Why I Am Voting For… Siobhan Benita

On May 3, Siobhan Benita will not be elected London Mayor. I feel that this fact should be made front and centre because, hopefully as you read this, you will start asking yourself why that has been such a forgone conclusion throughout the mayoral campaign.

Wherever you go the same conversations are circulating; people sick of the politicking, the smear tactics, the campaign trail spin. Benita is the only independent candidate running in this year’s election, and as such, operates outside the constraints of party politics. This gives her the freedom to construct policies and legislation on the basis of research and evidence rather than preconceived party policies.

It also means that she was unable to air an election broadcast on the BBC due to by-laws restricting that privilege to accredited political-parties. To Benita’s immense credit she has taken this snub very much in her stride. I would have been less understanding towards, what appears to me to be a gross miscarriage of the democratic process.

More frustrating is that given one minute of airtime it becomes flagrantly obvious that Benita may be the most rational and humanitarian candidate to run for London Mayor since its inauguration back in 2000. Housing is the centrepiece of her campaign. Shelter may have bought the issue into the foreground with Homes For London (HfL). This was, however, a much-overlooked issue when the ball got rolling back in late 2011.

Under Benita, a two-tiered housing system would be instigated, creating genuinely affordable housing operating outside of commercial markets. This would mean that right-to-buy property would not be subject to the astronomical rates of average property and would feed back into a system of sustainable, affordable housing. In a city with a housing waiting list of 3,343,000, thinking like this is intoxicating.

The stale jargon of bemoaning planning constructions and encouraging corporate development is replaced by genuine innovation. The scheme would have plenty of problems to contend with, but at least it is not further resignation to another four years of repeated mistakes.

Another eye-catching policy is the promise to instigate an external investigation into the Metropolitan Police (MET) covering efficiency, productivity and Police culture. With the myriad of Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigations into alleged racism within the Met, now seems like a very good time to stand back and take stock of an organisation that is falling short of many expectations.

Throughout Benita’s manifesto there is strong sense of rationale and logic. She seems to approach issues with a freshness that presumably comes from never having held elected office before. She has her detractors, and she certainly does not seem to be interested in making friends in political circles.

Her suggestion for the creation of an Office of Budget Responsibility for London, to prevent money being spent on reckless campaign promises was nothing short of inflammatory. But it is this kind of anti-politics that made Benita such a palatable and exciting candidate. I use the past tense intentionally as I return to my first point; Siobhan Benita will not be London Mayor come the end of Thursday, and a great shame it is too.


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