Siobhan Benita

Siobhan Benita launches her campaign to be Mayor of London

Liberal Democrat Siobhan Benita has launched her campaign to be Mayor of London, putting centre stage her distinctive combination of competence and kindness with a collaborative approach.
Speaking at the First Dates restaurant by St Paul's Cathedral under the slogan of Love London Better, Benita outlined her vision for a "Safer, Greener and Kinder London". 
Benita is aiming to be the first LibDem and first female Mayor of London and said London was ready:
"London dares to be different. It has so far delivered three very different Mayors who have captured Londoner’s hearts and minds in different ways. What could be more different than a Liberal Democrat female mayor? It's time."
She rejected Sadiq Khan's attempt to frame the election as a two-horse race, saying:
"Sadiq Khan recently turned up in my backyard to ‘love bomb’ liberal-minded voters and to try to make out that this is a two-horse race between him and the official Conservative candidate. Whilst I’m happy he loves liberal values, he is not writing this woman out of the race. The reality is this a different election, with a different voting system and any number of candidates could end up as the main contender in this campaign."

She was critical of Mayor Khan for his failure to get a grip on the basics in London:

"London is the best city on earth but it pains me that so many things are not working. Knife crime is out of control, rough sleeping at its highest level in years, our air is toxic  and commuters are bearing the brunt of a creaking transport system every day. These are all areas where the Mayor can make a difference. So, today, I’m outlining my vision for a city that is safer, greener and kinder. I believe I have the experience, the energy and the skills to deliver it."

More key extracts from her speech include:

How she would be different

"Let me tell you how I would be different. I am putting love, kindness and compassion at the heart of my politics. Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness – it is my greatest strength. With compassion at the heart of City Hall, I know I can achieve better outcomes for Londoners.

"I understand that this role isn’t ceremonial. It’s not enough to stand up for London’s values on Twitter. It’s about leadership. It’s about taking responsibility. We need more than a mascot Mayor. We need one who knows how to get things done.

"My experience operating at the heart of central government means I know how to navigate bureaucracy, drive projects forward and bring people, organisations and businesses together to follow things through. I offer a distinctive combination of competence, kindness and a collaborative approach."

Why Londoners should Back Benita

"If you believe that it’s strong to put compassion at the heart of politics.

If you believe that there is more a Mayor of London can do to improve our city.

If you believe that we should unite boroughs, businesses and people so that we can tackle our common issues together.

If you believe in my vision of a Safer, Greener and Kinder London.

If you love London but you know it can be better – then you have the choice. Vote for me, Siobhan Benita, a New Mayor For London on Thursday 7th May."

On tackling knife crime

"Sadiq Khan recently admitted that this issue keeps him awake at night. And so it should. Fatal stabbings of teenagers in the capital are at their highest level in a over decade. But the current mayor’s default response is to blame Central Government and make out that his hands are tied. I know that there is much more a Mayor can do.

"Too many lives are being lost to knife crime. Too many families and communities are suffering the trauma of those deaths and the ever-present fear of violence. Too many victims of crime are not being listened too. I know there isn’t a quick fix but we can and must turn things around. The first step is having a mayor who believes we can do more."

On Community policing and a London Youth Service

"On enforcement, we must get back to a model of community policing that works.  I would re-open neighbourhood police stations, double the number of local ward officers and ensure that every secondary school in London has a dedicated police liaison officer. I would use the significant convening power of the Mayor to create a new, London Youth Service and appoint a Young Mayor for London, paid for out of my mayoral salary, to oversee it."

On Cannabis legalisation and a Cannabis Conversation Weekend

"My work on the Youth Violence Commission highlighted the indisputable link between knife crime and the illegal drugs market. The time for tip-toeing around this subject is over. It’s time to undermine the violent drugs gangs' primary source of money and power and take back control of our streets.

I will fight for London to be used as a pilot for a legal, regulated cannabis market. It would also free up police time to deal with more serious crimes and raise millions of pounds through a cannabis tax, money which could be used to fund the London Youth Service and support those addicted to harder drugs."

"To show central Government I mean business on drugs reform, if I become Mayor I would hold a high-profile Cannabis Conversation Weekend, bringing together the police, patients, scientific researchers, activists, mental health charities, health professionals and cannabis industry representatives.

"Popular opinion is moving towards legalisation, and with the clear link established to knife crime - a grown-up, public conversation on cannabis will be hard for the Government to ignore."

On the Green agenda

"We must be bolder. My ambition is for London to reach zero-carbon by 2030 but to achieve that we have to put a green lens over everything we do in City Hall. That means I won’t invest in dirty projects like the Silvertown tunnel and I won’t support polluting airport expansion. Instead, I will protect biodiversity, prioritise investment in walking and cycling schemes, in green infrastructure and move towards smart road user charging.

"I will not only be committing to a zero-carbon future but a plastic-free one too – with a vision to ban all unnecessary and single use plastic by 2024."

A review of inequality in London

"We can’t ignore that hate crimes are on the rise and, without a doubt, recent politics has emboldened those that seek to divide us. Racism, homophobia, sexual abuse, – they all have deep roots - and that’s why, if I am elected, I will commission a review of inequality in London to get to the heart of making London a fairer, kinder city for everyone."

On housing

"As mayor, I would take direct action by building to rent on TfL land, bringing back into use thousands of empty homes and not hesitating to adopt quick-to-deliver modular builds where the opportunity is right."

Referencing the First Dates venue for her launch
"I’m sorry that Fred couldn’t be here to greet you, but my lovely French husband is here and this is probably the closest we’re going to get to celebrate Valentines Day this year so I have to make it special! This restaurant is a place of excitement and optimism - of new beginnings and, if the date goes well, the prospect of a future full of new adventures and happiness. And that’s exactly what I want for London."

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