Brian Paddick gets down with the kids at the Ministry of Sound
It's 9.39am when Brian Paddick reports for duty at the fortress gates of Elephant & Castle's Ministry of Sound in a black metallic Belstaff jacket, made of 'ballistic fabric', and black well-shined shoes. This is the Lib Dem headquarters for the London mayoral campaign, but also houses the club and its record label offices and, as Paddick arrives, a screen in the foyer is pumping out a video of D’Banj’s Oliver Twist, women gyrating their fishnet-clad buttocks for the cameras.
Paddick doesn’t flinch as he does his morning greetings, while his more demure political team admit that before this campaign they’d never been to the Ministry of Sound, owned by Lib Dem supporting James Palumbo.
He starts the typical day of interviews with Dennis Gyamfi, founder of online youth magazine Endz2Endz, who asks him some clumsily worded but insightful questions unscripted. “The only time I’ve seen someone that good before is Andrew Marr, and he’s got an earpiece,” Paddick says encouragingly at the end. Young Dennis looks chuffed. That’s one vote in the bag.
On to the next gig, an interview with Sun Online. His team are at pains to point out they usually take the bus - Brian prefers it, especially the top deck - but because of the rain, and me tagging along, Addison Lee are summoned. Conversation drifts to the Metropolitan Police, Paddick’s strong suit.
He resigned as Assistant Commissioner four years ago, but smacks his lips at the prospect of having control over the Met should he become Mayor, an extreme unlikelihood as he’s trailing at seven per cent in the polls. The four top-level resignations from the Met, including Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, over links to News International, would not have befallen him. “I was known as Peter Perfect,” says Paddick, recalling the goody two shoes in the Whacky Races cartoons.
But Paddick also conversely likes to be seen as a maverick. While at the Met, he pioneered the softly, softly approach to cannabis on the streets of Brixton and after he left he appeared on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, proudly showering naked.
The Sun webchat isn’t, judging by Paddick’s smirking expression, very testing and we move onto a nearby Pret a Manger for lunch where he chooses a crayfish and mango sandwich and a vitamin volcano smoothie but, while paying, his card won’t register. “You haven’t put it in the right way,” the cashier says. “And I bet that’s not the first time someone’s said that to you,” pipes up another Pret staffer camply, who has recognised him. Brian, who is gay, fares well with the pink vote.
Why has Paddick chosen to run? It’s not that he’s gunning for position within the Lib Dems. When I ask if he’d like to be a party MP, he says no firmly. “I’m terrible at being told what to do - being told to vote for this, vote for that.” Perhaps it’s just that vanity of the attention.
After lunch Paddick invites me back to his flat near the Ministry of Sound for coffee and half an hour’s downtime in front of the Daily Politics. The flat sounds unpromising. It is above a local supermarket and overlooking the train-tracks, but actually it’s a sleek compact place, with a decent espresso maker, an iPad on the table and a six-foot wide art photograph by Aymeric Giraudel on the wall, in which well-toned semi-naked men writhe dynamically in a Renaissance scene.
Lord Mandelson pops up on the television in a maroon sweater. Paddick notes: “That’s a bold colour.” Coffee over, and we head back for a follow-up meeting with Bite the Ballot, a grassroots youth group.
Up until now, Paddick has always seemed in command, but when the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg pulls up in his Jaguar, his wannabe Lib Dem mayor stands anxiously by the door waiting for his superior.
Paddick is good at speaking to the young people in the meeting. He’s trying to put across his idea of youth hubs, modern youth clubs with mixing decks and computers instead of ping-pong and snooker tables. But this is also a performance for Clegg, and after one question he turned to him for reassurance. Nick, who has put on his best “I’m paying attention” face throughout the meeting, gives him an encouraging headmasterly nod.
“He was a bit of an embarrassing dad last time we met him,” says Abi Awojobi afterwards, a sassy politics student. “But he’s doing a bit better now he’s not trying so hard.” Khalid O’Beirne, a youth worker from north London, with headphones dangling around his neck, hasn’t succumbed. “He sounds like what he says is written down,” he says. “Actually I think I prefer Siobhan Benita - she speaks from the heart.”
Clegg zooms off and Paddick is left with his campaign team, all looking a little battle-weary. Apart from an interview with a Bengali television station that evening, the day is over for Paddick and he’s heading to the gym to do some cross-training and to work on his back. I wasn’t invited to observe this.
Evening Standard, 04 April 2012.