Zack Polanski
Zack Polanski

In 2020, London will go to the polls to elect a new Mayor and members of the London Assembly. The London Green Party are now in the process of selecting their candidates for those elections. Bright Green is offering every candidate seeking selection an opportunity to tell our readers why they should be selected. One of these candidates is Zack Polanski, and this is what he has to say:

I’m Zack Polanski. I’ve lived in London for a decade and I’m lucky to have worked as a mental health counsellor, an actor, a nightclub promoter and inside our prisons. But what’s painfully clear from speaking to a diverse range of people in my different jobs is how so many people feel they don’t have a voice or that the system works for them.

I’m running as your Mayoral and Assembly Candidate to champion the needs of our diverse communities. And because we’re crying out for change on our climate emergency and our housing and knife crime crises.

The most pressing issues facing London

It’s pretty clear we simply cannot continue living on a planet that we are destroying. We absolutely have a climate change emergency. And on a London level – the actual concrete effects of this are extremely apparent. What I’m hearing is it’s choking us, especially the most vulnerable members of our communities.

I have seen for a long-time that Londoners’ biggest problem is housing and the clearest symptom of this utter failure is the rising homelessness on our streets. I’m noticing that when I regularly go canvassing in different areas of London, I’m hearing the public now say the same thing. I myself have had to move 12 times in London and faced slum landlords.

And I recently went to a sixth form college and gave a talk on any issues they wanted to discuss in 60 minutes. Brexit didn’t actually come up once – as ready as I was to talk about the People’s Vote – but what they chiefly wanted to talk about was knife crime. It’s totally unacceptable that our youth are growing up in a city where they’re living in fear and our party needs to respond.

How I could tackle these issues as Mayor or a member of the Assembly

On homelessness, there’s tens of thousands of empty houses. At City Hall, I’d push for us to turn houses into homes and for us to look at occupation orders to make sure that people can’t own second buildings and leave them empty for months and months or even years. We also need to get building social housing because a lack of it is putting an unnecessary burden on an already overwhelmed rental market. The building has to be on the brownfield sites. But let’s use the buildings we’ve already got before we even get into conversations about mass building.

I’d also champion short-term solutions in the meantime, such as supporting organisations like Shower Box I’ve spoken to who are making sure that every homeless person can have access to a hot shower during the day so they can have the most basic dignity. I think we should also listen to and work with our civil organisations, like churches and hostels to make sure that no one has to sleep without a roof above their heads.

On knife crime, I think we can really take a look at Glasgow. They shifted from looking at knife crime as a criminal issue and started to holistically look at it as a mental health issue. This is about rehabilitation and prevention rather than punishment. Increasing stop & search can’t be the answer here – it just increases tensions between minority communities and the police. We need to look at restoring local youth services and rebuilding a sense of community.

And on air pollution – we need to look at seriously reducing car usage and private hire usage inside our capital and speeding up moving towards zero carbon emissions. It can’t just be more taxes – it sends a message that if you’re wealthy enough, you’re welcome to drive in the city. I’d absolutely work with all voices on this debate, including the inspiring Extinction Rebellion activists.

We need to be seriously making cycling possible for a diverse range of people, including persons with disabilities and older people. Electric bikes could serious help with making it even more accessible to get around the city and we need to make the general public feel that it’s a safe and welcoming city to travel in!

Why I would be a good candidate for the Green Party

As a gay Jewish man, I know how it feels to grow up being different. Londoners need to feel they have representation and I think that this party has had a lack of BME candidates on the front line. I want us to address this and promote diverse candidates, as I believe in diversity. I co-host one of the biggest LGBTQAI+ BME club nights in Europe and I’ve been involved with both activism and partying with both communities for a long time. I think there’s clearly a huge lack of that authenticity and mix in politics and above all else – I think it’s desperately needed. I’m also keenly aware that many Londoners, including the Jewish community and the LGBTQAI+ communities I belong to, have suffered a rise in hate crime in the last few years. We need action, and I want to be a voice that advocates for everyone.

To achieve this, I believe that I have a unique set of skills, both being very comfortable in media interviews and debates, and love to help write policy on several working groups. I’ve always been very keen to be an all-rounder and rarely has a Thursday gone by in the last couple of years where I’ve not been out on the streets somewhere in the capital knocking on doors, listening to Londoners, and helping out in a by-election. So in short, I don’t think there’s many other people in any political parties that are so involved with campaigning, policy making, comamunicating and socialising as I am!

These skills are all going to be equally essential to getting our Assembly Members up from two to three and possibly even four!

Zack Polanski is the London Assembly Candidate for West Central London and Parliamentary Candidate for Cities of London and Westminster. In 2018, he stood for local election in Marylebone High Street and for a by-election in Lancaster Gate. Polanski was formerly a Liberal Democrat activist, having stood for the party in the 2016 London Assembly elections.

Articles from all candidates can be found here.