Rashid Nix for London: “I am the candidate Labour fear”
It might be obvious, but the current London Green Party Mayoral race has largely centred on two candidates – Camden councillor Sian Berry and Lambeth Green Party’s Jonathan Bartley. But there’s one candidate in particular who has been ignored in the race: Brixton’s Rashid Nix – one of only two BAME candidates (along with Benali Hamdache), and a popular community figure in Lambeth.
The candidate Labour fear?
I spoke to him about his status as the ‘outsider’ candidate. Nix is, if there are any in the Greens, the antithesis of a career politician. Standing for Mayor was ‘not something I’d considered’, he told me – but he was asked by people in Brixton to run. After getting one of the best results in London on May 7th – 9.4% in Dulwich and West Norwood – he set about trying to recruit hundreds of new members in the constituency following the Conservative victory. In a by-election last year, he came second to Labour for the first time in the ward – a complete non-target seat.
Rashid described the separation of Labour councillors in Lambeth, walking down the street with one last year. People kept saying hi to him, but no-one knew who the Labour councillor was. ‘I had to introduce him to about 15 people’.
‘This is my community,’ he said. It’s something that led a local Labour member to tell him: ‘you are the candidate that Labour fear’. I.e. someone who can actually speak up for ordinary Brixtonians – many being working-class black people being hit by austerity.
He is clearly well-known and well-liked – and his job as a promoter paid off, with non-political people across the area wearing his ‘Vote Green’ t-shirts.
The housing hustle
His campaign focus for Mayor and the Assembly are pretty relevant given the current eviction and demolition plans for the Cressingham Gardens estate, a major social housing project and community on the edge of Brockwell Park in Lambeth. ‘It’s a scandal, he said. ‘We can talk about cyclists, parts-per-million of pollution – but the number one issues are housing and employment. We need the political will to do something about it’.
60 estates across London are currently being demolished by councils eager to privatise the land on the cheap to developers. The situation for social housing in the UK has gone from the great post-war plans of the early 20th century to the great sell-offs today: what Nix called going ‘from supermen to conmen’. ‘It’s an absolute hustle’.
‘I’m completely different’
Nix – not your average politician – is straight-talking and down to earth, as well as scathing to the current political class. ‘Politicians don’t have any vision today. Politics has become really really grey – people want to see some flavour,’ he said.
What does he make of the other Green candidates? While kind about his fellow candidates (‘everyone is so nice in the Greens, and I have immense respect for Jon [Bartley] and Tom [Chance]), Nix was also honest. ‘I’m completely different [to them] – many Greens aren’t ‘ordinary’. People can spot if you’re real. I can get chatting with hood-rats on street corners: I know their life. Would your typical Green politician get down with local black youths?’ It’s a pertinent question which brings up the long-standing debate point in the Greens: are we too middle-class? Is Nix’s ‘ability to connect’ something that sets him apart from the other contenders?
Perhaps. ‘I’m the outsider, without a doubt’. But it might not do him harm. ‘If you’re authentic, people will recognise that’. ‘Have any of the other candidates been able to inspire and engage outside of their own circles?’ The challenge is there to be answered.
Playing to win
Above all for Nix though, this is about what works. ‘If you keep putting up the same kind of candidate, you’ll get the same results’. Can the Greens break through in a city as diverse as London without putting up candidates who reflect that diversity? Whatever the case, this is a candidate who is ‘playing to win’. With little exposure and lacking the networks within the party other contenders do, it’s a bold statement. But the dedication is there.
Now, maybe it’s time for Greens to think outside the stereotypical comfort zone and look at this outsider as a game-changer.
Online ballots went out to London Green Party members on August 5th. Voting is open until the end of the month.
Note: This article was amended on the 11th August after the Green Party corrected claims that Rashid Nix had been unfairly excluded from campaign publicity. In the case of a national fundraising booklet he was excluded from, the party apologised and sent out a corrected leaflet featuring Rashid. In the case of apparent omissions by Left Foot Forward and the Guardian, it appears that Nix did not reply to requests in time for publication. Apologies for these initial inaccuracies in the piece.