A chat with Sian Berry

This is part of V4CE's ongoing interview series with candidates from a range of political parties. We do not endorse any political party, or necessarily the views of Sian Berry

 

The London mayoral candidate for the Green Party has told Voice4Change that she would introduce anonymized job applications for all recruitment to City Hall, including the police and fire service.

Sian Berry, who ran to be Mayor of London once before in 2008, believes that introducing this measure for all GLA contractors would combat racial bias in job applications.

“There is a genuine discrimination out there against people with ethnic minority names – people who have brilliant qualifications but just don’t get job interviews,” she said. “I’ve used anonymous applications for years in various jobs that I’ve held, and it takes away any worries you have when you are recruiting. You just look at the facts and that’s great.”

These comments came in an exclusive interview with Voice4Change, where Berry laid out her top priorities ahead of the election in May. Like many of the candidates, addressing the housing crisis is number one.

“It’s a crisis that is affecting people of all generations. I’m 41 years old and I still rent. I don’t know how I’d ever earn enough to get a mortgage on the average house in London which is now £500,000.

“The Mayor can do all sorts of things to address this. We can stop people buying homes and not living in them. We can bring in planning conditions on new homes so that a certain proportion of every development has to be truly affordable. The Greens are the party with the right attitude on this.”

Berry is concerned at the number of empty buildings in London, and thinks empty sites could be put to better use than they are at the moment.

“I recently called for the Mayor to open up the closed fire and police stations all over London,” she said. “There are always going to be spare spaces and I think they should be used in the best way possible, whether that’s for refugees, the homeless, or for supporting creative industries. I don’t think any building should go to waste.”

She will be hoping to repeat her party’s success in the 2012 mayoral election, when the Green candidate Jenny Jones beat the Lib Dems into 3rd place. If they are going to achieve such a good result again, London’s BME population will be key. 40% of Londoners are now from BME backgrounds, and they are a more important voting block than ever before.

The Greens have been widely praised for their gender diversity, but they have not had the same success with ethnic minority candidates. They came under fire before the last election for having less BME candidates than any other party. I asked Berry how the Greens can become more racially diverse.

“We’ve done a fantastic job with women,” she reminds me promptly, “but we have the same job to do on ethnic diversity now as well. The environmental movement was very much a white movement when it first started. So we are culturally having an issue with BME representation. But there are some fantastic greens organised into a group called Greens of Colour. They’re working on things that we can do to mentor new candidates, in just the same way people like Caroline Lucas mentored me and encouraged me to stand.”

You can listen to the full interview with Sian Berry here

Ben Andrew