Green candidate for the London Mayoral election 2016 and Green Councilor for Highgate, Camden Sian Berry very kindly took the time to share an interview with Walking The Breadline, read on to learn why Sian is passionate about supporting London and the UK’s homeless and protecting our environment….
What made you choose the Green Party?
Sian: I first got involved in politics in 2001, when I helped the Green Party with their website for the general election. I joined the party soon after that. One of the things that attracted me to the party was its policy of a citizen’s income for all, which was a big feature of its general election campaign that year. It massively appealed to my sense of fair play. I know people in my family who’ve been in and out of benefits, and it’s just horrible, the way people get treated. But I’ve also been an environmentalist for a long time. I was at school doing GCSEs and A levels when we had the first wave of real environmental worry about things like global warming, the ozone hole, Chernobyl, rainforest depletion. There were lots of environmental crises and that seemed to be the way the world was going so it was obvious to me that we needed a particular kind of political solution to solve them.
Is the Green Party still relevant now that Jeremy Corbyn is Labour Leader?
Sian: There’s a definite overlap between the people who were drawn into the Labour Party by the election of Jeremy Corbyn and the people who were drawn to us in last year’s Green Surge. They’re all part of the same movement of people looking for a new style of politics, a new style of leadership – just as they are doing with Bernie Sanders in the United States – and I don’t view the rise of emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a threat. Quite the opposite, it’s a net gain to activism and politics in general.
There is a really distinctive place for Green politics; partly because the Labour Party is deeply divided, and most of Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs are horrified by virtually everything he stands for. That’s in marked contrast to our own party, which is united around a commitment to fairness, looking after the environment and moving away from the relentless pursuit of profit in favour of the common good. And it’s also because we as Greens have a significantly different approach to Jeremy Corbyn.
Broadly, he believes the state knows best and has centralised solutions to things like running the railways and taxes, whereas we believe in grassroots politics, where localism and letting communities decide for themselves comes first. There are plenty of Labour councils doing deeply backward things all over London, be it reducing council housing stock with their approach to estate regeneration, to backing environmentally destructive schemes like the Greenwich cruise terminal or the Silvertown Tunnel. With projects like that on the agenda, the Green Party is more relevant than ever.
You’re currently campaigning to be the next London mayor? How has that been?
Sian: Since winning the nomination, I have travelled all over the city, meeting the civic leaders who make the place work, the campaigners with ideas about how to make it work better, and the citizens who know that big cities work best when everyone is pulling together. So many people have been supporting our good ideas for London and our vision of a city run for the common good. That’s why I’ve been winning praise across the board, not just from the Guardian – which said that, like my party, I’ve grown “more formidable with experience” – but from the house-building companies who support our model of making space available on public land for smaller developers and non-profit social housing, and also from sections of the business press who liked my idea of replacing City Airport with a new quarter for jobs and housing. It’s been an uplifting experience and I hope it’s reflected at the polls on May 5. We have a fairer voting system for Mayor and a proportional vote for the London Assembly so all Green votes count and you can vote for who you believe in!
Should you become the mayor, what issues will be your top priorities?
Sian: My three priorities are housing, transport and air pollution. We can’t solve the housing crisis through the broken model of the market, which is why I want city mayors across the country to have powers to cap rent rises and in London I will help tenants organise through a London Renters Union. We can’t improve transport until we recognise that private cars are a hindrance not a help in a densely populated metropolis. And we can’t reduce air pollution, which now kills more people in London than smoking, until we get to grips with traffic and put an end to the current Mayor’s plans for building more roads.
Homelessness is one issue you have been very vocal about, just recently you spoke out against the PM’s refusal to access EU funds to help the UK’s homeless, why do you feel so strongly about this issue?
Sian: With rough sleeping doubling in London in just a few years, I’m shocked that David Cameron opted the UK out of a scheme which could have helped rough-sleepers on our streets at no cost to the British taxpayer. Why would he do that? It’s not humane. Homelessness figures are soaring as people can no longer afford their rent, and it leads to untold misery and in some cases death on the streets. As candidate for Mayor I’ve signed up to the Lead London Home campaign from a coalition of charities to end rough sleeping in London, and to demand that help from Europe is provided to help our most vulnerable destitute people.
Here at Walking The Breadline we would like to thank Sian Berry for her time and for this informative and insightful interview, we wish her the best in the London Mayoral campaign on May the 5th 2016
Take action by getting involved in the ‘Lead London Home campaign’ here
Learn more about Sian Berry’s London Mayoral campaign here