Sian Berry: ‘We’ve reached crisis point in London and we need a different approach that is both credible and radical’
In part of a series on the Green candidates for London Mayor, Sian Berry lays out her vision for a Green London. You can find profiles of the candidates who have so far put their names forward here, and we’ll be publishing articles from the other candidates over the coming week. You can find all other articles on the 2016 London elections here.
I stood as the Green candidate for London Mayor in 2008 and didn’t do too badly. Seven years on, my policy knowledge has deepened, my debating skills have sharpened, and I’m excited and ambitious about what Greens can accomplish this time.
The focus of my pitch to Greens, and why I think they should vote for me to be the candidate, is to bring together the know-how and values of campaigning groups and take their energy and ideas with us to the door of City Hall… and then inside.
To do this we need a different kind of campaign than we have waged before. Rightly, our party stopped offering simply to champion a more environmentally friendly city ages ago; our 2008 and 2012 London campaigns focused on London’s collapsing affordability, but even this isn’t enough this time.
The fact is we’ve reached crisis point in the city and we need a different approach that is both credible and radical. What motivates me, and I hope it will motivate anyone who wants to be involved, is that the big, bold ideas we need are out there ready to be taken up by our campaign.
We don’t need to look far: Activists like Focus E15, London Cycling Campaign, Take Back the City, and the Momentum Project, along with local community groups and housing campaigns everywhere, are not just battling injustice and unfair decisions – they’re putting positive alternatives forward, and winning.
Thousands of young people are getting in to politics for the first time.London Greens are growing fast, and our membership base is now over 12,000. With many new voters choosing us even in the unforgiving arena of the General Election this May, I am certain we have a unique chance to win many more people over in the multi-vote London Mayor and Assembly elections, and that we can do something pretty special next year.
What would I want to do as Green Mayor? What I definitely won’t do now is start by inscribing a list of ‘my policies’ on a rock: instead, the cornerstone of the plan is to involve more people, more inclusively, in more decisions in London, and bring together people across the spectrum of wealth and interests in sorting things out for themselves.
This means talking to every citizen-led initiative and community group we can find and involving them in the Green Party’s policy-making from scratch to find the best ideas to put forward, and then following that through when elected. London’s Mayor and Assembly govern policing, planning, economic development, transport and housing. Essential stuff – too important not to involve everyone with an interest.
Especially urgent is the need to rethink policing from the ground up, and I think the best way to do this is by getting officers at all levels together with Londoners to work out a new set of priorities and new codes of conduct. (And just as an example, if they did, don’t we think that all concerned would want any special squads of officers to be looking at tax fraud rather than spying on environmental and anti-racist campaigners?).
And the openness cuts both ways. Chief executives will also be welcome to contribute, but I want them to know that if they come to lobby a Green Mayor over wages, they can expect to find organisations like London Citizens in the room, and to have to argue their case in public. City Hall needs to become a debating chamber where good people come in from all walks of life, everyone has a say, and good ideas and common sense come streaming out.
It’s obvious I’m excited to have the chance to stand again for Mayor. This is because outside Parliament – on the streets – politics really is truly exciting again. Change is happening across Europe. In Spain, recent city elections were a victory for grassroots-led movements. Ada Colau, an anti-eviction activist, is now Barcelona’s Mayor and in her first week she will invite representatives of the city’s banks to talk about halting evictions and repossessions.
Why should London miss out on this excitement? Greens, working with campaigners and citizens across the city, have the opportunity to bring a new kind of politics to London next year, and I want to be there to help hold the door wide open.
You can find out more about Sian’s campaign by visiting her campaign website here.