Zack Polanski

Bright Green is offering all the candidates standing to be on the Green Party’s list for the 2024 London Assembly election the opportunity to set out why they are standing and their vision for London. This article is published as part of that series. The full series of articles can be found here.

A few months ago, when I became deputy leader of the Green Party, I echoed calls from our members that we need to break through in the media. That there’s no environmental justice without racial, social and economic justice too. And that we need to keep connecting those dots because as Greens we will always stand up for intersectional justice – the idea that everything is connected.

This is how I’ve been working as your deputy leader – always making sure to put our values at the heart of everything we do.

This has been familiar work because it’s how I’ve been working as a London Assembly Member for the last few years – and hope to continue to serve.

I’m so proud of the achievements of our entire team – and of the unique contributions I’ve made in that team. We talk about the difference it makes to have an elected Green in the room. The tangible difference it makes to have someone there to speak, ask questions and vote.

And there’s clear examples consistently from my work in the Assembly. From the very first time I asked the Mayor questions – I pledged to work with him constructively. Not to oppose good plans for oppositions sake – but to spot the gaps and work to fill them. And to challenge him when he’s plain wrong – as I have done several times on the Silvertown Tunnel. We know that the climate emergency demands the very best from our politicians and I’ll keep challenging the Mayor constructively because we don’t have time to treat this as anything less than an urgent crisis.

It’s been an honour to represent the party in the last year on everything from the BBC to Channel 4, Sky News and LBC. I always see our role as listening to the most vulnerable people in our society and acting as a conduit to hold the powerful to account.

I’m proud of my achievements in this time too – and of my track record. I’ve secured a u-turn on Gatwick expansion, helped care workers win a living wage, exposed gaps in the Mayor’s plans to insulate and retrofit homes – and pushed the Mayor into agreeing for a Universal Basic Income pilot for London in the future.

We know the environment needs to be at the heart of everything we do. I have chaired the Environment Committee for the last two years. I’ve launched investigations into a range of subjects from protecting our wildlife, to tackling flooding and the need for a just, green and fair transition for businesses.

Whenever we talk about these challenges, we always need to make sure we include the voices of diverse and marginalised people. The people who are least resilient to the impacts of the climate emergency are the ones who often face the brunt of the crisis.

And that’s why I’ve been making the case for a London Climate Panel – a panel of localised voices. People who have experienced barriers to the political process. People whose wisdom and expertise is missing from the political process – and crucially they need to be paid for their time and effort.

Reconciling the grassroots with local government to achieve climate justice at the city level is integral, and letting the experts of their communities lead the process and provide a space for ideas to be exchanged and supported is crucial. When I initially suggested this, the mayor dismissed it, saying he “can’t commit to even more expenditure”.

It’s disadvantaged Londoners who have been and will be made vulnerable by climate breakdown. We need to listen to them to ensure climate policies, and the direction that wider policy making is going reflect their needs. Diverse recruitment goals and application processes will have little meaning in this crisis if people are still giving up their time with no remuneration.

As the party’s spokesperson for democracy and citizenship, I’ve long made the case both for proportional representation but also for direct democracy. There are so many people who feel unseen and unheard – and I’ve made it my number one priority to amplify their voices. Speaking with them and not for them.

In the future, it’s clear there’s huge issues for our capital around how we are policed. We need to get back to those first principles of the people are the police and the police are the people. As a gay, Jewish Londoner – I’m acutely aware for my own communities how hate crime is on the rise. We know that the statistics on stop and searches particularly for young black men are stark and the police have serious work to do to challenge violence against women and girls. Our Green values of looking at the whole system and taking a public health approach towards policing is vitally needed – and nationally we’ve been doing brilliant work on drugs reform.

Please give me your first preference vote so I can continue the work I’ve started and build on it further in the future. We can make London the Greenest city in the world – we need the most effective team possible to make that happen.

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Image credit: Rob Browne – Creative Commons