On 3 May London will vote for the next Mayor and Siobhan Benita is the independent candidate turning the tepid battle of Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone into a gripping political contest.
Instead of turning the election process into one big slanging match like her male counterparts, this 40-year-old mother of two is gradually gaining ground in the fight for City Hall. (Despite being told that due to Ofcom rules and BBC policy she probably won’t receive any TV coverage in the run-up to the election.) As the only woman trying to make change in our capital city, we wanted to find out more.
I’m sick of the candidates we’ve got; that’s why I’m running for mayor
Mayoral elections have always been about party politics but as an independent, I’m not looking over my shoulder the whole time thinking, ‘Is this the party line?’ In my 15 years as a civil servant I saw ministers come and go and they eventually lose the ability to say what they think. People should elect an individual; a single leader for London.
I don’t want people to vote for me because I’m a woman
But I do want women to vote for me. Women have been hit hardest by all the public spending cuts and I want to act to make their lives better, safer and more equal. I promise to lobby the government for subsidised childcare to put thousands of women back in the work force. I have also pledged to get funding for four rape crisis centres.
I’ve sacrificed a salary and a career as a civil servant
To run for mayor but I feel liberated, not scared. I’m a better role model to my children now because they see me passionate about what I do every day. There still aren’t enough women in politics talking about their talent and what they want from democracy.
We need to get away from the stereotypical idea that the mayor has to be a man in a grey suit
London is a huge place; 33 boroughs. If you don’t have a figure who pulls all the important issues together – investment decisions, housing, business, education – in a strategic way, you’re lost. The mayor is the voice for London and someone within your system who can lobby for London against the government. It would say a lot about how far the city has come to be able to put a woman in that position.
I’ve had no response from Ken about my campaign
But I’ve spoken to Boris. He told me that if they ever did let me on television, I’d win; so perhaps he’s glad they won’t.