Key points in speech
- Mayor Benita will keep freedom of movement in London: “As Mayor, I will keep freedom of movement in London. I will make sure we always have freedom of movement in our great city."
- We can win London: "We have the message, we have the momentum, we have the winning campaign.
- "Winning the general and mayoral elections will send a message to the world – Liberal Britain is back"
- Sadiq Khan "continues to prop up a brexit-facilitating, deeply divided Labour party that has failed to drive out anti-semitism"
- Announces a 'feel safe, be safe' plan to tackle knife crime epidemic including a 'Youth Happy Hour' and decriminalising cannabis in London
- Announces Leroy Logan, former senior Met police officer and ex-advisor to Sadiq Khan, is defecting from Labour and joining her team
- Strong pro-immigration views shaped by personal life: married to a Frenchman, daughter of an Indian immigrant
LibDem mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita has vowed to keep freedom of movement in London whether Brexit happens or not.
In a keynote speech at the LibDem party conference in Bournemouth, the woman bidding to be the first LibDem and first female mayor of London, pledged to “fight with every ounce of energy I have to stop Brexit” and if elected, promised to “do everything in my power to ensure that our capital remains European and Global, Brexit or no Brexit.”
She said: “Nothing can symbolise an open London more than retaining free movement with the EU. Our city needs leadership in defence of free movement and when I’m elected as the first Liberal Democrat Mayor of London, it will get it. No ifs, no buts.”
She announced: “As Mayor, I will keep freedom of movement in London and freedom of movement for Londoners in Europe. I will make sure we always have freedom of movement in our great city."
And she explained how:
"The Government tells us it wants an Australian style “points based” immigration system. Under such systems, immigration powers can be devolved to regions, enabling them to nominate immigrants based on different characteristics.
One qualifying characteristic for the right to work in London could be EU citizenship.
"And later this month I will meet MEPs and officials in Brussels to discuss freedom of movement for Londoners in Europe."
Ms Benita said it was the LibDems who embodied “the very spirit of London with its global, liberal, pro-European, warm-hearted and dynamic values”. She said that London was not just a remain city or a liberal city. “Today, London is a Liberal Democrat city” and in next year’s mayoral election, “Londoners will choose the Liberal Democrats. Londoners will choose me.”
She said the time was right for the Lib Dems in London. With their surge in membership, their victory in the recent Euro election and the disappointing mayoralty of Sadiq Khan, the LibDems were now "the credible and popular choice for voters in London."
She accused Sadiq Khan of continuing to "prop up a brexit-facilitating, deeply divided Labour party, that has failed to drive out anti-semitism".
She said the current Labour mayor had also failed to get a grip on knife crime or toxic air.
"It’s no surprise that his recent polling shows he has negative satisfaction ratings".
“London is looking for change. We, the Liberal Democrats, offer the change our city needs. We have the message, we have the momentum, we have the winning campaign.
She said Liberal Democrat election victories would send out an important message to the world:
"Imagine what winning this general election, what winning this mayoral election will do for our capital city and for our country. Imagine the message it will send to the world – liberal Britain is back!"
During the speech Ms Benita talked about her own mixed heritage and how her mother arrived in London penniless from India and her family relied on the milkman and the people in the butchers shop they lived above to give them food that they had left at the end of each day. She joked her father was also a migrant to London – from Cornwall. Both were public servants, her mother a nurse, her father a teacher.
She also spoke about her husband who is French: "Like many of London’s EU citizens my husband, who came to London from France over 20 years ago, applied for British citizenship last year because he feared the EU Settled Status Scheme could become another Windrush scandal. He was right to be concerned."
She spoke passionately about immigration: “Immigration is a good thing. Good for communities. Good for the capital. Good for the country. So we will always celebrate London as a magnet to people from all over the world."
She talked about the sort of London she wanted: “I want to be the Mayor of London because I believe we can create a better, kinder capital. One in which the air we breathe is not a silent killer. An affordable and equal city that supports aspiration, is the global capital of business and innovation and the world leader in wellbeing.”
Ms Benita also announced that Leroy Logan, former senior Met police officer and ex-advisor to Sadiq Khan, was joining her team - and defecting from Labour to the LibDems. She went on to outline her “Feel safe, be safe” plan to tackle knife crime in the capital.
“The journey to a safer London starts with young people. We need to wrap every child in London with hope, opportunity and guidance. With Love."
She said as Mayor should would appoint a Young Mayor for London “to ensure young people’s voices are heard every day in City Hall” and would convene a schools symposium to move to a policy of no child being permanently excluded from mainstream schools.
She will push for statutory youth service provision and will establish a ‘Youth Happy Hour’ for the difficult 4 to 6pm period "so that no child is vulnerable to crime after school".
She promised effective community policing with a dedicated police officer at every secondary school, police stations to be re-opened, reversing the policy of the current Labour Mayor who has closed over half the police stations in London.
And she said she will make radical changes to drugs policy: “If I am elected to City Hall, we’ll end the ‘war on drugs’ and instead wage war on gangs and drug lords." She also said she would pilot the decriminalisation of cannabis in London.
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Head of Press
Benita for Mayor of London 2020