CamdenNewJournal

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Now try some of our ideas, say Greens after vote gains

Sian Berry says it's time to trial a universal basic income

13 May, 2021 — By Richard Osley

Three Greens at the London Assembly: Sian Berry, Caroline Russell and Zack Polanski

THE Greens have called for their campaign ideas – including a universal basic income – to be considered after a surging performance at the London elections.

Sian Berry declared the Greens as “the third party” in London after a bronze-placed finish in the mayoral race behind Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Conservatives’ Shaun Bailey on Thursday, and ballots which saw the party claimed more seats on the London Assembly than the Liberal Democrats.

With pre-match predictions Sadiq Khan would hold onto the mayoralty with ease, it is understood that Ms Berry picked up some first preference votes from card-carrying Labour members who felt they were not risking the overall result.

The New Journal is aware of at least three Labour councillors who did as much on polling day. Mr Khan was declared the winner with the aid of second preferences and Labour were in a firm first place in Barnet and Camden.

Ms Berry, however, said on Monday “thoughtful, ethical” Labour members would now be thinking about her party in a warmer way.

She said: “The ideas we had that really caught on were flatter transport fares – people in outer London were just so pleased that somebody had listened to them about this – they have noticed unfairness, they’ve had to move further out and when they do they renew their travelcard and think ‘whats this, its doubled in price’.

“Now we have more resources in the London Assembly, we can do more research and push that as an idea.”

Ms Berry, who is also the party’s national co-leader and the Greens’ only councillor in Camden, has championed the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) – a regular payment given to all citizens but ultimately aiming to help those in financial difficulty.

“There are many organisations who are campaigning on poverty who want to see this,”, she said.

“There’s a coalition to pilot UBI in London that can formed that doesn’t require me to be mayor – it requires me to be a London Assembly member who can put in a budget amendment.”

“It’s a transformative idea, which is what people are up for. What we’ve done with the furlough system in the last 12 months is vastly more complicated and leads vastly more loose ends and people not catered for than a basic income scheme would. Getting it right and picking a good level is important, but you do that through piloting.”

She said it would also help young people trying to break into fields of work that were too exclusive including arts, business and journalism.

“People who have family cushions can do these careers, and people who don’t can’t,” she said. “If have to work for nothing at the start, there’s a systemic discrimination that goes on there.

More than 1,000 people had joined the Greens since the election.

Other parties were now taking environment more seriously, Ms Berry said but added: “That’s a good thing if we have shifted the dial, but where action falls short we are there to point that. “Again, people want trusted representatives doing that scrutiny and making sure there aren’t big holes in policy, like the Silvertown tunnel.”

Asked whether she would now stand for parliament, she said: “I actually really just want to be London Mayor.”

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