingstone, because he was at the height of his unpopularity at that point. Ken Livingstone actually never blamed him much to my surprise. Do you not fear that come 2012 the same thing could happen to you because at that point the coalition’s policies are probably going to be at their most unpopular?

Of course. I know this is what the Labour party is certainly counting on in evicting me on that basis, that’s their whole strategy. I think that by 2012, we will have done enough and will have a sufficiently imaginative and exciting programme we will have done enough to help London’s poorest and neediest get through tough times insofar as we’ve been able to. We’ve frozen council tax, we’ve held fares down as far as we possibly can, we’ve kept the concessions on the buses, we’re doing a huge amount to promote apprenticeships for young people, get Londoners through the recession. I think people will understand that we’ve worked incredibly hard on that and will look ahead and say well do you want to go forward or do you want to go back? You can go back to the same old politics we had before 2008 or do you want to look at a different vision for London? And I think in the end, although it will be a very tough fight, that argument will prevail.

You won in part because you managed to mobilise the vote in the sort of doughnut as it was described last time, are you going to have a similar strategy this time?

I won Greenwich.

Greenwich is the key. Greenwich is the Basildon of London

There are plenty of places that I think you know I will fight for every place and every part of London. I believe we’ve got a great story to tell about things we’ve done across the city.

What was the mistake that Ken made last time in fighting you?

Well, fighting me was the mistake. [laughter]

He seemed to fire all his ammunition at you from the start, all the sort of racist stuff. You though what’s he doing this for now, if he’s going to do it, do it in the election, and yet he fired all of that sort of stuff right at the beginning and I always think if you’re going to paint someone as something, people, there’s got to be some little kernel of doubt in people’s minds, so they’ll think actually, you may be right. But no one seriously thought that you were racist and therefore he failed. Do you think he’s going to fight that kind of campaign again?

Well you know...

He’s got the same people running it, hasn’t he?

Yeah. Probably for my own peace of mind the less I think about his campaign, and his tactics, the happier I’ll feel. What I want to do is go out and sell what I think we’ve done. I love this job, to get back to your opening question, I think people were in a way quite surprised to find they’d elected me in 2008

Why do you think that?

I don’t know, there’s a sort of mood, people think crikey, he’s –

What have we done?

There’s a certain amount of that, but actually I think on the whole my impression is that we’ve done a lot better than people thought we would

Well I remember asking Ken Livingstone that question – you know, Boris has done a lot better than people thought he would do, and he admitted that yes, you had done better than he thought you would do

Yeah, and I think we’ve done a lot better than he would have done actually is the truth. Let’s be honest, he made some great contributions to this city, he really did –

What’s the best thing he did?

I can’t remember. Well, he developed John Gummer’s plan for... You know –

The Oyster card?

Well, that was going to happen anyway, all cities now have a variant of that, that was good. I think he was very brave with the congestion charge. It was an interesting experiment that hasn’t really worked. If you look around the world very few other big cities have imitated it.

Well it’s a stealth tax isn’t it? It’s not a congestion charge. Congestion is back to where it was before

Well, it was brave but didn’t really come off

Do you not think that if a congestion charge is going to work it’s actually got to be pitched at a level that will actually deter people? I mean Jenny Jones (Green Party candidate for mayor) came out and said that it should be £50 a day, which is clearly barking mad, but she has a point that if it isn’t at a high enough level and doesn’t deter people it’s just seen as a tax.

 We did the right thing with the western extension zone and –

Why did that take so long?

The law, my dear Iain, you should try to go through the consultation process.... That is one of the things that Ken and would probably agree on, the delays caused by bureaucracy and consultation procedures is agonising.

But you were elected on a platform of abolishing it. Why couldn’t you just say on day one, alright it’s gone?

That’s actually not strictly true. You mean to abolish the whole thing? What I said was we could consult Londoners about the western zone and so we went through that and we did it and it’s gone.

But if you had stood on that platform, you still wouldn’t have been able to do it?

That’s the tragic truth, even if I had stood on that platform I couldn’t have come in and just whipped it out overnight because I would have been judicially reviewed, I’d have been, all the environmental consultations – it just takes forever.

I think that’s what puts people off from going into politics now because they think politicians haven’t actually got the power any more.

People should go into politics! It’s wonderful, I mean look at me, that’s rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. You have an amazing opportunity to do things that are beneficial and I don’t understand why people don't go into politics. I really don’t understand why there was so little competition in the Labour party to be the candidate, I don't understand it. It was so easy for me.

The Lib Dems haven’t even got one.

What’s wrong with everybody?

I think because a lot of people felt that the position didn’t have enough power.

I’ve got a bigger budget and more power than virtually the whole Cabinet.

What more powers would you like?

I think the issue in London is the underperformance of schools; I don’t want to take over the schools because that has long historical resonances, but I would like a bigger role in schools. I think there’s a conversation to be had about how we mobilise young people in London, and the role of City Hall in doing that. We have very regrettable literacy and numeracy rates, still. It has improved, and Andrew Adonis did a good job when he was running that part of it, with the London challenge, but it’s still really, really holding us back as a city.

What about other cross-party things, for example when there was all the snow. I had people on my LBC programme every night saying ‘it’s Boris’s fault’. And yet you haven’t got the powers to do anything.

The single biggest power I want is over the railways in the area. People complained about the trains not coming in from South East London because of the snow, they were blaming me. I think it came up on your show. It’s absolutely predictable that they should blame me because they assume I’m in charge of every railway service in London, but I’m not. We, Transport for London and the Mayoral team, need a say in the franchising of these TOCs, because otherwise we can’t set the standards, we can’t help to determine timetables, we can’t ring them up and say, ‘Listen, communicate with the public and tell us why you can’t get your trains in?’ We at London Underground were able to run all our Overground service, why couldn’t the TOCs do it?’

Why is ambition seen as a bad thing in politics? If anyone actually comes out and said ‘I want to be prime minister’, they get crucified for it.

Do people get crucified for it? I don’t think so. Didn’t Heseltine have a famous plan to become prime minister and all this business?

He did. Whatever happened to him?

I think the reason people don’t trumpet their ambitions is that they’re afraid they won’t succeed, and they will be teased for failing.

But people accuse you of having Heseltinian ambitions.

Well this is all part of a brilliant stunt by the media to torture me. But as everybody who knows Westminster and understands how politics works knows, I haven’t got a cat’s chance in hell of becoming prime minister, but it’s fun to run this argument, and to torment me.

Even if you think there isn’t a cat’s chance in hell, would you quite like the opportunity were it to arise

As I’ve said before, if I was called from my plough to serve in head office, then obviously I would do my best.

Do you miss the House of Commons?

I haven’t really missed it that much I have to admit. I love doing what I do.

I was a little surprised when you stood down because I thought it would be great to have the Mayor of London in the House of Commons because it gives you a national platform, but I suppose if you have a constituency outside London it’s a bit difficult.

It’s so difficult. South Oxfordshire is a different kettle of fish. It wouldn’t have worked in the long run.

Can you see yourself back in there at some point?

I think Guto [Hari, his press officer] will be there before I’m there. You’ll be there! Do you remember that memorable day when you were a candidate in Norfolk and I came to visit? It is seared on my mind.

I thought I had it all sorted out.

I was completely thrown. I got up and I couldn’t remember what was going on that day, and I got up and this chap appeared at my door from Time magazine -

Michael Wolf from Vanity Fair.

- Vanity Fair that’s right. And we had to get to your place in Great Yarmouth or something.

It wasn’t Great Yarmouth! It was Norwich you were supposed to get to. You rang me up at ten to 10, you said ‘I’m nearly at King’s Cross.’ I said ‘you’re supposed to be at Liverpool Street!’ I then had to say ‘get on the train to Peterborough’

That was a total mistake.

So I then had to drive right across Norfolk to pick you up in my very small car.

You were heroic.

I had this famous Vanity Fair journalist in the back of my car.

Yes and he was getting ever more cocky about...

We went to this glass factory, and then we had lunch and we were an hour and a half late and we walked in to a Conservative Party fund raising launch and I said to you ‘we’re going to get lynched’ and we walked in and they all stood up and cheered. I thought to myself: ‘only you could get away with this’.

Actually, lunch was very enjoyable. And then what did we do?

Then you went off to Great Yarmouth to visit Mark Fox, the candidate there.

That’s it.

And I went home and had a cold shower.

I’m very sorry.

It was great. I’m very grateful.

No matter how bad, I don’t think it cost you.

I don’t know, I lost by 10,000.

You didn’t!

I did. Never again. I’m very happy on LBC.

You do a great job. Why have you given up blogging then?

I just haven’t got the time to do it anymore. I used to do it in the evenings, and I obviously can’t do that anymore, so it had to go.

Can’t they just put out transcripts...?

I don’t think that would really work. Let’s continue. What do you think Tory MPs think of you, particularly the new lot? Do you mix with them much?

I haven’t got the faintest idea. Well, my brother Joseph I know very well.

Oh really?! The bastard beat me for that one.

Oh did he? They all seem incredibly bright. I suppose I know some of them.

But you don’t have groups of them in for a drink from time to time.

No I don’t.

People might misconceive that as leadership ambition, I suppose.

No no, what I think we should do, and one thing I would love to see is, I’d love to raise the consciousness of London MPs about some of the things we’re doing a bit more. We were trying to do that.

What’s the point of the GLA?

The Assembly?

Whenever I see you appearing in front of them for your question time sessions, you do appear to treat them with complete and utter contempt, and I completely agree with you.

Do I?

I think it’s a completely useless body, and it’s a huge cost to the public purse and performs very little value.

They’re there to scrutinise the Mayoral team, which is actually a very powerful institution, with a lot of money at its disposal, so they need to invigilate it. On the whole, actually, I think they do quite a good job. They produce some very good reports.

What happens to them?

Well we take account of them. Sometimes we implement them.


Sometimes we file them vertically.

Ten per cent of them? Five per cent of them?

I don’t know, but they’re influential.

But they’re bloody useless at asking questions.

They’re not individually paid a huge amount of money, as far as I can remember.

They are, they’re paid nearly as much as MPs.

Is that right?

Yes, they’re paid over fifty thousand.

Uh-huh. Well. You need a scrutiny body, and I work with what I’ve been given. One of the things we’re trying to do is rationalise some of the other functions. The LDA, the development agency, we’ve folded in. The Metropolitan Police Authority we’re going to fold in; there’s a bit of a reduction in the overall number of bodies.

I’ve said right from the beginning that you ought to get rid of Peter Hendy, because I think that he continues to implement Ken Livingstone’s transport policy and rather pulls the wool over your eyes. But he’s still there and Transport for London is still remarkably inefficient, I think.

We’re running a huge city, and actually if you look at performance on the Tube, which has been difficult because of the upgrades we’ve been putting in over the last couple of years, it is now at last starting to improve. It’s not just ridership that’s going sky-high, with people actually using it, but also at last the passenger miles, and the miles travelled by the trains is going up. Because of the upgrades, having to close the Jubilee line at weekends to do it up. It's unbelievably frustrating to have to tell people: "I'm sorry you can't travel at the weekend because we're upgrading the signalling". At last we're starting to see some of the benefits. On the Jubilee Line you will start to see things pick up. It has taken time and a great deal of effort and money but, of course, people will always blame me or Transport for London.

They do thing which seem completely crass to the travelling public like closing the District line on Saturdays when West Ham have a home game and they're not shutting it when they don't.

That does seem crass to me. I'll look into it. We try not to do that.

The Blackwall Tunnel. It's remarkable shutting it 9pm at night. Why not have it like the Rotherhithe Tunnel with two way traffic. They seem to go out of their way to inconvenience people.

The Blackwall Tunnel is having a massive upgrade with huge amounts of money being put into it. Traffic flow both ways has increased.

Not between 9-5 at night it hasn't...

No...Overall it has increased. One of things I will do in my second term is begin work on a second tunnel in Silvertown.

Boris Island airport, which I've been a leading proponent of for years; it's not going to happen is it so why not give up?

The position we've got ourselves into at the moment is because we need a new airport, we need more aviation capacity. I think the idea you can go on without any increase in runway space in the south east is completely nuts. Other European countries are adding runways to say nothing of Dubai, Chicago, you name it. Two things are happening, we are shipping jobs in aviation overseas because we are not the great hub we were. Heathrow has slipped down from the top to seventh in Europe and we're not going to be able to send our business people directly to the places they need to be. The statistic I point out to people is Paris and Frankfurt have more flights to mainland China than all London airports. We have five a day from all London airports and that's to Beijng or Shanghai. In Paris they have 10 flights a day to four different destinations. Frankfurt has 11flights to six destinations. If Britain is going to pull itself up by exposure to the great economies of the East, China and India, we need to get there. You can't get there by high-speed rail so we need more aviation capacity.

What you can't do is then cram a quart into a pint pot at Heathrow. A third runway would be unbearable because of the extra air traffic movements (atms) over London. You'd have another couple of hundred thousand flights a year, it would hugely erode the quality of life for people in the city. Even if you did have a third runway it wouldn't provide enough capacity. You need a solution. That's where I've got to. Unfortunately business is in a completely false sense of consciousness. All these people in business think it's only a matter of time before the government gives in and builds them a third runway. They're wrong. It's not going to happen. They need to get that idea out of heads.

We've never been good at vision in these countries. These big infrastructure projects. The channel tunnel I guess was the last one. You can say all you like but you don't have the powers to actually do it.

I know. I've got to keep going because I know I'm right. In the end, the arguments for growth and dynamism will succeed. Aviation is one of the things this government, you've got to get tax right, unions right. Send out a very positive message that this country and this city is all about. At the moment, I worry about a negative signal.

Quick Fire
Mayor of London or Prime Minister
Mayor of London! Since it's the best job in the world

Guilty pleasure?
Painting cheese boxes

Thing you must hate about yourself
Hotly contested field....[long pause] I suppose I'd love to lose a stone and a half

Thing you love about yourself
Oh Christ, that really is a hotly disputed area. I don't know. I have a very happy life. I find I'm capable of enjoying almost everything.

Favourite view?
I had the most amazing view of London as I came in from Davos. We circled over the whole city. It's just unbelievable. I realised how utility imposes a pattern on development and how common sense increments to the city produce this absolutely beautiful mosaic of life.

The book you reading at the moment?
I'm reading about 15 books at the moment. I've just read Exile  by Denise Mina at the moment. The climax is not for the faint-hearted. It will leave you breathless and stunned.

Favourite film
Dodgeball or the Godfather

Political hero
Pericles of Athens

Political villain
Alcibiades [Ancient Greek politician, famous for role in the later stages of the Peloponnesian War]

Part of your body you love the most
My leg you keep pulling.