The Green Party’s candidate for London mayor Jenny Jones came to answer PinkNews.co.uk readers’ questions last week.
Although technical issues beyond our control meant we had to cancel her live session, she has sent us her answers to readers’ questions below.
London will go to the polls on Thursday evening to elect its mayor and members of the London Assembly.
With about half of the UK’s HIV positive population accessing care in London what will you do as Mayor to ensure that treatment and care budgets are not further cut over the term of your office? What will you do as Mayor to support efforts to tackle the high rate of new HIV infections, particularly amongst gay men?
I want to help ensure better health service across London. This will include improved access to sexual health services and specifically, ring-fencing of funding for health promotion around HIV/AIDS prevention amongst at risk communities in the capital. We will also use the position of Mayor to lobby against central Government cuts to public services such as the NHS and welfare and housing benefit that many LGBT people depend upon.
As a lesbian and a parent I am concerned about homophobia in schools. What will you do with your community safety and policing role to lead on and tackle homophobia in schools?
I will guarantee to appoint a liaison officer in every borough to work with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities and send officers to schools to challenge anti-LGBT prejudice. Each borough will also draw up an Anti-Homophobia Action Plan to remedy local hate crime hotspots working with the Gay-Straight Alliance.
The rift between the LGBT and Muslim communities in London has been very high-profile over the last few years, with homophobic crime on the increase and growing Islamophobia. What would you do to heal the rift?
I am deeply concerned about the rift between the LGBT and Muslim communities, particularly the high profile incidents involving the “gay free zone” stickers. Leading Muslim organisations – like the Muslim Council of Britain and the East London Mosque have spoken out against homophobia and I firmly believe that the communities can unite together against homophobia and all forms of hate and prejudice.
Making local alliances and coalitions is the best way to conquer divisions. Peter Tatchell, a Green Party member and the party’s spokesperson on human rights has been doing some terrific work on eradicating homophobia from communities whilst at the same time protecting freedom of speech and I would like to follow his example if elected Mayor.
The public perception of, and trust in, the Metropolitan police is pretty low – this is a serious concern for minority groups that are at higher risk of crime. What would you do to reverse this?
I will commission community and voluntary organisations to investigate ways in which the police could improve their relationship with their local community, particularly in areas with high levels of violent crime. To make sure recommendations are implemented, there will be a requirement for Borough Commanders to act on local findings. I will also put reforms in place to make sure the police will do all it can to eradicate hateful and anti-social behaviour such as racism, homophobia and crime against disabled people, investing in programmes that are proven to change attitudes and prevent violence.
How do you respond to the issue of Catholic state schools campaigning politically, harming LGBT pupils? What action would you take?
I was appalled at this and condemn any attempt by these schools to campaign for a such a divisive and intolerant measure, especially when young people will be adversely affected. Promoting equality and celebrating diversity is a core issue for me and I pledge to ensure that all London’s public services are responsive to the needs of LGBT citizens.
Elderly LGBT people are one of the most economically vulnerable groups in our society. Few have families, often because it was harder for them to adopt children and some were disowned by their families when they came out. What will you do to combat the economic and social deprivation these older people face?
London owes the elderly a better deal—too many older people cannot move around town, are driven prematurely from work and are excluded from participating in London society. I would ensure that transport and employment strategies focus on all Londoners, including the elderly. As well as opposing welfare cuts that will adversely affect vulnerable groups and providing 24 hour Freedom Passes to those of pensionable age, we should recognise the enthusiasm, expertise and energy of older people by encouraging employers to offer more part-time and flexible work as an alternative to full-time work or sudden retirement.
Many legal protections have been established in the last 20 years that benefit LGBT people. There are still more (eg bullying in schools, hate crimes) that could be that require cultural shift. How would you encourage London to shift its cultural perceptions?
Many of our policies will result in a shift in cultural perceptions in London. For example sending officers in to schools to challenge anti-LGBT prejudice and establishing an anti-homophobia action plan in all boroughs.
Among others cities, the GLA has a twinning arrangement with Tehran, the capital of Iran where the punishment for homosexuality is the death penalty – would you de-twin London and Tehran?
I completely condemn the attitude and the actions of the Iranian government towards LGBT people. Attempts to enforce heterosexuality are as much a violation of human rights as racism and sexism, and must be challenged with equal determination. If I felt that we could use the threat of de-twinning the two cities to put pressure on Tehran to change their polices, then I would carefully consider this option.
Do you think schools which cannot demonstrate sufficient action to address homophobic bullying should fail their Ofsted inspections?
A school’s failure to address homophobic bullying should be taken very seriously and sanctions may well be needed to ensure sufficient action is taken. However the London Mayor has no control over Ofsted or the criteria it sets for inspections.
Do you believe it is important that the mayor’s office supports benchmarks which measure diversity e.g. Stonewall Diversity Champions?
Measures which monitor and support diversity are always welcomed and I support having these benchmarks in place.
What target will you set yourself that you can be measured against, to prove you have succeeded in your term of office to tackle issues that matter to LGBT people specifically such as hate crime, bullying in schools and fairness?
The Green Party are very keen to set out our vision for London so it will be easy to judge whether we are achieving what we have set out to do in our manifesto whether as Mayor or Assembly Members. We will open up City Hall to scrutiny from the press and the public by holding weekly press conferences, opening up important meetings to the public and sign up to the code of practice for Official Statistics.
Do you support plans by Tower Hamlets Cllr Khan who plans to ban “sex establishments” in Tower Hamlets in order to reduce female exploitation? Do you believe this should include the only gay pub in the area, the White Swan which has an amateur strip night?
I believe that in this case there should be an effort to differentiate between serious female exploitation which we should do everything we can to end and what is obviously only a bit of fun. Although I support the legislation, The White Swan should not be banned as part of it.
What one policy should make people vote for you, and what one policy specifically appeals to LGBT people?
All of our policies are designed to improve the lives of ordinary Londoners. LGBT people should vote for us because they will benefit from cheaper transport fares and more investment in our public transport system as well as tackling homophobia in all its forms.