London elections 08: Greens have a fine record in London, and with Sian Berry as mayoral candidate deserve the votes of all progressives.
The Green party is the only credible, effective option for left and progressive voters in the local and London elections on Thursday.
Labour is tainted as the party of war, privatisation and big business. Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the gap between the rich and poor has widened. Labour's most recent attacks on working people - the post office closures and the axing of the 10p tax rate - show that the party of Kier Hardy has lost its heart and soul.
Respect and the Left List are torn asunder by spite and sectarianism. They have no chance of getting enough votes to win seats. This leaves the Greens as the main standard bearers of principled, pragmatic, progressive politics.
The Green party not only has the best policies on human rights, social justice and the environment, it also has a proven track record of electoral success, with over 120 local councillors and two members of the London assembly (plus two members of the Scottish and European parliaments).
As well as the mayoral contest, Londoners are also voting for the London assembly. The Greens stand little chance of winning any constituency seats because the vote is by first-past-the-post, which is rigged to favour the big three establishment parties - Labour, Tories and Lib Dems. But Londoners have a second vote for a London-wide party list (the peach-coloured ballot paper).
In the list section in the 2004 London elections, two Greens were elected to the assembly - Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson. They have punched way above their weight, having had a very significant, positive influence on the mayor.
Ken Livingstone has been dependent on the two Greens to pass his budget. This has enabled them to wring policy concessions from him, including more funding for energy efficient housing and expanded walking and cycling schemes, including a tripling of the cycling budget from £20m to £63m. The Greens are now pushing for car-free Sundays in the west end, a system of safer no-car cycle routes across London, and the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street and other key London thoroughfares. Electing more Greens to the London assembly will help make these plans - and many more - a reality.
On local councils in Oxford, Brighton, Norwich, Lancaster and Kirklees, the Greens have substantial numbers of councillors. In Oxford, where I am standing as the Green party's parliamentary candidate for the Oxford East constituency, our local Green councillors have pioneered campaigns in defence of public services and council housing, opposed privatisation and job cuts, and have led the way with innovative schemes to cut carbon emissions, boost recycling and expand green open spaces.
Our London mayoral candidate, Sian Berry, is different from the other mayoral hopefuls. She's blonde like Boris, but that's where the similarities start and end. First, she's a woman in a field of candidates that is almost entirely male. Aged 33, she is by far the youngest mayoral contender - a young fresh spirit in a contest overcrowded with tired middle-aged men. It's time for change. Sian represents the face and politics of the future.
More importantly, she is the most progressive candidate. She's against privatisation, having seen the damage it has done to the railways and the tube network. Sian wants the rail and tube franchises to be brought back under public control - to serve the public, not make millions for already rich shareholders.
Unlike Ken Livingstone, Sian won't cosy up to big business and she never defended Sir Iain Blair over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station. She wants an end to the Metropolitan Police policy of "shoot-to-kill" terrorist suspects; believing that deliberately killing people merely suspected of involvement in terrorist plots is a threat to civil liberties and the right to life, and is tantamount to authorising summary execution.
Of all the candidates, Sian is the only one with a serious, comprehensive programme to combat climate chaos. She will encourage and empower Londoners to go green, with free insulation for every home that needs it, which will save energy, reduce London's carbon footprint, and cut fuel bills to the financial benefit of householders. She's also aiming for the installation of solar electricity and heating on 100,000 London business and residential roofs by 2015.
Far from being a single-issue Green, Sian has put social inclusion and social justice at the heart of her campaign, with a commitment to a London minimum wage of £7.20 per hour, a 20p cut in bus and off-peak tube fares, and a goal of ensuring that 60% of all new-build housing is affordable. That's why so many disillusioned Labour voters are flocking to the Greens - we now represent the hopes and values that Gordon Brown has abandoned.
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