NB: This article applies to a parliamentary candidate for the 2017 General Election.
What is your background and when did you come to live in Greenwich?
I’m South African by origin from Johannesburg. I came to London in 2008 when I was 25, just for the adventure really and I wasn’t disappointed. Like most young people I moved around quite a bit, looking for decent rent options and a place to put down roots. Eventually a good friend managed to buy in Woolwich, I moved in and the rest is history. I’ve been in the Borough since 2015 and a member of the Green Party since the last General Election. I come from a family of journalists and teachers and have a BA in Journalism with honours in Philosophy.
How has your work affected your political outlook?
I work as the Managing Editor for a bunch of websites and digital magazines produced by a publishing company called GlobalData. I have a team of journalists and we write about topics like energy, transport, healthcare and defence. Doing this job has affected my outlook profoundly. I’ve had the privilege of speaking to top CEO’s and scientists about things like where innovation in solar power could take us, or how urban transport networks have changed cities around the world and I’ve broken stories about developments in HIV vaccines and the damage caused by offshore oil or dodgy defence contracts. One big recent ‘wow’ moment learnt on the job is that renewable technologies like wind and solar are already making people more money than fossil fuels. Another one is that in places where a lot of resources are poured into healthcare – like a whole lot – people cost the government less money over their whole lives, mainly because they’re far healthier in old age. You’d think everyone would turn around and say wow lets only do it that way from now on, but its not like that.. not yet.
Have you always been a member of the Green Party?
I joined at the last election, during the so-called Green surge. The Green Party had long been on my radar because of their role as the political wing of the green movement. I did consider other parties but they had so much baggage. The Greens felt much fresher and organic (sorry). I looked deeper and saw what people like Caroline Lucas and Darren Johnson or Jean Lambert were doing, holding court like giants pretty much all on their own and that blew me away. I signed up straight away.
What are your three priorities for Greenwich and Woolwich?
Clean up the air, change the way Greenwich and Woolwich are being built up and protect the rights of our EU citizens during the Brexit process.
On air quality, we’re in the midst of a crises and lives are at stake, make no mistake. London is beginning to wake up but people need to understand the main culprits are cars and construction. We need to get people out of cars and onto public transport and out walking and cycling. Any new projects like the Silvertown Tunnel need to be very seriously reconsidered because they’re only going to increase traffic. The same for the Cruise Terminal at Enderby wharf, at present these massive cruise ships will have to burn diesel 24/7. Campaigners like myself are asking for a shore-side power connection, basically an electric hook-up which means they can run of the grid instead of generators. It’s a no brainer, the only thing stopping it is that its expensive for the developer who aren’t obliged to do it because the council didn’t listen to us and demand it when they had the chance.
On changing the way Greenwich is being built up. We need to get communities more involved in local decision making from the outset. The current Labour Council prefers to plan first and consult later, we will change that around by creating community councils with real power to make decisions. I will also prioritise more transparency so we know where the money goes, that means making sure when developers rake it in selling Penthouse suites on the Peninsula that a set amount of money will go to cleaning up Plumstead High Street for example. I’d even go further and say that if a developer shows up saying we want this great patch of zone 3 land for luxury flats, we go back and say right OK first give tell us how you will give back to the people already living here, maybe sponsor proper safe cycle racks outside a few train stations or plant a tree for every brick. Yes we need homes but those homes need to be built so that they create healthy environments that allow for healthy communities . I’d also do away with the idea of ‘pollution neutral’ developments. Now I’m back to clean air! Its all linked up though. Our air is polluted, that’s a fact, we’re past neutral – if your development doesn’t improve the environment then go back and think again. It can be done by building green roofs, or in many other ways with pedestrian friendly streets or electric car hook ups, examples are all around us.
The third is protecting our EU citizens and all their families and friends who will be utterly devastated if all of a sudden people from the EU are forced out. Its crazy but the Tory Government won’t guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already here, they’re using them as bargaining chips to get a Brexit deal. Anyone who’s been to Queen Elizabeth Hospital and is worried about the cuts there has to be doubly concerned about what happens when the Polish doctor or Spanish nurse has to go. And what about Greenwich University? We’d lose world renowned professors and teachers. Our community is diverse and it’s thriving, that has to be protected. Right now we have to protect the EU citizens already here because they’re extremely valuable people, I could sit and detail the wealth they contribute to our economy, but I shouldn’t need to, these people must be protected – end of story.