Prospective London Mayoral candidate Benali Hamdache: ‘Elected Greens should be activists, too’
The prospective Green Party Mayoral and Assembly candidate Benali Hamdache has described his vision for the Greens’ campaign next year – and what separates him from other candidates – in an interview with Bright Green.
The London Young Greens co-chair and GPEW fundraiser told Bright Green that he wants to ‘speak up for oppressed communities’. ‘Boris has a terrible record on working for Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Londoners – and the Greens have to get better at it too.’
Hamdache said his three main proposals for BME people are pushing for anonymous CVs to stop employment discrimination, targeting and expanding apprenticeships towards disadvantaged areas, and a programme of regeneration – investing in deprived communities.
The prospective Mayoral and Assembly candidate has worked in mental health, migration policy and politics more generally, and got into politics working in the NHS. He said he views expanding Green links with trade unions, as well as sustainable businesses, as a priority.
Asked about what Greens can do on the Assembly, Hamdache said that ‘as well as being Assembly Members, they should also be activists’, playing a mobilising role. ‘Being radical, charismatic and getting attention’ are key qualities, he told BG.
‘I can empathise with a lot of Londoners struggling to get by,’ he said.
Not like other candidates
On what separated him from other candidates, Hamdache appeared to distance himself from prospective Mayoral candidate Jonathan Bartley – ‘Myself and Sian have both very much made the case that we need to be looking at progressive voters – about taking a very radical agenda. We are conscious we’ll probably alienate some voters.’
‘The other candidate [Bartley] has said we need to take all votes – Conservative voters, Lib Dem voters, Labour voters – and in some ways that reflects a bygone era when in 2012 we did get a lot of Tory second preference votes, but they might be less keen to vote for us now.’
BG asked if this meant he would target ‘core’ voters: ‘I wouldn’t say core voters, I’d say progressive voters – people who voted Lib Dem for example – it’s about understanding that our agenda will alienate some voters. We shouldn’t be afraid to say that our agenda doesn’t appeal to everyone.’
Does this separate Hamdache from Jon Bartley? ‘I think that would be the case’. But ‘the other thing that separates me from other candidates is my age – I’m the only candidate under 30 for both the Mayoral candidacy and the Assembly lists. London is a younger city.’ He said he can ‘empathise with a lot of Londoners struggling to get by’.
The nature of the campaign so far
Despite having a different focus to some of the other candidates, Hamdache pointed out that there’s a lot more that brings the candidates together than separates them. ‘All of the hustings have consolidated the fact that we’re all Greens, really…Collectively, most members would be happy with any of the candidates. We’re all singing from the same hymn sheet’ – compared to Labour, which he said was ridden with factions.
‘People make a big deal of the divide between liberals and watermelons [green on the outside, red on the inside] in the party, but the reality is different.’
What does he describe himself as? ‘I’m a watermelon – but I think we’ve all got pretty much the same ideas about how we fix the big issues London faces. And those are radical ideas.’
Hurdles for Greens
However, it’s not all plain sailing. ‘One of the biggest issues is getting our members engaged – we have to get them out and mobilise them.’
Not only that, but with the rise of UKIP, Hamdache said ‘we need an agenda that can appeal to both inner and outer London – otherwise we’ll be overtaken’
In it to win
Hamdache paid tribute to Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson, who are both standing down as Greens from the Assembly next year. ‘We have to use their legacy to push forward the Green agenda even more.’ He said them standing down will make it harder to secure a third seat on the Assembly, however. In terms of the Mayoral race, ‘third should be our goal’ – the same place as in 2012 when the Greens beat the Liberal Democrats.
Asked what his chances were of getting the nomination for Mayor and getting to number one on the London-wide list, Hamdache said: ‘I play to win.’ He said Young Greens could be central to helping him secure the nomination.
‘A radical voice for a more equal London’
With ballots going out on Monday 3rd August to all London Green Party members via email, Hamdache will be hoping he can draw on his campaigning experience and profile among activists to secure a high ranking on the Assembly list, and beat the two candidates seen as front-runners, Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry. With a solid standing among the large number of young people in the party, it could well be possible.