Councillor and local activist
The only Green on the Council
I was elected to Camden Council representing Highgate Ward in May 2014, taking over after eight years from previous Green councillor Maya de Souza.
I live near Tufnell Park tube station and used to live next to the Heath, and I have been active in local campaigns since 2001, first as an anti-war campaigner, and then on transport and pollution issues and the Kings Cross railwaylands development. I first stood for council in Highgate Ward in 2002.
On the council, I am the only Green Councillor with 40 Labour councillors, 12 Conservatives and one Lib Dem.
I sit on the Resources and Corporate Performance scrutiny committee and, from there, have raised many issues around funding local services and conditions for local workers, particularly the Living Wage.
I'm also working on getting better planning policies and reducing air pollution, raising this at a London level too by demanding a more effective low emission zone and better facilities for bikes.
Help for community services
I was very pleased when the first motion I put to the council was passed in November, and as a result there is now a £1 million reserve fund to help prevent local community centres and libraries from closing.
Stopping damaging roads
Since 2011 my day job has been as a roads and sustainable transport campaigner at the charity Campaign for Better Transport
My work has mainly revolved around opposing the government's many new road-building plans and supporting local communities and campaigns. We've had some success in stopping and delaying individual schemes, while the budget for road-building has kept rising, despite all the evidence that new roads create new traffic and fill up again very quickly.
I pop up regularly on radio and TV speaking in support of local and national campaigns, and attend a range of boards and meetings with ministers, advisory groups and senior civil servants.
- Stopping a new generation of privatised roads.
- Winning £500 million for a 'green retrofit' of existing main roads, to reduce the impact on communities and wildlife.
- Helping to get the first ever law guaranteeing long-term funding for walking and cycling, through a cross-party amendment to the Infrastructure Bill.
- Getting the Department for Transport to review its approach to making traffic forecasts, which currently underlies their argument for new roads.
Still working on…
- Opposing several huge new road crossings in East London (watch my talk to local campaigners here)
- Saving the Stonehenge World Heritage Site from a too-short road tunnel that will cause huge damage
- Helping people expore the issues and the data with a new maps website
- Persuading the new government to spend the £30 billion roads budget on something more useful!
London 2008 and 2012
Mayor and Assembly campaign 2008
In the 2008 London elections I was the Green candidate for London Mayor and number four on the party list for the London Assembly.
Our campaign aimed to show that green policies make a more affordable city, with lower transport fares, more affordable housing, free insulation to reduce bills and a living wage. We aimed to reach beyond the usual ‘green' issues and to increase our vote on the London Assembly, while improving on our previous seventh place in the race for Mayor.
Coming fourth behind Boris, Ken and Brian, was a great result - more than one in six London voters gave me one of their two votes, and my candidacy won the endorsement of both the Independent and Observer newspapers for first choice votes.
Our Assembly vote also stood up to a major Ken/Boris squeeze, and we increased the number of Green votes by 43,000, keeping our two Assembly Members (unlike the LibDems, who lost votes and two of their AMs).
Sack Boris 2012
In 2012, I got together with a small group of Greens and the TSSA union to have fun running an independent campaign to Sack Boris.
Our strategy was to increase scrutiny of the Mayor's record over his first term, and to increase turnout in progressive areas of London to help defeat him.
We produced and gave away more than 100,000 lovely oyster wallet holders to commuters, and gained a healthy following on social media, finishing off with a big 'get out the vote' operation.
Alliance Against Urban 4x4s
I helped found the original campaign against chelsea tractors in 2004. More than 250,000 fake parking tickets were sent out to supporters for putting under the windscreen wipers of offending vehicles, and many local campaigns started up.
Over four years we gained a huge amount of attention for the issues, changed social attitudes to gas-guzzlers and persuaded Ken Livingstone to introduce a higher congestion charge for the most polluting vehicles... then Boris cancelled it.
Reheat Britain - boiler scrappage campaign
An idea so brilliant they had to do it! This campaign was inspired by Mick Williams, a plumbers merchant whose Downing Street petition caught my eye. A few Twitter messages later and I was his official campaign manager. Victory came just a few months later when the Labour government announced a scheme that meant 125,000 people were able to claim £400 off the cost of a new boiler during 2010.
We are Futureproof
The next phase of the 4x4 campaign. Cars still weren't as clean as they should be so, with the new group, we aimed at car information and advertising, and promoting clean technology.
We won a big success in 2008 when a legal challenge led to new rules that CO2 information has to be added to all car adverts, including billboards.
I've written a few books, all about living a greener life in various ways.
Junk for Joy!
This was published in 2011, and involved me re-using and 'upcycling' lots of broken, thrown away things to make lovely bits and pieces for my (then quite big) flat. And then writing about it.
My favourite piece in the book is probably the filing cabinet I covered with purple paint, old kimono fabric and flourescent stencils. It's a lot more attractive than it sounds!
In 2009, Mend it! came out. This is a classic reference book to help fix almost anything that might go wrong around the home, from a broken loo to re-covering an armchair.
How to be a greener…
In 2008 I wrote a series of four books with a range of short tips for living a greener life. They are illustrated in some style by Aaron Blecha.
As a spokesperson for Campaign for Better Transport, and as a politician, I'm often making short films and appearing on TV to argue our case. Our council meetings are also webcast so you can watch me getting a motion passed or arguing against austerity there too.
I'm a supporter of many other campaigns, and regularly write and speak for a range of causes. Some links and info below…
Carplus - board of trustees
I sit on the board of Carplus, a charity which supports car clubs and shared mobility of all kinds. It's an exciting time for our organisation, with many new ventures starting up and real government support emerging at last.
British Humanist Association - patron
Humanism and promoting secular values is important to my politics and I'm very proud to be a patron of the BHA.
I also wrote a chapter for the Atheist's Guide to Christmas.