Why I Want London to Work for the Common Good - Not Just for Women

Why I Want London to Work for the Common Good - Not Just for Women

There was a powerful documentary on television the other night about the residents of the West Hendon estate in Barnet. They are fighting to save the community they love from attempts to pull it down around them, in what is euphemistically called "regeneration". It was striking that many of the people talking so passionately were women, of mixed age, nationality and class - just as many of those marching against the Housing Bill in London last Saturday (pictured above) were women - and most of the developers and council officials ranged against them were men.

Does that mean it's a gender issue? That would be absurd. Just as many men as women will lose their homes, and while there are doubtless fewer female directors than male on the boards of the building giants making so much profit out of this and similar schemes all over London, there are plenty of women council leaders and parliamentarians pushing the measures through.

There are many issues in our capital that undoubtedly impact women more than men. Women represent three-quarters of London's part-time workers - more than half of whom earn less than the living wage. With cuts to station staffing and a shift towards an unlicensed cab trade, sexual offences on London transport are on the rise after years of decline. Women drive less than men, but have no choice but to breathe the same polluted air as everyone else. It has also been far harder to persuade women to join the cycling revolution, and it will remain so until we have better-quality, segregated cycling lanes that will make everyone feel safer.

It was the Greens who helped bring the London Living Wage to City Hall, and we will press to make it compulsory, so that no one in this city lives in poverty. We want properly staffed stations, a well regulated taxi trade, better public transport which means there are fewer cars on the road and less air pollution, and we will push for a cultural shift in London's transport policy to make it a great place to walk and cycle, like a modern Dutch city. Don't think it can't be done: Amsterdam was once a congested, car-dominated city too, and who now wants to turn back that clock?

But for me, as a proud member of a party with a woman leader, an entirely female parliamentary force in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and with a female-led slate for the City Hall elections (of which I'm part), I don't feel we're doing this only for women. We're attempting to reform society for the common good, not just for half of it.

I'm the mother of two daughters and a son, and my anxiety for their future, in a world of soaring housing costs, shrinking job opportunities, toxic air and potentially catastrophic climate change, applies equally to all of them. Yes, I want my daughters to be safe on public transport, but I'm just as relieved when I hear my son's key in the door - because it's young men of his age, if not always his colour and background, who are most at risk of knife crime in the part of London where I live.

So the Greens at City Hall will make sure that half of the Metropolitan Police's new recruits are women - but I'm confident those women police officers will be there to keep my son safe as well as my daughters.

London is facing a string of crises: in housing, air pollution, transport and, certainly in my borough of Islington, a divisive government strategy (Prevent) that treats all Muslim or even brown-skinned people as objects of suspicion and breeds a justified resentment that could well end up making us all less safe not more.

Those problems cry out for solutions that will benefit everyone, and if elected to City Hall, I want to play my part in finding those solutions not because I'm a woman, but because I'm a human being.


What's Hot