At a social level London already provides a grand vision for the future.
The largest city in Europe and home to the most diverse population in the world, London is a glorious experiment of integration and invention. At a political level London offers a grim flashback to the past. An era when property and inheritance trumps priorities and tramples lives. It doesn't have to be this way. London deserves political institutions that represent and reflect what's best about this city—its inhabitants. My vision for London is a comparatively meagre one. I want London to realise what it already is through participatory forms of governance that give Londoners the power to determine how their city is run.
It is imperative that my vision not be a distant one. London already has desperate problems beginning with the greatest rates inequality in the so-called ‘developed’ world. Billionaires buy and sell our skyline whilst bulldozing down our communities, homes and livelihoods. Theirs is a very different vision for London. One of social-cleansing and gentrification. Of eliminating the creativity, innovation and diversity that has given London its character.
The irony is that it is exactly those who are slowly being erased who are best placed to make the decisions that affect them and their communities. Harnessing the innovation and creativity of its inhabitants, this city has the potential to be miles ahead in terms of participatory politics that reigns in a brand of democracy that has the power to be truly transformative.
At Take Back The City we have spent the last year listening to the demands of individuals and communities across London. Here are some of the things they envision for London.
For housing, this means a policy built on the needs of tenants and those in need of accommodation. With homelessness rising in a city where acres of land sit in the hands of property developers, it’s worth growing exponentially; the only way to stop this is by listening to the Londoners bearing the brunt and this means rent control and repossession on empty spaces, left abandoned on speculation.
We know from the Jermaine Taylors, Mark Duggans and Sarah Reeds that the only thing our police watchdog is watching is its own back. Democratising the police force would give us the chance to have real accountability and transparency in law enforcement. This means creating spaces where Black and south Asian parents can go and express the concerns over what Trident and Prevent might mean for their children. This means having working class schoolchildren educated on exactly how they should be handled under police care. Transparency and accountability in the police force is urgent and we need to find a way to give access and power to local people to act as the real watchdog of the police force.
Multiple groups of low waged workers told us of their need to travel by bus to get in and out of the centre of London in order to afford the travel costs to their jobs. This isn’t good enough and has to change. We have to find a way to make it possible for Londoners to travel in and out of the city as they want without crippling themselves to do it. Drawing from suggestions ranging from abolition zones to free travel for under 25s our manifesto will be a reflection of what Londoners want to see changed to make this a city we can all thrive in.
Take Back The City is a group of Londoners organising around the issues that face Londoners every year. This May, we are running Amina Gichinga singing teacher, Newham local and community activist for the Greater London Assembly in City and East. To find out more check them out at takebackthecity.org, @TBTCLondon or facebook.com/takebackthecity.