With voting day just around the corner, many young Londoners are still completely unaware of who is running and how them being elected can shape our city. In order to make this clearer, I have arranged for three young Londoners to break down the candidate’s policies for you in a way you will relate to.
At a recent meeting with young Londoners, Nick Clegg and Brian Paddick, I overheard a young man saying that if he weren’t actively engaged with politics or if he were just sitting at home and watching TV, he wouldn’t know there were candidates besides Ken and Borris in the race for mayor. For that reason, I have also chosen to focus only on the relatively silenced mayoral candidates in this race: Jenny Jones, Brian Baddick, and our only independent candidate, Siobhan Benita.
Ken and Borris have been given enough of a platform to bicker at each other. Now, I want to give the others candidates a louder voice. The three candidates I will be presenting to you over the next few days are the ones I believe have something great to offer to young Londoners, but unfortunately, haven’t been given nearly the amount of coverage that they deserve. On Saturday, Elliot Folan voiced his opinions on the Green Party candidate, Jenny Jones and her policies. On Monday, Mohamad Osman made clear why he was voting for the Liberal Democrat candidate, Brian Paddick. Now, without further delay, I introduce young Londoners to the last candidate I’m going to be discussing before the elections. Here’s presenting the third candidate you haven’t heard enough about.
by Priyanka Mogul
‘People, not Politics’ is Siobhan’s slogan, and one of the best ways to describe what she is all about. Most young people in London simply aren’t interested in politics – whether it be the Conservaties, Labour, or the Lib Dems, the statistics show that young people are not connecting to party politics. Enter Siobhan Benita, our only independent candidate in the race for London Mayor.
‘The mayor of London election is a rare opportunity for voters to vote for a person,’ Siobhan explained to me. ‘They don’t have to vote for a political party. And that’s what I’m remind people – this is an opportunity to vote for a person, not a party.’
Wouldn’t you rather have a down-to-earth Londoner as the person who shapes your city? Or do you want to sit through another four years of Borris and Ken and Brian Paddick bickering over party politics. London mayor isn’t about political parties, and it shouldn’t be. Here’s a regular everyday woman who has come forth to say she wants to change the way our city is run. And that’s it. There’s no party games behind it, no political scheming, just an ordinary citizen who wants to ‘put young people at the heart of City Hall’. And if that in itself hasn’t convinced you to put her down as your first choice in 2 days time, here’s why every young Londoner should VOTE FOR SIOBHAN.
Education and Youth
Siobhan recognises that there has been a ‘collapse in faith in the admissions system for Secondary schools’. As a mother herself, she understands the frustration of the system and will ensure that it is corrected to make it fairer and more transparent, for the parents as well as for the applying students.
She doesn’t stop there. Once in Secondary school, what happens next? Siobhan believes that a lot more work needs to be done in order to prepare young people for the real world, i.e. higher education and employment. Few young people know how to conduct themselves at a job interview. Even fewer know how to put together a CV. And those are just the basics. Siobhan promises to work together with teachers and employers to build a bridge between the two and ensure that all young people are equipped with the skills they need to get a job after they leave education.
In order to make sure this is carried out effectively, Siobhan will appoint an independent Education Commisioner for London, whose job would be to oversee the process and ensure that standards are kept high and the focus on education remains undeterred.
‘I want young people to feel they have a real stake in this great city, not a marginalised or feared minority,’ Siobhan states in her manifesto.
To do this, she plans to appoint a Young Mayor for London and create a Youth Assembly. Unlike other organisations that have set up similar practices, these posts won’t be just for show and the young people will be actively involved in ensuring that they are the voice of the youth of London and that our needs are met.
As young people, we have become increasingly aware of the situation in the job market today. Many – if not all – of us are terrified of what will happen once we leave higher education or college.
If elected as Mayor, Siobhan will work with councils and businesses to turn around the face of apprenticeships. She will ensure that apprenticeships are no longer just a waste of time for everybody and ensure that real employment and career prospects are delivered through them.
She will also target diversity in the workforce and training schemes by promoting these opportunities to members of black and minority ethnic communities. Young women will also be targeted under this.
Siobhan believes that the creative and life sciences sector needs to be given more support and makes that her initial priorities.
Even at this young age, we find ourselves complaining about rising costs – especially in regard to London transport. Siobhan recognises the worries created by high transport costs and understands that many cannot afford to travel by public transport because of these costs. She vows to give jobseekers ‘the help they deserve’ by making travel free for jobskeers and reducing fares for people with lower incomes.
She also states in her manifesto that she will freeze fares until April 2014 (at least).
Young people – and their parents – can also worry less about how to get home after a late night out partying if Siobhan is mayor. She believes that something needs to be done to help young Londoners get home safely, as well as help support London’s nightlife sector. To do this, she will keep tubes running one hour later on Friday and Saturday nights. Say goodbye to cutting your nights short and racing for the last tube home.
She also targets accessibility of the transport network, promising to make it more user-friendly for everyone, including tourists, disabled people and the elderly. This is saying something after Boris’ RouteMaster proves to have no accessibility for people in wheelchairs. Do you really want a mayor who can’t account his billion dollar buses for disabled people as well?
Ever since the London riots, relations between the police and Londoners have been hanging by a loose thread. Siobhan vows to put an end to this by ‘implementing a full, external and independent review of policing’ that will cover the culture and performance of our police force, as well as financial efficiency. Siobhan hopes that by doing this, Londoners will be able to approach their local police with more reassurance and positivity.
She will also require all Councils to ‘identify and address residents’ top five local issues’ as not every area will have the same problems and she recognises the need to tackle each of them according to their individual needs.
Siobhan has struggled the most to gain publicity during the campaigning stages of this election, however, she has come far and is now said to have overtaken the UKIP in the race for Mayor. Siobhan was the only candidate who showed up to YouthVoteLondon at Ministry of Sound in April and actually stuck around long enough to speak with more than just a few of us on a personal level. After the event, organisers Bite the Ballot released data that suggested Siobhan is now young Londoner’s top first choice preference.
There are many reasons why you should vote for Siobhan. The most important one being that she deserves it and we deserve her. Us, as Londoners, would benefit greatly from her policies and it would be a refreshing change from the usual party politics that none of us seem to understand anyways. I’ve only focused on some of her main policies concerning the youth here, but I would definitely recommend taking some time out to read her manifesto before you make an informed decision about who to vote for on May the 3rd. Just remember – ‘People, not Politics’.