It was a cold and rainy night, a week after the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election – not the best backdrop for Southwark Green Party's 2016 AGM. But with around 40 people present, and Green candidate for London mayor Sian Berry as our guest speaker, the meeting turned out to be an uplifting occasion, showing how Green policies and politicians offer hope in dark times.
A busy year
Colin Boyle, SGP's outgoing chairman, gave the opening address, and reminded us how hard we’ve worked this year, campaigning in four local by-elections; the London mayoral election (where the Greens came third); and the EU referendum (in which, unlike other parties, we rejected the politics of fear and made the positive case for Remain). We’ve also increased our social media presence and begun working towards the 2018 local elections. SGP members have been campaigning to reduce air pollution in Southwark, as well as being active in existing campaigns around housing, transport, the NHS and green spaces.
We were especially pleased to welcome to the meeting Nick Martin, chief executive of the Green Party and Southwark resident, who noted that while only 2% of the population currently belong to a political party, that figure seems set to grow, with the Greens – like other progressive parties – having seen a rise in new, and more active existing, members following the outcome of the EU referendum.
Sian Berry then led a session in which we were divided into small groups to discuss the achievements of Greens on the London Assembly and as councillors in London. This proved a useful reminder (if we needed it!) that "Boris bikes" have very little to do with Boris Johnson and were first proposed by Green AMs when Ken Livingstone was mayor. The London Living Wage, which has helped millions of Londoners, was originally a Green policy, and Greens also stopped the Thames Gateway road bridge from going ahead – a project widely opposed by environmental groups.
After our break, Sian addressed the meeting, updating us on the work of the Greens in the Assembly. Given widespread concern about the demolition of council estates across London – in Southwark, more than 1,000 homes have been lost on the Heygate estate alone – it is very welcome news that Sian herself will be chair of the Assembly's housing scrutiny committee from 2017.
Since this year's Assembly elections, Sian and her fellow member Caroline Russell have been working hard to improve life for all Londoners. Notably, they have:
- Secured a promise from the mayor, Sadiq Khan, to work to reduce traffic across London – prioritising getting people, rather than cars, around the city
- Campaigned for Transport for London to become a fully licensed energy supply company for the capital, for example by using roof space on its buildings for solar panels
- Proposed a temporary change in the law to allow for positive discrimination in police recruitment, making the Met more representative of the people it serves
- Investigated the impact of surveillance drones on civil liberties
- Conducted "secret shopping" exercises to expose rogue letting agents, and carried out a survey of renters in London, with a motion passed calling on the mayor to be more active in support of tenants' rights
- Promoted the Healthy Street Check, which can be used at a local level to create greener, safer, healthier neighbourhoods
If Greens can do all this with only two London Assembly members, one London MEP and four councillors across the whole city, think how much more we could do with more people elected!
The AGM was also our chance to say thank you – but not goodbye – to Colin Boyle, who is standing down after more than two years as our chairman to take up an officer role with London Green Party. Colin's organisational skills have left us in good shape to face future challenges as he hands over to our new co-chairs Eleanor Margolies and Phil Vabulas. Details of all officers elected at the AGM are as follows:
Eleanor Margolies – Co-Chair
Phil Vabulas – Co-Chair
Tracey Beresford – Secretary
Rhiannon Horsley – 2018 Election Coordinator
Chris Glenn – Treasurer and Membership Officer
Faye Fraser (@fayelfraser) – Social and Events Officer
Lori Marriott (@LoriMarriott) – Policy Officer
Peter Hamilton – Election Agent
Sophie Dewsnap (@sophiecao) – Campaigns Team
David Jennings – Campaigns Team
Tom Tibbits - Campaign Team
Kirsty Lothian (@KirstyLothian1) – Data Officer
Ben Hyde - Social Media
Beth Jane Marshall - Communications