Greens’ DWP spokesperson Jonathan Bartley becomes latest to enter London Mayoral race
Bartley joins three other candidates – Sian Berry, Tom Chance and Caroline Russell – in the race to be elected as the Green’s mayoral candidate. Like the other candidates, Bartley is also aiming to be number one on the list for the London Assembly.
Bartley, who convenes Lambeth Green Party, is a long-standing Green activist, rising to prominence by challenging David Cameron on the streets during the 2010 election campaign over cuts to disability benefits. He is also well known for tackling Ian Duncan Smith over suicides linked to welfare reforms.
Launching his campaign website yesterday, Bartley told Bright Green that it was Lambeth Greens who persuaded him to stand, particularly local councillor Scott Ainslie. ‘We’ve done such a lot of work in Lambeth and feel like we’ve achieved so much – including winning a seat seen as unwinnable’.
Previously he had ruled out standing, but ‘lots of people came forward and said I should do this,’ he told Bright Green.
‘With the Green surge, the moment is now – we should use this selection process to boost the profile of the party in London.’
Speaking about his core campaign issues, Bartley said: ‘It is an absolute scandal that there are tens of thousands of people in London using food banks to survive, that the council tax allowance has been cuts for thousands, and that there is an enormous council house waiting list.
‘London is the fifth wealthiest city in the world – it’s not that there’s not enough money, it’s that it’s in the wrong hands. It requires political will to say so and to take a stand. The London Mayor and the Assembly can draw attention to these issues and act on them where possible.’
Housing will be a key issue – ‘it’s not enough to say there is a housing crisis – we have to say there are people in crisis and look at the human impact of austerity. If we don’t stand up for people hit by austerity, who else is going to?’ he said.
Transport will also be central to his campaign. ‘There is transport apartheid in London. I’ve become acutely aware of that through having a son who’s a wheelchair user. Transport is not accessible to around 10% of London’s population – if it was on the basis of race, there would be a national outcry. But because it’s about disability people shrug their shoulders and say nothing can be done. But the London Olympics showed that something could be done,’ Bartley told Bright Green.
Speaking about the need for restorative justice and the London riots, he said: ‘There was a narrative that said we shouldn’t ask why the riots happened – just punish those involved. That’s no long-term solution and doesn’t address the underlying issues.’ Bartley said many victims of crime also come out with a worse view of the police after dealing with them.
‘The Green Party has to present its proposals as common sense – and that means appealing beyond our core support. Being unequivocal in opposing austerity, but nonetheless broadening our approach. In Lambeth, we won with a significant number of Conservative supporters through pavement politics – we got the pavements sorted out, we helped old people and won Tories over.’
On his competitors for the title of London mayoral candidate, he said ‘All the other candidates are brilliant. They’re good people and competent people. But I was dragged off the steps of St Paul’s with Occupy, and I challenged David Cameron on the streets and provoked a national debate during the General Election.We need to be a Green Party with teeth – to be a little more assertive and challenging.’ He said he thought the nomination campaign would be a ‘very close race – but it will be a positive election which will do the London Green Party good’.
Bartley has also worked within politics, working in the House of Commons under John Major for four years in the 1990s. He also vice-chaired the AV referendum’s ‘Yes’ campaign in 2011.
‘We need to say things that are uncomfortable and make people draw breath. People want politicians with conviction.’
Commenting on his chances of getting the nomination, he said the Green surge in London – with over 10,000 members now – made the race very interesting. ‘Everything is to play for’.
Bartley said the Greens should be aiming for three seats on the London Assembly. ‘In the General Election we saw up to 8 percentage point increases in out vote share in many areas.
‘In the Mayoral election we’ve never broken 5%. We should aim to do so this time,’ building towards the council elections in 2018.
Natalie Bennett is rumoured to be deciding whether to stand over the next few days, while Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas has endorsed Sian Berry. You can find more articles on next year’s London elections here.