RENT CONTROLS, CHEAPER TRAINS, AND CLEANER AIR: SIAN BERRY’S VISION FOR A RADICAL LONDON

Sven Klinge

In May 2016, London will go to the polls to decide who will replace Boris Johnson as their new mayor. A number of progressive parties from across the political spectrum are standing candidates in that election. We’ve got in touch with all those who are seeking nomination from their parties, asking why London should elect them, what their key policy priorities are and how London will be changed if they are elected. We’ll be publishing their responses over the next few weeks.

by Sian Berry

Along with a group of truly excellent colleagues, I’ve put myself forward to be the Green Party candidate for Mayor of London in 2016.

I’ve stood before, taking us up to 4th place in 2008 from 7th the time before, and in 2012 Jenny Jones took us to 3rd place. This makes next year a crucial election for Greens in London. It will take a really focused effort to improve on that, and in this encounter, experience will count for more than usual. I have that experience and am very grateful to receive Caroline Lucas’ backing to take the challenge on again.

We really are seeing incredible things across Europe. In Barcelona and Madrid, and most recently and significantly in Greece, the people are overwhelmingly rejecting top-down, imposed and ever-deeper austerity. When you look at what Barcelona’s Mayor is doing to halt evictions since being elected on the crest of a wave of citizen activism, it’s clear that we have accepted a rough deal for too long in London but that we can make different choices.

Every one of London’s boroughs is an unhealthy and unaffordable place for too many people.

I honestly cannot be convinced that it is ‘radical’ to pursue politics for the many, to fight for rent caps, and demand a living wage — far from it, but such are the times in which we live that this is how they are seen. Where I really do want to be radical is in the way we approach solutions to the crisis we are in thanks to inequality, dirty air, a transport system unable to cope, and a broken housing system. Every one of London’s boroughs is an unhealthy and unaffordable place for too many people.

Each crisis is connected and, if we address one of the crises, we can start to break down the others.

Here’s three ideas I’d really like to share:

  • To address the housing crisis, rent controls could help stop profiteering at the expense of people’s need for basic shelter, and empty property enforcement orders could bring over 50,000 empty homes back into use.
  • To help those already forced out of central boroughs, I’d help bring all the commuter rail franchises back into public ownership under the remit of TfL, and then run them for the benefit of passengers, not profit.
  • To cut early deaths from dangerous air pollution caused by too much traffic, I’d cancel new road building plans, spend the money on improving public transport and cycling facilities instead, strengthen and extend the Ultra-Low Emission Zone to all boroughs and start work immediately on a new, more sophisticated, congestion charge that works to reduce traffic and cut pollution at the same time.

investment should be in people, in housing, the welfare state, in new industries not in propping up our over-dependence on financial services.

These are policies I think all our candidates for Mayor would agree with. On issue after issue, Greens are the ones who have the right solutions. Banks caused the crisis and then took billions in bailouts, but investment should be in people, in housing, the welfare state, in new industries not in propping up our over-dependence on financial services.

Sian Berry London Green Party

(Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s only MP, has backed Sian Berry © sianberry.london)

With new activists and community campaigns all over London, I think the way we can win next year is by opening up our policy making processes so that we build a bigger movement. This isn’t the time for a retreat to core green issues or an unambitious campaign for City Hall. If we want to get to grips with inequality in our city we need a big and bold campaign that is open and inspiring so that we can accomplish something amazing in May.

As candidate, I can appeal across the spectrum and make even radical ideas sound like common sense. Last time I stood for Mayor, the Independent and Observer newspapers ran editorials backing me for first choice votes and the Federation of Small Businesses said our policies were the closest to their goals too. I can get mainstream media outlets to give Greens coverage, which is really valuable, but it’s through social channels and digital that I think we can win.

we are proving that we can buck that indifference trend, and that our momentum can carry us to victory next year.

That’s because green policies represent radical hope, while the soundbites and business-as-usual policies of the other parties don’t inspire people to share their messages with any enthusiasm at all. Through our successes in spreading our messages online, crowdfunding for local deposits in the General Election and our huge injection of new members, we are proving that we can buck that indifference trend, and that our momentum can carry us to victory next year.

Bringing together grassroots groups, like the successful campaigns we have seen in Barcelona and Madrid, is what the Green Party — and only the Green Party — can achieve next year. If you’re a Green, please vote for me to be your candidate in the upcoming ballot. And if you’re not yet a Green, please join us to help run a campaign that’s worth voting for next year.

More information can be found at sianberry.london

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