Inspired by Progressive Women’s event ‘The Race for Mayor – A Male Monopoly’ Theadora Jean has written a blog on why she will be supporting female candidate Siobhan Benita. We’d love to hear from anyone who attended the event and if it influenced the way you’ll be voting on 3rd May in the London elections.
Siobhan Benita is the only candidate for the mayoral election who has run independent of any political party. She’s done this because she believes that the mayor should stand for London, not the ideology of particular political stripe. Unfortunately because of the lack of television coverage about her candidacy, chances are you may not even have heard of her.
The media coverage of the candidates would make you think that democracy in this city consists solely of a clash of male egos, fighting over transport fares. In fact, we have a candidate in our midst who not only has diversity issues on her agenda, but is indeed herself from a mixed heritage background. Considering the three main parties all have white male middle class candidates, and the fact that women only represent 22% of Parliament, you’d think the media should start paying attention to her. To put this in perspective: the UK comes joint 53rd with Malawi in terms of percentage of women in government. To further put this in perspective; Pakistan, Uganda, Cuba and South Africa have a greater percentage than the UK. Rwanda is number one.
Siobhan is a Londoner through and through. Her Anglo-Indian mother came to London in the 50’s to work as a nurse, where she met Siobhan’s primary school teaching father. Siobhan went to state schools in Merton, where she still lives with her husband and two children. Prior to running for mayor, she was a civil servant working in the heart of Whitehall. So far, so ordinary, right? Except, when it comes to the mayoral candidates, doesn’t ordinary and hard-working sound like refreshingly new attributes for the person to have? A Londoner who has dedicated her life to working for our country and our city, someone who walks our streets and shops in our supermarkets, and has the same concerns we have.
As she rightly points out, the position for mayor should come from an independent candidate. How can a mayor stand for the people of London, when she or he are bound by the ideological stances and policies of mainstream parties, and still truly represent us? Siobhan has a manifesto which doesn’t strike me as particularly coloured by Conservative, Lib Dem, Labour, or Green parties. They are entirely sensible, practical and useful changes which would improve the standard of living for the people who live and work in London.
To highlight a few:
Whatever your living arrangements, most people would agree that property in our city both for rent and for sale is ridiculously expensive. Siobhan would set up a fixed-rate housing market introducing 20,000 homes to market per year, with the aim to provide affordable property for those on the average wage to purchase.
Siobhan would require each of our individual boroughs to reach out to their residents to ask them what their top five concerns where –no matter how small. If litter or potholes or the local buses routes are on the list, then Siobhan will be holding the boroughs to account on a yearly basis on improving those issues. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a politician or mayoral candidate who wants to find out what matters to me, and wants to deliver on those things.
She also wants to improve how we travel in the city, not just with huge, expensive projects like Crossrail or wild promises like reducing fares, but by keeping the trains and tubes open later so that more people can get home safely.
When Mark Duggan was shot in the face by police in Tottenham last year, you will all remember how it ignited the riots across the country. Do you remember what Boris said about the Mark Duggan case? Do you remember how his presence was felt across the capital, how we all felt reassured that we had someone there who was going to do something about it…No? Me neither. Siobhan wants to set up an entirely independent body to review the police force. With the Stephen Lawrence case still not entirely being resolved due to the ineptness of the police to resolve the murder of an innocent, ambitious young black teenager who was set upon by a gang of cowardly racists – something clearly needs to be done, and Siobhan’s suggestion is the only reasonable one I’ve heard.
And the youth of London are at the heart of her campaign. Siobhan wants to invest in young people, the same young people cannot get their first job despite getting degrees which they have immersed themselves in debt for, the same young people who have felt so disaffected they took to the streets to vent their hopelessness, the same young people who are our only real investment for the capital in an uncertain economic future. And how would she do that? Well, for a start she would set up a youth assembly, along with a youth mayor, a mayor she would be prepared to pay the wages for out of her own pocket, because as she says ‘£100,000 is more than enough for anyone to live on’.
If that isn’t enough, she wants to create new primary schools, make access to secondary schools more transparent, protect libraries and ensure that every child has a library card. In short, she wants to overhaul the experiences that our children and young people have growing up in our city. This is crucially important to London not only if you happen to be a parent or a young person yourself, but because they are an investment in the future of our capital and our country.
I’ve seen her speak, and she is unlike any other politician you can come across. She is reasonable, calm, determined to engender change, genuinely inspirational and as well as all of these: she listens. She is interested in what you have to say and takes it on board. If a suggestion is made which seems reasonable, she is willing to implement it.
And momentum of support is growing for her; with Michael Portillo ditching Boris to support her, and the national press starting to run features on her, who knows what can happen come the third of May.
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