Earlier in the year we hosted with our friends and colleagues in Lambeth Green Party a series of events with leaders from the Green Party under the banner: Beyond Covid-19. I am sure that most of us at the time assumed that months later we might indeed be beyond the pandemic, or at least closer to the end than we are. Nonetheless, with positive news about a vaccine, perhaps we are close to the beginning of the end?
And what about democracy in the time of a pandemic?
The London Assembly and Mayoral elections were due to take place in May 2020. These elections were postponed, now go-ahead in May 2021 and campaigning has begun again. This important election will impact many aspects of our city and provides an excellent opportunity for our Green Party candidates.
- National Co-leader Siân Berry is candidate for London Mayor and captured excellent polling ahead of the postponement
- Two Assembly Members – Siân and Caroline Russell – were elected in 2016 via the Proportional Representation element of the vote for London-wide representatives.
- The ambition is to re-elect Siân and Caroline and to increase the Green representation to at least three and beyond, with Zack Polanski and Benali Hamdache third and fourth respectively on the Green Party list.
Teams in Southwark and across London have been out distributing campaign literature to Londoners – but is this safe or advisable during the pandemic?
As a party that prides itself on evidence-based decision-making, we are following the science and official guidance from Public Health England. What this means broadly is:
- Voters can be confident that receiving campaign literature does not present a risk
- Door-knocking is not authorised
- All campaigners are briefed on ‘safe’ leafletting, which means it needs to be done alone, with a mask on and with regular application of hand sanitiser
- Distributing leaflets is a volunteer activity and therefore is permitted during lockdown
Our guidance is regularly updated but for the time-being, the right type of campaigning is on. Across the borough dedicated campaigners are making a significant contribution to the London-wide campaign. The ambition of this campaign is to reach several hundred thousand voters with multiple rounds of campaign messaging. A massive thank you to those making this happen and for observing the guidelines.
Should you wish to join them, there are always opportunities to do so – the more of you, the better to spread the load. Let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org and we will let you know where and when. Equally, if you have been campaigning and have any concerns or questions, please raise them with your co-ordinator or via the central email.
Information for Voters
If you are reading this as someone who has received campaign literature from us and have questions or concerns, we welcome hearing from you.
For those voters who are vulnerable or who are nervous about voting in person in May, it is useful to remember the option to cast your votes by post or by proxy. Details are available from the Southwark Council website here.
Finally, remember that British, European and Commonwealth London residents can vote but you must be registered to do so. If you or members of your household are not registered to vote, you need to visit here.
With so many fewer cars on the streets during lockdown, air pollution has fallen by up to 50% and people have been walking and cycling to local shops and parks, as well as to work.
But now, as lockdown eases, cars are returning to the streets. If Southwark doesn’t act to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists, all Southwark residents will suffer.
- Many people will not be able to travel safely to work. The majority of residents don’t have access to a private car and there will be reduced capacity on public transport for months to come.
- More people will choose to drive, creating gridlock - causing delays for those who do need to use motorised transport, including delays to buses.
- Increased air pollution means more heart disease, asthma and strokes, as well as exacerbating the impact of coronavirus.
It's a question of social justice: 60% of Southwark residents do not have access to a car. With limited capacity on public transport, they need safe ways to walk and cycle. Workers in health care, retail and construction who can’t work from home are more likely to be on lower incomes and most in need of safer ways to commute.
If Southwark Council doesn’t act quickly, there’s a real risk that as people avoid public transport, Southwark will become a corridor of choking gridlock, from the southern suburbs to the river.
Meanwhile, people still need extra space on pavements for daily exercise, recreation and essential tasks while keeping a safe distance from each other.
But the last few months have shown that rapid changes are possible.
Photo (above, and top): the Low Traffic neighbourhood around Van Gogh Walk, LambethRead more
In early May, Southwark and Lambeth Green Parties welcomed Siân Berry as first guest in its speaker programme, Beyond Covid-19. The topic: Universal Basic Income (UBI).
With much to cover, Siân provided an informed and passionate overview of Green Party policy on this issue and explained some of the research that has gone into this globally, as well as answering members’ questions. It became clear that the concept of UBI and the support and resilience it provides was a key policy that first attracted Siân to the Green Party.
Photo: Adam Hypki
'Once 80% of the population wears a mask, the spread of a virus during a pandemic can be stopped almost immediately.'
There is evidence that masks can significantly reduce the amount of virus spread by people who have Covid-19 but may not realise it. To a lesser degree, they also provide protection against catching it. It’s a pro-social action to wear a mask: My mask protects you; your mask protects me.
The campaign for #Masks4All is gaining momentum. In the Czech Republic, it started as a grassroots campaign and then passed into law. Within three days, almost 100% of citizens were wearing homemade masks.
Professor Trish Greenhalgh spoke on the World At One on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 16 April, pointing out that masks can be made of almost any available fabric, and that even if homemade masks are not 100% effective, if a high percentage of the population are wearing masks, there will be a huge drop in transmission rates.
Wearing cotton masks for essential trips to shops or on public transport is a simple, effective action that will protect all of us, and above all key workers like bus drivers and shop assistants. Homemade masks do not replace existing essential measures - hand-washing, keeping a safe distance, staying in - but they are another tool to fight the virus.Read more
We're very concerned to learn of a planning application made by Southwark Council for permission to chop down four mature poplar trees and eight ash and maple trees in Bessemer Grange Nature Garden (also known as Nairne Grove Nature Garden).
This small, biodiverse garden is used by pupils from Bessemer Grange Primary, as well as for Forest School community activities. The school's catchment area includes three large council estates - Champion Hill, Denmark Hill and Dog Kennel Hill. Many of the pupils live in flats without gardens. For them, the chance to learn about nature in a woodland setting is rare and highly valued.
This photo from the school's website shows a Year 1 class in the garden.
The trees are covered by Tree Protection Orders and the garden is listed as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation by Southwark Council, as well as being in a 'Critical Drainage Area'.
Interview with Claire Sheppard, Green Party candidate and community campaigner
Can you tell us a bit about Nunhead Knocks?
It was started by a handful of folks local to Nunhead who had skills in tech, community connections and backgrounds in organising who wanted to find a way to help the many people in our neighbourhood who have been affected by the virus.
How did you get the idea for Nunhead Knocks? Is it just you?Read more
Southwark Green Party objects to the proposal by Dolphin Living for the old Hunnex site at 35-39 Parkhouse Street, in Camberwell, just south of Burgess Park. This is for a 6-10 storey building with 100 flats.
This is one of several applications for tall buildings around the perimeter of Burgess Park, risking permanent destruction of the habitat and character of the park. (We have previously objected to the earlier Burgess Business Park proposal.) It is important not to set a precedent by approving this application.
Our key objections to this application are:
1) the buildings are too tall, in breach of Southwark Council policy
Hello! I’m Claire Sheppard and I want to represent Camberwell and Peckham as your MP. I think it’s time for a change and for real action on the climate emergency.
Peckham has been my home for nearly 20 years. It’s where my husband and I chose to get married, start our own businesses and raise our family. I’m a local campaigner, volunteer and activist with a deep love and respect for the area.
Some of the community just got here, some have been here all their lives. What we all have in common is that we want to live in an area where the community is strong and united – and all of us want the best for each other.Read more
New opportunities to make a Green vote count in Southwark
Uniting to Remain, Lib Dems step aside for the Green Party's co-leader Jonathan Bartley in Dulwich & West Norwood, while Hannah Graham of the Green Party steps aside in Bermondsey & Old Southwark.
The co-leader of the Green Party, Jonathan Bartley, has been selected to fight the seat of Dulwich and West Norwood in South London at the general election. The other Remain parties, the Lib Dems and Change UK, will not contest the seat as part of the 'Remain Alliance' organised by Unite to Remain. Voters in this constiituency have the opportunity to make history and elect London’s first Green Party MP.
The constituency of Dulwich & West Norwood is shared between the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth. Both boroughs had high votes for 'Remain' in the 2016 referendum, with Lambeth polling at 78% and Southwark at 73%.Read more
Protect our trees – and plant many more
Most of us feel a deep sense of loss when trees we're used to seeing every day are felled. Unfortunately, that's an experience all too familiar in Southwark, where many trees have come down over the past decade. The council's own figures show a net loss of around 1,400 street trees between 2013 and 2017 alone.
Southwark Transport Plan Annual Monitoring Report, 2016/17, p.45
Southwark Green Party has long campaigned to protect trees and green spaces. We welcomed the chance to reply to Southwark Council's recent consultation on its vision and objectives for tree management. The consultation has now closed, but you can read the draft Tree Management Policy on the council's consultation hub.Read more