Shaka Lish
YouTube Screengrab

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 Shaka Lish, who has the following to say:

I’m going to start this article by sharing something controversial, something that those in politics aren’t suppose to admit to. Recently I have become disillusioned and disheartened by the state of politics in the UK.

I have struggled with the dual urges of wanting to serve, campaign and be active in politics with wanting to turn my back all together. I have been told on numerous occasions that politics needs people like me – people that aren’t career politicians but that care about people and the state of the world. So it is from this honest place I share my vision and my reasons for standing for London Assembly.

The politics of crisis

There appears to be a deluge and a convergence of multiple crises on the horizon, both internationally and here in the UK. And I think if one does not feel overwhelmed, then it’s likely there is denial about the seriousness of where we find ourselves historically.

As someone who believes wholeheartedly in the Green Party as a means for averting at least some of the potential disasters facing us today, I can’t help but want to be realistic about our prospects as a real political force and also the limitations of party politics itself.

Politics in the UK is naturally adversarial and tribalist. This is necessary in our political constitution but this combative approach fails us in real life. Here politics becomes performative and exists only to maintain itself and often alienates the very people we claim to represent. This is not a political culture fit for the 21st century with the ability to meet our future challenges. I have nothing but respect for my fellow Greens working diligently and with commitment in this climate, just doing the little we can to work within a political system that presents so many barriers to our aims.

Beyond career politicians

I’m not interested in a career in politics. I’m interested in change. I’m still yet to be fully convinced that entry into established politics is the means for bringing about radical change, or whether as political entities we simply evolve to become electable, inevitably diluting our original and radical aims. If politics is a vehicle for real change, then that is the only reason I’m standing.

I believe that collectively, this country needs not only a material shift in the form of policies but also a collective shift of consciousness that helps people to prepare for a different way of living that is in harmony with the earth and to heal from the brutality of this capitalist system. It is for this reason that I’m also involved in wellness and holistic therapies.

I’m not personally religious but I believe there is something bigger than us all that binds us together. Call it what you want but it is where the foundation of care to one another and the earth comes from. I believe a politics without a framework of universal care founded in universal law, is empty and vacuous. For if it is not for each other, the animals and our Earth, what are we really fighting for?

Confronting London’s capitalist core

I was born and raised in London and understand implicitly that London is a global satellite for international capitalism, a financial capital and home to descendents and people from all over the globe. It is a place of diversity, contradiction, wealth, of inequality, of opportunity and anonymity.

As Greens I believe we need to confront the reality that London draws power and prestige from remaining a beacon of global capitalism and this very much clashes with our ultimate and foundational aims. On the flip side, London also presents itself as the perfect place to take the lead in and be an example of a low carbon, zero waste society.

There are multiple, interconnected issues that need to be addressed in London (and no doubt elsewhere in the country) – housing, inequality, mental health, youth services, green spaces, pollution, protection of trees, better cycling provisions, transport, social services and crime. I’m passionate about improving all of these for all inhabitants of London, however, every time I think about these issues in detail I’m always struck by this looming feeling of dread that is born from knowing we have these wider and bigger issues that are having an impact on our ability to address these local issues effectively. These are – climate breakdown, ecological disaster, austerity, Brexit, the rise of fascism, extreme inequality, the doubling down of neoliberal capitalism, western imperialism and the shoring up of a surveillance society in service of powerful interests.

Tackling the bigger issues

I write this not to be a voice of doom but as an honest explanation as to why I’m finding it hard during this campaign to reel off platitudes and feel excited about what I could potentially offer should I be elected. If I were to be elected, I could only promise to vote with my conscience, to campaign with integrity, to always speak truth to power and hold the Mayor to account in the interests of Londoners. With that said, I think it also behoves us to keep our attention on the bigger forces at play.

Among the many tragic news stories that we are often exposed to, one story stays with me. It is the story of whales being washed up on the shore with their stomachs filled with plastic. My heart literally breaks and I ask myself, as humanity, what have we done?

Maybe a story like this seems acute and irrelevant in the middle of an election for the London Assembly but I don’t believe it is. I don’t want to be atomised and fooled into think thinking that occurrences like this are unrelated to local issues. I believe they form part of a bigger picture that reiterates the inter-connectedness of our lives with the natural world. This has always been my reason for being involved in politics and continues to be the reason why I stand.

Shaka Lish is a Green Party activist from London. In the 2017 General Election, Lish stood as the Green candidate Brent Central, winning 1.5% of the vote. 

Articles from all candidates can be found here.