Ken Livingstone greets hundreds of Lewisham residents on tour of London boroughs

Ken Livingstone at Goldsmiths, Lewisham by Helen Crane

Livingstone in Lewisham pic: Helen Crane

Hundreds of Lewisham residents came to speak to Ken Livingstone during his visit to the borough on Monday.

As part of a series of ‘Tell Ken’ visits, Livingstone has been touring London boroughs and speaking to locals about the issues they face.

After a morning meeting with Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock, Livingstone spoke to nearly 200 students at Goldsmiths, answering questions on potential airport plans and transport.

Asked about the issue of a new London airport or airport extension, he pledged his opposition to: “any increase in airline capacity in the western world”, and said he hoped to extend the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, also know as Boris Bikes.

The talks are billed as informing his manifesto for the 2012 mayoral campaign.

Interviewed by EastLondonLines, Livingstone said: “There is real poverty in outer London, and there’s incredible wealth in central London. I should be there to represent all Londoners.”

Sir Steve, who has held Lewisham’s mayoralty since 2002, said: “Ken was engaging with local people, coming up with ideas and listening very hard to what people had to say. It’s been a really interesting day.”

Goldsmiths campus Labour Society chair Eric Vincent, 27, said the turnout had exceeded his estimates.

Livingstone also visited the Café of Good Hope in Hither Green Lane, run by the family of murdered schoolboy Jimmy Mizen. The café is an anchor for the Citysafe Haven Scheme, which sees local businesses offer sanctuary to young people in danger.

This was followed by meeting residents in Catford town centre and joining volunteers packing Christmas hampers at the Voluntary Care Centre in Stanstead Road.

Residents at Lady Florence Hall in Deptford Broadway stressed transport, housing and policing as key issues.  Housing proved the foremost, with a discussion of council rent increases provoking  emotion and some heckling from within the crowd. Many among the 150-strong crowd said they wanted to see more houses built and fewer empty properties.

Ray Sirotkin, from Brockley, who works as a teacher, said: “The most important thing is Ken is going to try and address the housing crisis by returning to affordable housing which Johnson has completely ignored in three-and-a-half years.

“I think it’s unfortunate that he’s probably not going to be able to do as much as he did in his first two terms simply because the government is going to make sure he can’t. It’s not going to give him the money that’s needed for investment in London and that is the real problem we’re facing.”

One Crofton Park resident at the meeting – Goldsmiths accountancy assistant Richard Abendorff, 49 – said: “I thought it was an excellent event. I know Ken’s travelling all over London, wanting to hear people’s views.”

Livingstone, meanwhile, was complimentary about the borough, saying: “What I found in Lewisham is really incredibly friendly people”.

Following the event, Livingstone spoke about the people he met and how they have been affected by the current government.

He said: “Housing issues – from the lack of homes to the government reforms of housing benefit – topped the agenda at our evening meeting.

“I heard from many people concerned about rising levels of violent crime and rightly angry about Boris Johnson’s cuts to police numbers.

“The work being undertaken by the Jimmy Mizen Foundation and the Voluntary Care Centre is inspiring. In these tough times, it is compelling to see so many people of Lewisham working so hard for their communities and striving to make life better for the people of the borough.”

See also our interview with Ken Livingston.

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