100 days ago I had the honour of being elected as a Liberal Democrat London-Wide Assembly Member. We doubled our representation at City Hall and became a group again, with Caroline Pidgeon as the leader.
I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of hundreds of members and activists, the fantastic team of GLA candidates, team members led by Anood Al-Samerai and the inspiring Mayoral candidates Luisa Porritt. Thank you to all who achieved this result.
Now that there’s two of us in the London Assembly we can double our efforts, double our reach and even double our votes.
That’s why it’s been important for me to get noticed and that’s not by just wearing lots of yellow and orange!
I didn’t plan to go semi-viral thanks to a photo of me sitting next to the former Tory Mayoral Candidate Shaun Bailey at our first public meeting. We were discussing how cold it was in the chamber but the Labour group spread rumours of us hatching a coalition plot – there was none. Labour had a strop over chairs of committees, they then refused to chair any. In any case, as a result, Caroline is chairing Transport and Oversight and is a member of the Police Committee, I am Deputy Chair of Economy and a member of the Environment and Fire Committees. My job is to scrutinise the Mayor and to raise our London Liberal Democrats’ campaigns.
The London campaign was based on three clear priorities – jobs, homes and clean air. This agenda fits perfectly in the committee roles I have. As Deputy Chair for Economy, I pushed for a focus on the night- time economy and skills to ensure that Londoners are able to get back into work. We have pursued employment issues for disabled Londoners and apprenticeships for young Londoners. I have met with the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, London First, and the London Chamber of Commerce.
The Fire Committee allows me to focus on home safety and the cladding crisis has been incredibly challenging. Caroline had already started an amazing campaign to push for more action and now I could push the Mayor to do even more. My first question and first motion was on cladding – the motion passed demanding clear action such as not working with developers who were not proactively supporting residents in this scandal. We have kept in close contact with the over 2,000 people who signed our cladding petition, letting them know about our work at City Hall and encouraging them to lobby the Mayor and other Assembly Members. We also used the opportunity of the July London Assembly Plenary Committee to pursue wider concerns around shared ownership. Building safety is an issue that is wider than just cladding and the Liberal Democrats in London are leading on this.
In the spirit of being more joined up, I held an Air Pollution Roundtable to which the ‘Ground Team’ was invited (local party chairs, cllrs and campaign leads) sharing good campaigning ideas, questions to ask councils and actions for local parties and our Assembly Members. Caroline and I have continued to support Silvertown campaigners and have been doggedly pursuing the expensive polluting Silvertown scandal, pressing the Mayor on air pollution monitoring in particular. I met with campaigners lobbying for the use of cargo bikes instead of delivery vans, a very exciting proposal to help reduce vehicles in London. I am now embarking on working with Cycle Sisters, a group encouraging Muslim women to learn how to cycle in London, breaking down misconceptions and cultural barriers. Seeing me on a bike will be quite a sight but it’s all worth it to promote our positive messages of clean air and diversity.
The need for more diversity being promoted in politics is one of the reasons I have had some media attention. I’ve been on ITN News and on various International and Islam channels talking about being one of the first Muslim women London Assembly members elected and the need to increase our diverse representation in politics. More recently I was on BBC Sunday Politics and On London about my investigation into the need for a disability employment task force.
My passion for increasing diversity in politics started when I founded two charities to get young people more active in civil society. I have been keen to use this experience to help me reach out to diverse communities, listen, engage and to help increase the Liberal Democrat reach. I have met Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faith leaders and planned future events at Hindu and Christian iconic places of worship. I have started a faith tour with the Party Leader, Ed Davey, visiting the world famous Regents Park Mosque with local activists. More such visits are planned.
I have also been visiting local parties to provide support on reaching out to diverse communities, such as Waltham Forest, Lewisham and Kingston where I also presented on how local parties can use London Assembly members as a resource. My plan is to visit all local parties to give similar support. And to continue supporting campaigns such as the by-elections in Waltham Forest and Camden (where we now have the brilliant Clllr Nancy Jirara) and of course the hugely successful campaign in Chesham and Amersham. To be successful we must keep on winning and I want to help where I can.
I am keen to know from you too on what the London Assembly members can focus on further. As a councillor, I know that flooding is a massive issue for Londoners. I have met with Thames Water and scheduled time with the Environment Agency, preparing for a motion, Mayor’s questions and media on this subject.
I want to be the best representative I can for the Liberal Democrats and I’m so proud to be working alongside an amazing colleague, Caroline Pidgeon but also a talented team, Mark Morris, Liam Clements and Anood Al-Samerai (and Chris Annous until recently). I see my role as so much more than that of scrutiny and holding the Mayor to account. It also means I can highlight the brilliant ideas the Liberal Democrats have and work we do – that’s why I joined the party. We are progressive, radical and brave and that what being a Liberal Democrat London Assembly member represents – our values are London’s values and we need to be the voice for London.