I recently announced that I want to be the Green Party candidate for Mayor of London in next year’s election. I’ve done this job before – in 2008 I stood for the party in the first Boris-Ken showdown and won some credit for how I handled the two of them at hustings, which certainly wasn’t easy!
Before election day, two national newspaper editorials called me an ‘articulate advocate’ for my cause and recommended people give their first preference votes to the Greens, and we also won the backing of diverse interest groups, from Socialist Resistance to the Federation of Small Businesses.
For 2016 we need a candidate with real experience of what will be an exceptionally tough and intense election, with a lot riding on the Mayoral candidate’s performance.
Having been through it already and learned a lot, nothing could shock, surprise or wear me down this time. But, more than that, the reason I’ve put myself forward again is that, with politics at an exciting crossroads, I know I’d really enjoy it.
Since 2008, I’ve worked non-stop as a campaigner: winning a £50 million boiler scrappage scheme from the Labour government in 2009, linking up No More Page Three with my sister’s football team for a hugely successful crowdfunder last year, helping pass a new law to fund cycling and walking and winning a £500 million ‘green retrofit’ of major roads in my day job as a transport campaigner.
Seven years on, my policy knowledge, writing and debating skills are more honed than ever, and I’m keen to put them to use to help the Greens win bigger than ever before in London next year.
But my big pitch to the Greens for next year’s election doesn’t revolve around who the candidate is. The most important decision to make is how we carry out out our campaign and, by implication, how we would run London if we ended up in City Hall.
Our traditional call to make London a clean green city isn’t going to cut it this time, and my 2008 campaign theme of making London more affordable isn’t enough either. The crisis we face demands a more serious and radical approach, and the good news is that the ideas we need are out there.
Despite the crisis of wages, homes and living standards, Londoners all around us are getting up and building some really exciting and hopeful campaigns to sort out our city.
Activists like Focus E15, Take Back the City, the Momentum Project, London Cycling Campaign and many independent road safety groups; local communities all over the city battling injustice and unfair decisions; and thousands of young people getting involved in politics for the first time by joining the Brick Lane Debates the Green surge or UK Uncut.
These people need to be able to bring their energy and ideas into City Hall, and we can start by listening to them and bringing them into the Green Party’s policy-making.
This means an open and inclusive election that doesn’t just grab a list of the best ideas from the Green policy manual and rely on a good speech maker to put them forward, but works with citizens to rewrite all our city’s policies completely to get the clean air, fair wages and new generation of social housing we need.
With policing, housing, planning, economic development and transport in London all governed by the Mayor, there are massive opportunities to bring a new politics to change things that really matter.
The idea of deliberative, collaborative policy-making isn’t as revolutionary as it would be in other parties. Greens already decide on our policies internally in a way that’s highly democratic. We have always felt comfortable as part of a wider movement, and many of our members are already joining and leading the kinds of campaigns we need to talk to.
Our natural instincts are to work happily with people inside and outside the party – we’re not tribal and not susceptible to the temptations of ‘Vote Labour, win a microwave’ retail politics either.
I believe that, with this open approach, starting from the brilliant third place achieved by Green candidate Jenny Jones in 2012, and inspired by the huge success of community-based politics in Barcelona and Madrid, it’s not unrealistic to think that this time we can even win.