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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Mayor of London elections – Zoe Garbett: “Asian and Black Londoners are far more likely to live in areas with more polluted air. You can’t deal with the climate crisis they are facing without also dealing with the crisis of racism they are facing too. You cannot have one form of justice without the justice for all.”

The race for the next London Mayor has started. Londoners will go to the polls on 2 May 2024. To help you decide who you think best represents you we have spoken with your Mayoral candidates. Here is our exclusive with Green Party candidate Zoe Garbett.

Once seen by many as a small player in UK politics, The Green Party has been growing in momentum in recent times. In the 2021 elections, the Green Party won a total of 155 seats, including 99 gains.

This prompted then Green Party co leader to say: “It’s clear that the Green Party is the next major force in British politics.”

However, is this statement true or simply spin? Can the Green Party really breakthrough to any serious position of power?

This is the aim of Zoe Garbett, who is aiming to be London’s first Green Mayor. She is focusing on positive change to tackle climate, racial and social injustice. Her vision for London is to tackle a Green vision for the entire city, emphasising affordability, equality and reform.

With a decade as a Green Party member, she has already achieved success as a Dalston Ward Councillor. She also has extensive experience of working in the NHS and has held senior roles in public health, adult social care and children and young people’s health services.

Talking with the Asian Standard Zoe outlined her views on the issues that matter to Londoners.

Zoe has experience of working of working in the NHS, which is currently in crises with long waiting times, bed shortages and strikes. Asian Standard asked her what she would do to solve this worrying situation:

“I would be a Mayor for London who can take any government to task about the need for a properly, publicly funded healthcare service. As a former NHS worker, I know how cuts and privatisation have devastated our healthcare; that’s why I fiercely believe that a fully public NHS is the essential heart of this city’s healthcare.

But we also need to rethink where healthcare is done in our lives. We need to move away from models of centralised facilities and move towards primary and community healthcare. Localised healthcare is far more flexible, versatile, and tailored to individuals.

In my roles I focused on addressing health inequalities including improving access to healthcare and working with communities to understand their needs as well as working on wider issues impacting people’s health like employment. The solution also has to come from illness prevention and health promotion. What would the NHS look like if our streets were safe to travel on, if our air was safe to breathe, if our young people weren’t traumatised by violence? Whether on our planet or in our bodies, Greens are all about preventing the fires before they begin.”

Although gaining momentum, many people still view the Green Party as being purely focused on environmental issues. What would you say to people who see The Green Party as a one issue organisation?

“The heart of the Green Party’s worldview is not one issue, but an understanding that environmental, social and economic justice are fundamentally interlinked. You cannot have one form of justice without the justice for all. For example, Asian and Black Londoners are far more likely to live in areas with more polluted air. You can’t deal with the climate crisis they are facing without also dealing with the crisis of racism they are facing too.

My platform for London Mayor takes every power of the mayor and looks at how we can build a plan for people and the planet. Yes, when we call for more affordable public transport and better cycle lanes, that has an impact on the environment; we’re not ashamed of that. But it also makes lives better, travel safer, lifestyles healthier and costs lower. Greens see every issue Londoners face through this principle of climate, social and economic justice for everyone. That’s what you get when you vote Green.”

You have also been campaigning for changes in public transport and supporting a campaign to get toilets on the tube network – why is this so important to you? Is this really an important issue?

“It’s clear there are not enough public loos in our city. Toilets are something everyone needs to use and expect to be able to use when travelling in our city – and rightly so. While some politicians might consider themselves too grand to talk about toilets, they are essential. And yet less than a quarter of stations in Zones 1-3 have toilets.

I was recently out at Tooting Broadway station asking people if they wanted more toilets on the tube network and there was an overwhelming response, everyone had their own story and reasons for why this is so important.

Certain groups, from older people to children, workers on the move to people with disabilities, have particular needs. These people can often find their access to public life limited by this. And why? It’s simply a lack of proper investment and care from past and present Mayors. And yet somehow, Greens have a simple solution to this universal problem: build more toilets.”

Following from this, Asian Standard asked Zoe what else needs to change about transport in London?

“My plans are for transport to be as fair, cheap and joined up as possible for everyone. I would reduce transport costs, including by extending free bus travel to under 22s, providing free bus travel to people seeking asylum and reinstating pre-9am travel for older Londoners so they can travel free of charge 24 hours a day.

We all want clean air, and that has to mean fewer and cleaner vehicles on our roads. I would champion low traffic neighbourhoods, car-free zones and space for new cyclists to build their confidence. We also need to help cyclists, wheelchair users and walkers, meaning wider pavements, cheaper, safer cycle storage and more space on buses for parents with buggies, and wheelchair users, so they can travel with friends. We need more cycle lanes and green walking routes.

But we also need a smarter, fairer charging system for driving in London, one that does not punish people who depend on cars for their jobs. We would help people find healthier, cleaner ways to travel that suit them, whether they live in the outer boroughs or city centre.”

London is currently struggling with friction between communities. Currently there is a rise in hate crime – the situation is so serious that the government has pledged over £100 million towards safety measures for the Muslim community. What would you do to bring communities together and combat hate crime?

“Every Londoner has the right to be safe at home, on the street, on the transport network, at work and at leisure. Greens oppose racism, islamophobia, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, disablism and hate speech and actions of all kinds against any minority group.

Greens are committed to the principle of ‘nothing about us without us’. We will involve marginalised groups closely in policymaking at the highest level across all areas of the mayor’s work, including working with the police to tackle hate crime and providing funding for advocacy services.

I would also provide support for faith groups at risk of extremist attacks. Every place of worship that wishes it should have access to appropriate advice, support to improve physical security and dedicated police contact for reporting concerns.

We know that many victims of hate crimes are too afraid to ask police for help, due to over policing, violence and racism. I would oversee a process where the police earn and rebuild trust and confidence, especially from Black and minority ethnic communities.”

I followed this by moving to a central issue on the friction between communities.

The conflict in the Middle East, and candidates’ stances on it, are proving important in the run up to the election for Mayor. What is your stance on the situation?

“We stand in solidarity with Muslims and Jews across our city and the world, many of whom are in unbelievable pain and fear, and call for peace.

From the beginning, Greens have called on our government to back an immediate, full and permanent bilateral ceasefire, and believe that the unlawful occupation needs to end. Tens of thousands have been killed, mostly Palestinian women and children – there is never a justification for this, and we condemn it wholeheartedly.

Instead of facilitating shipments of arms, our government’s role should be to ensure that electricity, food and water are restored to Gaza. All hostages and political prisoners on all sides should be released.”

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