Croydon questions: Winston McKenzie, UKIP

Ahead of the London Assembly elections on May 3, we have circulated all the Sutton and Croydon candidates with the intention of publishing their responses in full, unedited, and without the artifice, interruptions and grandstanding of the usual hustings.

UKIP's candidate for Sutton and Croydon Winston McKenzie

Winston McKenzie, UKIP

Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background, where you grew up and went to school and university, your work and family?

I arrived in Croydon from Jamaica in 1960, aged five. I was schooled in South Norwood and have lived in or around Croydon for 50 years.

A former champion boxer, I hail from the renowned McKenzie dynasty of sporting talent.

I am the co-founder and chairman of The Croydon Youth Games, a mini-Olympic style competition for children throughout Greater London, aged 11-18, which includes disabled sports and a vast Youth Work Experience Programme.

I am a keep-fit instructor and lecturer. I run motivation classes and sports demonstrations for children, and I work with “under-achieving” or “excluded” children, as well as writing occasionally for the Daily Express.

I recently held a 10-week series of televised debates on the EU. I am the UKIP spokesman for Culture, Media & Sport.

What are your interests outside politics?

Boxing, youth activities, singing, cooking and reading.

How did you become so involved in politics?

I decided to enter politics way back in the year 2000. I wanted to help change people’s lives for the better. After lecturing school children I realised just how out of touch our politicians were. There was so much I felt that politicians were getting wrong, in their apparent lap of luxury, whilst we struggled at the sharp end.

And then came the MPs’ expenses scandal.

At the poor end, we were getting stigmatised and jailed as thieves for small benefit fraud, for finding little loopholes through the system to make ends meet, whilst those at the wealthy end, on big fat salaries, were told they could repay thousands, and even did so proudly in public, and just carry on in their jobs – as usual – including continuing to take expenses that, as a self-employed man, you would not be able to get away with, with the taxman. Hypocrisy!

Who would you describe as the biggest influences on your life and your political outlook?

The biggest influences in my life have to be my mother and father, of whom I am very proud.

The McKenzie "boxing dynasty": Winston, centre, in trademark hat, with brothers Duke and Clinton

Hagler or Leonard?

Difficult, but I have to opt for Marvin Hagler, for his consistency, tunnel vision and the ability to finish the job.

However, it is an answer my brother, Clinton wouldn’t be happy with.

He is currently a guest of Sugar Ray Leonard at his home in LA, a lovely holiday for four weeks.

How many times have you stood for election now? And for how many different parties?

In my naivety of party politics, I have joined one or two different political parties trying to find my way through, beneath the lies and broken promises. It is not until you join a group and find out all about them that you realise this group is not for you.

I am quite happy to tell you that I have been a member of the Liberal Democrats, Veritas and the Conservative party for one year each. Indeed, you cannot find out about politics unless you sign-up. However, I have never been a member of the Labour party, as has often been speculated.

I have even stood as an independent twice, and on both occasions have been head-hunted. Indeed, I stood as an independent candidate for the Office of Mayor of London in 2008.

My various candidacies have been:

2003 Brent-East By-Election (Independent)
2005 Croydon North (Veritas)
2008 First Afro-Caribbean candidate to stand for Mayor of London (Independent)
2010 Tottenham (UKIP)
2012 Croydon & Sutton London Assembly (UKIP)

I am glad to tell you that I have now found my niche in UKIP, the straight-talking party, the party that wants to see us come out of the EU.

This video by Winston McKenzie was recorded last year, when he was seeking UKIP’s mayoral nomination:

Why UKIP? Why not the Tories, or Labour, or any other political party?

You know, we send £56 million pounds, net, every day, to the European Union. That’s the tax money you and I pay into the British Treasury every day, and is systematically banked straight into the EU coffers.

Just think what we could do with that money. What jobs we could start, what houses we could build, what charities we could help! Never before have I been so passionate about a single policy as I have with coming out of the EU, which is draining our resources daily and wreaking havoc in so many other European countries who tied themselves to the euro.

It’s a devastating system of expensive bureaucracy and unelected bureaucrats running our country from afar without taking into account our culture, our laws and our way of life.

We all love Europe. We want to visit them on holiday. We want to taste their cuisine. We want to buy and sell to them. But, we don’t want to be run by them!

Could you guarantee the voters that, if elected to the London Assembly, you would not change party during your term?

Well, there are plenty of politicians just now crossing the floor towards UKIP because of the broken promises within their own parties. But I have done all the floor-crossing I need. I have found UKIP for myself and I’m going nowhere soon!

Winston McKenzie cherishes Croydon's open space at Lloyd Park

What is your favourite part of Croydon?

The wonderful open space at Lloyd Park in South Croydon, the legacy that has been left to Croydon in the form of this park was the most wonderful gesture years ago of two spinster ladies.

How would you categorise the differences between Sutton and Croydon?

Over the last 10 years Croydon’s reputation has deteriorated. We have gone from being a proud and honourable borough and now find ourselves reduced to having to accept what I can only describe as a shameful indictment of what Croydon and some of its citizens have become.

The continued rise in knife crime and muggings are deplorable. Many citizens feel that they have been disenfranchised by the coalition government, and that there is no hope for the future.

By contrast Sutton, with all its apparent problems, is doing well compared to Croydon. You could say that because they are a smaller borough their problems are easier to overcome with less inhabitants per square mile. Community spirit is apparent in Sutton, as I have witnessed throughout my campaign, and it is this ideology that will promote peace and hope for the future.

What are your proudest achievements?

Of all the things in life that one could possibly achieve, I guess I am proud of the honour, dignity and self-respect that I have earned throughout the years through boxing, politics and the love of my former wife, Cheryl.

What would your experience bring to the job of Assembly Member?

Compared to my political colleagues, my experience is second to none. Today’s politicians are not in touch with the general public. They seem to have no means of communication and are oblivious as to the real issues that affect the voters who put them in office.

It’s quite simple really, you have the person who is a career politician and very intellectual, and by contrast you have the person who has served his time in the community before becoming involved in politics and understands implicitly the problems that are holding both the working class and the poor back.

My experience in community liaison, my ability to communicate with ordinary members of society, is priceless and gives me a head start.

Rents go ever upwards. What would be your solution to London’s housing problems? How might that work specifically in Croydon and Sutton?

Persuade the owners of empty houses to rent them to the council or housing associations on a guaranteed rent. These houses could then be put back into good order and rented out to desperate families in need.

Do you support the introduction of an incinerator in Beddington Lane?


What do you think caused the riots in Croydon last August?

Lack of communication between the police and the general public. The Met Police must be cleaned out root and branch with all officers undertaking a new training scheme. We should make use of the police colleges we have for re-training. I admire the work being done by the new Met Police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe.

UKIP's Sutton and Croydon GLA candidate Winston McKenzie supports the Met Commissioner, but thinks the capital's police need re-training

And what are your views about policing in Croydon and Sutton?

The police are stretched to capacity through austerity measures implemented by the coalition government. My view is that crime will rise even further in the coming 18 months. The new trend of house burglaries is rising, together with street muggings.

People are despairing. We really do need to increase the back-room staff to support the police if we are to succeed. At this moment it would seem they are expected to provide an efficient service with their hands tied behind their backs, including the insufficient help that should be attributed to the police after catching criminals, by the courts.

The police will continue to make many mistakes as they are not being sufficiently trained. This is a policy I thought would be addressed by the incumbents, David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Steve O’Connell. However, one has to excuse them as they haven’t got a clue! Therefore the situation goes unabated.

Since 2004, UKIP has not had a candidate elected to the London Assembly. What makes you believe you will be any different this time?

UKIP is now better structured and organised and is receiving fantastic attention from both the media and the general public who now realise we are the only straight-talking honourable party that can be trusted.

Wouldn’t it just be better for UKIP to concentrate on getting their voters to focus on voting for the top-up list so as to maximise the size of the party on the Assembly, as UKIP has never won a first-past the post seat on the Assembly?

Absolutely not. Each election is different. The British people have been cheated once too often by today’s self-serving coalition government. Something has to be done. The old system is not working. That is why UKIP is urging everyone to come out and use all their votes.

We are fielding candidates for the London election in every borough. So, yes, what we are doing is both in the interests of the general public, and this country. Someone has to fly the flag – preferably a British one and not a European one!

Realistically, it is most unlikely that UKIP will form a majority group on the Assembly, nor be working with a UKIP mayor. So isn’t a vote for you a wasted vote?

In a democracy, no vote is wasted. Rome was not built in a day, as many say. UKIP’s continued ominous growth is evident as we are now polling 11 per cent in national opinion polls, a statistic to be proud of, and are in joint third place with the Liberal Democrats. Now, that’s progress!

Do you support the government’s NHS bill?

No. I do not support the government’s NHS bill. Again the people are not being listened to. Public consultation means nothing these days, it is just an exercise to justify the government’s original decisions.

St Helier or Mayday? Which one would you prefer to see keeping its A&E department in the context of the review of the NHS in South West London?

It’s absurd to even consider closing either of these two A&E departments. But if pushed, it would be common sense to adhere to the level of brutality that is going on in our communities at the moment. Therefore it would be wise to keep open Mayday University Hospital A&E. We await the outcome.

One of the problems is that people are currently visiting A&Es for minor problems for the simple reason that they are unable to liaise with their own family doctor or indeed have never got round to finding one.

Would you take any employment outside City Hall if elected?

Yes. Provided it coincides with the work I am elected to do.

Would you like to run for Parliament in the future?

Yes. I certainly would.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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