THE BLOG
25/06/2015 11:09 BST | Updated 23/06/2016 10:59 BST

The Crisis in London Needs a Radical New Kind of Politics in City Hall

A response to Kenny Imafidon's open letter to prospective Mayoral candidates on HuffPo Young Voices.

Dear Kenny,

Your open letter to Mayoral candidates crystalises the frustrations of Londoners of many backgrounds. With the recent election of the Conservative majority government, it would easy for the frustrations to come tinged with a sense of despair that nothing can be done. I disagree.

We live in a city that is superficially prosperous and certainly exhilarating. But it masks a series of crises that are affecting more and more people, and call for radical solutions.

There's a housing crisis, where all but the very wealthy are priced out of central London. A transport crisis, where we pay higher prices to use buses in streets clogged by traffic or crowded commuter trains that regularly grind to a halt. And an air pollution crisis, where 4,000 people die every year as a result of toxic emissions.

Each crisis is connected. When people are forced to move outwards by escalating rents, it puts greater strain on the transport infrastructure when they commute to work. But on the other hand, if we start to tackle one of the crises, we can start to tackle the others.

London is full of grass roots campaigns that have decided inaction is not an option. These include housing activists such as Focus E15 and the groups campaigning against the destruction of communities in the Sweets Way and Aylesbury estates. They include the living wage campaigners who have tackled the might of Caterlink and Camden Council to be awarded fair pay. And the residents I am currently working with to ensure the agreed amount of affordable housing is built in the redevelopment of King's Cross. These groups are building a new kind of politics. They need an ally in City Hall, which I believe the Greens can provide.

We can learn from Spain, where activist coalitions have recently won Mayoralties in Barcelona, Madrid and other cities. We are discovering that in when change comes in major cities, it doesn't happen slowly.

If chosen to be the Green Party's Mayoral candidate, I will run an open, inclusive and non-tribal campaign that involves community groups across all 32 Boroughs. It is not my job to write the Green Party's London manifesto. Instead, conversations with these grassroots campaigns will combine with those of more than 12,000 Green Party members in London to inform our platform.

That said, there are many established, democratically produced, Green Party policies that would provide effective, fair solutions to London's related crises.

On housing, empty property enforcement orders could bring as many as 56,000 empty homes back into use - providing as much housing as several major new towns. We would enforce higher requirements for affordable housing in estates regenerations. And we would undertake a major housebuilding programme, facilitated by ending local authority borrowing caps, on brownfield sites across London.

We would bring the commuter rail lines (including those run by Thameslink and Southern Rail) back into public hands under the remit of TfL, running them for the benefit of the people, not profit, and keeping fares down. And to cut deaths from air pollution, we would extend the Ultra-Low Emission Zone to all inner London Boroughs

At times it can feel like London is spiralling out of control. The solution is not for the Mayor to impose a top-down, ivory tower approach, spending her time on financing vanity projects and speaking at private dinners in the city. It is to work with all Londoners to build a more stable future together. Bringing together grassroots groups like the successful campaigns in Barcelona and Madrid, that's what I and the Green Party can create.

Sian Berry is a Camden Councillor and is seeking nomination to be the Green Party's London Mayoral candidate in 2016.

www.sianberry.london