IN DEPTH: Robert Gorrie - Our hope to win hearts - and power

RESIDENTS are at the heart of the Liberal Democrat campaign – so much so that leader Robert Gorrie mentions them scores of times during our short interview, sometimes up to three times in a sentence. People are at the very core of what we

Rhiannon Evans

RESIDENTS are at the heart of the Liberal Democrat campaign - so much so that leader Robert Gorrie mentions them scores of times during our short interview, sometimes up to three times in a sentence.

"People are at the very core of what we are about," he says and later describes himself as having "a palpable passion for people".

It is this resident-centric viewpoint that, he hopes, will make him leader of the council come the end of May.

With just 29 Labour councillors to the Lib Dems' 26, this year's Haringey council elections are closer than they have ever been.

He appears to be confident of the possibility of a win, but, he insists, not complacent.

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Asked if he will be leader of the council, he diplomatically says: "Our chances are very, very good, but it's up to the residents - residents are at the heart and if we don't persuade the residents to vote for us, I will not be leader of the council."

So how will the Lib Dems win those all important residents round?

"We start with the idea that the resident is at the centre of everything we do - the council is there for the residents, the residents are not just there to keep the council busy," he says.

"It's the reverse - the council is there to serve the residents.

"If a resident sat in our council meetings sometimes, they may think, 'What does this have to do with me?'

"We should not be doing things if it's not relevant to the resident.

"Labour have endless strategies - it's the 'do something' that's missing from huge amounts of the current council operations.

"It doesn't do things.

"We could take out huge wedges of strategic processes that the council goes through and focus on delivery.

"With Haringey People [the council magazine] - what is there in that communication that is of relevance to the residents?"

He says one of the key things their party would look to achieve is greater accountability and transparency.

"Residents have to believe you are doing things for them and trust what is going on is for their benefit, so there should be complete transparency of what's going on," he says.

"With Baby Peter, the issue was that people were not telling people what was going on.

"It's about a culture that's defensive and secretive - a council that's open and transparent should be a council that embraces criticism.

"We need to embrace our critics because that's the thing that will enable us to get better."

Finally he says their people are different: "They are more energetic, they are better quality and we don't become a Lib Dem as a career - you become a Lib Dem because you believe it and you believe in trying to make a difference.

"You join the Tories or the Labour party because you are a hack."

You get the impression that if you cut Mr Gorrie, he would bleed yellow.

Asked how long he has been a Lib Dem party member he responds: "Longer than I can remember.

"Being a Lib Dem is in the blood - I was delivering leaflets at the age of 11 as my dad was a councillor for 25 years in Edinburgh, an MP and an MSP."

A councillor since 2006 and group leader since 2008 with a background in business - he was one of just six people who started Ocado - is the 50-year-old father-of-two ready to run the council?

"How can you ask that question given the people running the council at the moment?" he simply says.

"They put more money into Iceland than any other council in London, they messed up Alexandra Palace, they were rated the worst council in London, have they hit a recycling target? The list is just endless.

"How long will people put up with that?"

Mr Gorrie certainly has no problems with criticising the ruling Labour party, who have kept them out of power for 40 years - speaking about them again, he says: "I think it's a tired group of people coming to the end of the road - it's a group that's displaying significant internal conflict and angst.

"Haringey Labour hasn't got the principles and position that it may have had in the past and many of its long-serving members are coming to recognise that."

But isn't the political clich� true that it's easy to be in opposition?

"It is easier to be in opposition - and will there be an element of organisational shock? Yes there will," he says.

"But the bigger shock will be for the residents who will discover they are living in a borough providing them with the respect and service they deserve.

"There are more Lib Dem leaders in London than Labour leaders, we do run councils and people find they like us.

"We are a great group of people committed to a common set of principles and we want the opportunity as a group to deliver for the people of Haringey.