From its conception at WOW by Catherine Mayer, joining forces with Sandi Toksvig, in March 2015, it is now a proper party (which is a crazily hard thing to become in a political system stacked against new-comers) and a real contender in the next elections. #WE has more than 45,000 members and supporters and over 70 local branches (some of which I helped set up when I started volunteering for the party last spring). And now we are standing candidates for the London Assembly and London Mayoral elections. And I'm lucky enough to have been short-listed as a candidate! Bloody hell, January!
Hustings are tomorrow night and voting (internal, for party members in London) closes on Thursday. So if you want to vote for me to stand for either mayor or the London Assembly, crack on and join the party! If you want to know why I'm standing and why I believe I'd be a credible candidate, here are my reasons:
- My professional life is hugely varied - if you've read my other blogs you'll know I work with people with Parkinsons, people who are HIV+, mental health service users, recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, young migrants; I run creative arts and education projects; I facilitate interfaith dialogue; I teach sex and relationship education; I go into schools as a Role Model to combat homophobic bullying. I keep myself busy! This has given me insight not only into the needs of these different groups - who come from a vast array of backgrounds - but also into the local provision for different communities. Most importantly it means I am experienced in working with people, discussing their needs and concerns, and supporting them to take positive action. I get on with people and I care about their lives.
- I’ve been involved with the party since the second meeting, firstly as a volunteer ‘Branch Maker’, supporting the set-up of the local branches across the UK, and also spoke at the first meeting of the Youth Branch. I planned and delivered a pilot workshop about #WE at Nonsuch High School, and have been invited to join the education group leading on school speaking materials.
- I care passionately about the fight for equality and believe gender inequality is a crazy anachronism in today’s society. From every-day sexism, to the gendering of emotions, the pay gap, to the threat of violence to women and girls - I see the impact of gender inequality all around me and I cannot sit back and let it continue. Only last week, an article in the Sunday Times suggested female doctors are causing the NHS to fail. Gahhh!!!! The issues behind this are systemic. But that means they can be systematically tackled (see #WE's 6 core objectives).
- I am a lively and confident person, who enjoys leading from the front, back and side, responding to the needs of the people I’m working with. I have strong values but am never evangelical; I always want to understand all the different sides of a debate and form a considered opinion, and I’m not too proud to change my mind.
- I strive to be authentic and a positive role model. When I regularly taught at a school in Lewisham, I decided to be honest about my sexuality when asked questions by the students, as I think it is crucial that young people have a normalized and human view of difference (and this also led to considerably reduced homophobic language in my classroom). In the workplace, I’m not afraid to be honest about my feelings and communicate them appropriately.
- The political arena could seriously do with some normal people, who aren't career politicians, who know the world outside Westminster. I am authentic. I'm nice. I'm not another man in a suit.