Siobhan Benita is the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London. Like so many Londoners, Siobhan loves our city - but she also knows that it can be so much better.
Born in Merton, to an Anglo-Indian mother and Cornish father, Siobhan epitomises London’s unique diversity.
“My mum was born in India but after her dad tragically died at a very early age, my grandmother brought her and her two siblings to start a new life in London. They arrived with very few possessions but local people rallied round, including the butcher and milkman who used to give my grandmother leftover food. That’s the London that I still love today – kind, open and welcoming.”
Vital public services
Siobhan’s parents both went on to work in the public sector. Their work shaped Siobhan’s appreciation of the vital role public services play in people’s lives. Growing up, Siobhan also learnt that being treated as an equal wasn’t something you could take for granted. At 14, she was chosen to be the first ever ball girl on Court Number One at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships. Previously, only boys had been allowed on the top courts.
And when she entered the Civil Service as a graduate, she discovered that she was one of the few with a state school education who had not attended Oxford or Cambridge.
“That’s when I realised that diversity is more than gender, race or disability. It is also about class and background. We have a long way to go to address this issue.”
At Warwick University, while working part time alongside her studies, Siobhan met Vincent, the man who would become her husband. They married in 1997 and subsequently had two daughters together. Vincent is French, and having a dual nationality family is one of the reasons Siobhan feels so strongly about Brexit.
“EU citizens came to this country in good faith and made it their home. Brexit has created a huge amount of uncertainty for our families, neighbours and friends,” she says.
Years working in the civil service has given Siobhan vital experience which will enable her to hit the ground running as Mayor. “I worked in all the government departments that the Mayor of London and City Hall work with, including transport, local government and the environment.”
She resigned from her position managing the Department of Health’s senior board in 2012, in protest at the NHS reforms introduced by the Conservative Party. “It was the first time in my career that I felt I was helping to deliver policies I did not agree with and did not have a public mandate.”
The Lib Dems
Siobhan previously ran for Mayor as an Independent in 2012 but joined the Liberal Democrats, on the morning of the EU Referendum result. She describes being devastated by the prospect of a damaging Brexit, as well as seeing both Labour and the Conservatives increasingly influenced by extreme wings in their parties.
As the Lib Dems Mayoral candidate, Siobhan says she is looking forward to running an “ambitious and bold” campaign that tackles the big issues facing London, such as rising serious crime, lack of affordable housing, and poor air quality.
She also wants to address the inequality at the heart of so many of the capital’s problems, which has led to a stark increase in homelessness. She says: “London is the greatest city on earth. I wouldn’t live anywhere else. But it should also be the kindest city on earth. “We all need to show more compassion, and that will be central to my campaign. Working together, we can build an ever brighter future for people across London.”