The Lib Dem candidate for London’s 2020 Mayoral elections, Siobhan Benita, was in Chiswick last week for a fundraising event.
A career civil servant who has spent ten years as a policy adviser on transport, local government and the environment, she stands for ‘global, liberal, pro-European, warm-hearted policies’ and she has some interesting ideas.
Freedom of Movement
In her speech at the Lib Dem party conference she talked about freedom of movement for EU nationals in London. I asked her how that would work post Brexit, as the Major of London does not control immigration.
“If the government introduced the Australian based points system, there is provision for regional differences in visa restrictions” she said. In other words it might be possible for people to live and work in London who are not able to do so elsewhere in the UK.
Her biggest priorities are tackling knife crime and the environment, she told me.
With knife crime she takes a pragmatic approach and her emphasis is on prevention rather than enforcement. She wants there to be no permanent exclusions for badly behaved pupils from schools. “There’s a clear link between exclusion and violence”. Her plan is to re-balance resources, shifting them from specialist exclusion provision to better support for mainstream schools. “There has to be a path back, to give them some hope”.
She also thinks legalising cannabis would have an effect on knife crime. There is a huge amount of evidence, she says, that exposure to the illegal drug market leads to criminal activity. There is now overwhelming evidence where the legalisation of cannabis has been tried, that it reduces violence.
She also wants to introduce a ‘happy hour’ for young people. “Between 4.00 and 6.00pm is a scary time for many young people. The most traumatic time is travelling home from school”. There are lots of people trying to help, she says. The Mayor’s office could coordinate and promote after-school activities to keep young people safe in the gap between school and when parents arrive home from work.
Every school should have a dedicated community police officer she says. She wants local police stations re-opened and is thinking creatively about co-siting police and libraries for example, to make best use of under used buildings.
Taking a pay cut to fund a young mayor for London
She thinks there should be a young mayor, alongside the main incumbent, a parallel role which would have real influence over policy. She would be prepared to donate £40,000 of the £140,000 mayoral salary to pay for it.
What are her chances? The best ever, she says.”Never before in London have the indications been so good for the Lib Dems”. The mayoral elections will be next May.
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Lib Dems win big in London …