Greens can give London hope – that we can take our homes, energy and streets back for the common good, and hope that politicians can co-operate with communities and social movements instead of ignoring or trampling over them. Citizens needn’t be the victims of blind forces beyond their control.
I want to be the Green Party’s candidate for the Mayor of London, and to top the London Assembly list, to give voters hope in that new kind of politics. With more Greens in office, you can fight from City Hall, instead of fighting against it.
We need candidates with the communications skills and policy expertise to cut through the tired, reheated policies coming from other parties.
This is most clear in our response to London’s housing crisis. The mantra for over a decade has been: build more homes. But who has any faith in the big developers, busily demolishing council estates to build flats that are snapped up by buy-to-let landlords?
I would like our manifesto to say we’d set-up a London Housing Co-operative to take back some control over housing. It would empower people to build or commission their own homes, and to take control over the regeneration of their estates. The model has worked from Cornwall to St Clement’s in Tower Hamlets, and can be scaled up with a £2bn fund based on borrowing against business rates income.
The next crane rising over the Elephant or Earl’s Court should be owned by Londoners, working for their common good.
As the party’s national housing spokesperson with years of high-level media experience and almost a decade working on housing policy and practice, I’m well placed to argue for bold and refreshing policies like this.
That’s not to say these will be our policies. Democracy is close to the heart of every Green, and our manifesto is drawn up through a democratic process; our key issues will be decided by a team reflecting our members’ vision for a greener London. But I hope the policy ideas I am putting forward will give a flavour of how I’d like to shape that manifesto, that vision.
While I can hold out hope, it is likely that the next Mayor of London will be a Labour or Conservative politician. I want to be an Assembly Member to get things done.
I’ve set out another ambitious policy idea, to set-up a new Solar Co-operative, with an initial fund of £80m to invest in solar panels on schools, commercial buildings, and solar farms in our green belt. Every Londoner would be given the right to claim a £10 stake in the co-op and to invest in further shares.
If elected, I would want to work with other parties and the Mayor to get this set-up. I don’t want it to gather dust in our manifesto.
Jenny Jones is backing me, in part for my “ability to build cross-party coalitions”, including to progress the idea of a solar power delivery unit in City Hall. As an Assembly Member with a new Mayor, I could deliver this.
For the past six years I’ve worked within City Hall, learning how to strike deals and win people round to our ideas. I can spot practical ways to deliver radical policies. As Dave Smith, the former Chief Exec of East London Community Land Trust, kindly wrote, “Tom’s work at City Hall was absolutely integral in making London’s first Community Land Trust happen”.
I’ve also seen that Green Party politicians are at their most effective when they work closely with community groups and grassroots campaigns. I led a successful campaign for Southwark Council to adopt a living wage policy, helped defend small businesses against a flawed patent law in the European Parliament, measured air pollution in Crystal Palace to win residents and businesses round to our call for cleaner buses, and helped make London’s first Community Land Trust happen in Tower Hamlets. In all of these, it was working with communities and campaigners that made us successful.
To win three or four Assembly Members, the Green Party needs to reach beyond our comfort zone, which is what I did in Lewisham West & Penge where we had never previously campaigned with any vigour. A neighbouring candidate Shasha Khan has said “I have lost count the amount of times when canvassing, running a stall or just attending meetings when a Crystal Palace resident area mentions that Green guy, or Tom by name.”
So wherever tenants and residents are fighting to hold onto their homes, I will be there with my fellow Green Assembly Members to support them.
Wherever campaigners are trying to make a road less dangerous for cycling, I will be there to tackle TfL on their behalf.
Wherever there is a chance to enhance a natural habitat or restore a river course, I will be there as nature’s champion in City Hall.
I’m putting myself forward to become the Green Party’s Mayoral candidate to champion this new kind of politics in the election campaign, and to come top of the list for the London Assembly to champion effectively it in office.