With just over a year to go before the next London election for Assembly Members, political parties are now looking at who their potential candidates will be. Liberal Democrats will soon be finalising their candidates and as part of the process are engaging with Ealing residents as well as their own party members to get their support to be selected.
Three potential candidates – Hina Bokhari, Irina Von Wiese and Rob Blackie, came to Ealing to meet the public as part of an Ealing Liberal Democrats canvassing day.
EALING.NEWS had an opportunity to speak to them and find out a bit more about their backgrounds, what they want to see improved in London and what motivates them.
Hina Bokhari is an existing London Assembly member and councillor on Merton Council and she explained her route into politics.
Ms Bokhari is the daughter of Naz Bokhari who was the first Muslim headteacher of a British secondary school. Among those who went to her dad’s school in Tooting, Ernest Bevin College, was young Sadiq Khan who would later enter politics himself, become an MP and is currently Mayor of London.
Ms Bokhari explained her own route to politics. “Before I actually got involved in politics, I could see that a lot of young people were disengaged. And so I started a charity named after my dad. He was the very first Muslim head teacher in Britain. So he was very first person.”
Naz Bokhari passed away in 2011. “We started the Naz Legacy Foundation after my dad and after that, we started sort of foundation called the Patchwork Foundation. The Patchwork Foundation is about reaching out to young people with diverse backgrounds to get them involved in politics.”
“It also drives why I’m doing what I’m doing. I didn’t get involved in politics because I thought I’ll, you know, become famous. I would actually help young people who from diverse backgrounds, make sure that every voice was included when it comes to when it comes to politics. We need to make sure that every voice matters. So that’s really where I’m coming from.”
“I think young people, particularly from diverse backgrounds, people from challenging backgrounds, that those doors don’t open for them, we actually have to do it physically for them and bring them those opportunities. We have to bring those opportunities to young people, particularly from minority groups. That’s what I try to do.”
Ms Bokhari says politics needs to change and how it engages with people. “At the moment, politics is not fit for purpose. It doesn’t work for the majority, let alone the minority. It doesn’t work for every voice. It doesn’t work for democracy. And it doesn’t work for progress and justice, and that’s what we need to change.”
Like her father, Ms Bokhari has also been involved in the education system being a primary school teacher which helped her to understand youth issues. “That’s really kind of where I came from. My position was I didn’t I didn’t think oh, yeah, I’m gonna become a politician. I got involved because when my son first started school,he had speech and language issues. He really struggled at school and I knew straightaway that the funding issues was a big factor. SEN is not prioritised in funding for education. And as a teacher and then as a mum, I just went right okay, I have to do something because otherwise young people, my children included, are losing out. It’s important for politicians to have whoever they are to make that connection with people. In a way that’s actually real. I had that experience and I knew what the struggles were for my kids and other parents who are going through it. I can speak from a place of knowledge.”
From an early age Ms Bokhari has been visiting Ealing and across the borough. “I have family all over. My family pretty much are all across London, but mostly West London around the Ealing and Hounslow area. So during Eid, Ealing and Hounslow has always been where we head to and for every celebration. You can see your family and your friends.
“We had very close connections with Ealing when we were younger. It was actually where, he came from Pakistan and when he got married and had kids, it was where would food we could eat. So we would always travel to Ealing, Hounslow and Southall. Southall was like the main area to go to because that’s where we knew we’d get the food that we could eat, halal food, food from our background and culture and food that we can relate to. So actually, this was the hub. This is where we felt comfortable and knew that we could find what we needed. It’s almost like our roots are here. It’s something that I think is the history of this area that kind of relates to me, anyway, in a very personal level.”
Irina Von Wiese is a councillor on Southwark Council and previously was an MEP in Europe before the UK exited Europe.
Ms Von Wiese explains what she thinks are the issues in Ealing. “So one of the things I’m really interested in is transport. And indeed, that is obviously also within the remit of of the Greater London Authority and transport is really important for the outer boroughs. We all know that the expansion of ULEZ which is supposed to come into force in August is problematic for people who live in the outer boroughs. I would fight to enable residents in Ealing to get better access to public transport for everyone. I’m totally in favour of ULEZ expansion in principle. I’m a cyclist. I haven’t had a car since I moved to London. I do think we need better access to public transport. We need cheaper access for public transport. For people who can’t afford the really high cost. And we need simply more bus routes, more accessible bus routes, particularly for disabled people, and we need to make the car scrappage scheme available for everyone.”
Ms Von Wiese also shared her thought on other issues and concenrs. “We need to preserve every little bit of green spaces. We can’t allow the council to convert some wetlands into sports facilities because we really need to preserve all the green spaces we have. And there is an amazing wildlife biodiversity.
“I know there are issues around housing and planning issues. We have exactly the same issues in Southwark so I think people need to have their say and they need to be listened to. And what I’m worried about and this is not anything specific, but this is London specific. So come next year, where we are likely to get some form of Labour government in number 10, we will have here in London one party in government in Westminster. Most of the councils dominated by Labour like mine and like this one here in Ealing need scrutiny. And without scrutiny that’s not good.”
Ms Von Wiese offered her thoughts on engaging with young people better in politics. “One of the things that I’ve done since I’ve become interested in politics is promote young people to enter politics, specifically women and girls and and specifically women and girls from minority and most deprived backgrounds to become more engaged and to feel that they are more engaged.
“That’s one thing that I will obviously continue to do. I think it’s really, really important. And I’ve worked with various organisations to make that happen.”
“The other thing is that I think we need to just give young people many, many more alternatives to just hanging around and getting involved in crime and gangs and I think that is really, really missing in London. We need to revise the criteria for school expulsion and so called inclusion to make sure that young people can stay in education, and we need to ensure that there are many, many more affordable facilities for not just sport, but also music.
“I’m a big believer in involving young people in music, having worked on such projects. And yeah, and I love working with young people. I myself teach to colleges.”
Rob Blackie has worked in marketing and communications covering digital and social and has previously put his name forward in London elections.
He explains why his background makes him an ideal choice to get changes made. “I trained as an environmental economist, so I started off preserving wildlife in Africa. I worked on a scheme that gave ownership of wildlife to local people in African villages, fantastically successful. They found some elephants in Namibia 15 years after we started it, which might not sound relevant, but actually if you give people control over their own lives, they use it well and that’s something we could do a lot more than Britain. Over the last 15 years or so, I have been marketing to people who do difficult things. So I’m working with some people now developing cancer vaccines. And also environmental pesticides they won’t kill ladybirds and butterflies. And of course, I’ve watched a huge amount of climate change.”
“I have a record of delivering. I run a campaign that tries to beat censorship in Russia. And so we’ve got a big team of volunteers from around the world help us beat Putin’s censorship.”
He explained what are the core issues he sees in Ealing. “Around here, like anywhere else, performance and housing, pollution, property and environment.”
So in terms of youth, he explained what he is focused on. “Two things, one on jobs and one on jobs? London is one of the best cities in the world for education – primary and secondary school. Very often kids, particularly poor backgrounds, when they’ve been transitioning to work, diversity or not university doesn’t really matter.
“The way in which to do that in a modern society is internships. I think one of the things we can do in government, and make sure that London Government itself, is to offer internships for all, not just to the friends of the people there. So that’s one big thing.
“The second thing is to focus on young people who overwhelmingly end up victims of crime.”