A positive force for young people: Hannah Graham, candidate for Green London Assembly list

In 2020, London will go to the polls to elect a new Mayor and members of the London Assembly. The London Green Party are now in the process of selecting their candidates for those elections. Bright Green is offering every candidate seeking selection an opportunity to tell our readers why they should be selected. One of these candidates is Hannah Graham, and this is what she has to say:

[Cross-post from Bright Green. Read the original article here]

The last few years have seen a remarkable shift in the success of the Green Party in London. This is not only down to the hard work and commitment of our activists, but also the quality and diversity of our candidates. Our candidates have not only become more representative of London’s population, but also more relatable and relevant to our capital. We absolutely must continue to develop in this way to move forward as a party, building relationships and working alongside community groups in order to remain the best and most radical choice for London’s voters. It’s vital we select candidates who understand the true diversity of experiences found in our capital city.

My background

I joined the Green Party back in 2014 because it was the only party liberating the marginalised, championing diversity and giving a platform to people like me: a working class young woman from rural Lincolnshire. I grew up attending my local youth club and was devastated when lack of funding meant it had to close. The place that offered me essential life skills, a supportive network of peers and the place that believed in me when my school teachers didn’t.

Nevertheless, I made it to University and it was defending Free Education on campus that inspired and compelled me to take action against the growing inter-generational and cultural divides in our society. I stood as parliamentary candidate in Middlesbrough in 2015, achieving 4.3% of the vote and standing as the first Green candidate.

I challenged the ever incumbent Labour Party in the region, holding them to account for decades of complacency and poor decision making. I look forward to providing the same scrutiny if elected to City Hall.

Since moving to London around 3 years ago, I have been an active campaigner in Islington, working to re-elect our sole Green Councillor on Islington Council and only narrowly missing out on electing two more in Highbury East. I stood as a candidate myself in Caledonian ward in the 2018 Local Elections, achieving 3.3% of the vote.

In the last year, I have served as Young Greens Co-Chair, co-leading the youth and student wing of the Green Party of England and Wales. In this role I held a seat on the Green Party Executive (GPEx) and acted as a lead spokesperson for the Young Greens on press and media enquiries. I’m proud to have co-authored our 2017 Youth Manifesto and to have led a well-regarded training scheme – ’30 under 30’, equipping thirty of our most promising young members with the skills to take their next plunge in the world of Green politics. Last year, I also co-founded the Young Greens Candidate Community, a support network designed to encourage and elect more young people to public office.

As a Policy Manager and Youth Worker at one of the UK’s largest youth charities, I know full well the effects of years of austerity targeting our youth services and I witness daily the impact of these cuts on our young people. The tragic cumulative loss of up to £145 million that has been snatched away from our young people’s hands in the last 7 years is a far cry from the recent £45 million fund announced by the Mayor last year. Whilst this is welcomed, it only scratches the surface of the total that has been lost and is often out of reach of the smaller, locally run organisations that have felt the strain the hardest.

What I would do for London

Early intervention of skills-based programmes and a full, standardised youth service are the key to putting right some of these wrongs. The work of Sian Berry in highlighting the effects of years of austerity and becoming successful in reinstating £45 million of this funding is a phenomenal achievement.

But there’s still work to do. The rising pressures on youth and education services for young people in London are now at a critical level, resulting in a knife crime epidemic as the Mayor fails to face up to the blood that is on his hands. We must work to ensure young people are occupied, away from harm, aware of the wider world and their impact on it, and able to form their identities in a safe place supported by trusted adults. We need to understand and recognise the strengths and needs of our young people, working in partnership with community groups to raise their ambitions and steer them away from violent crime.

I believe in sustainability, in social equality and investing in the future of our young people.

It’s high time that politicians view and treat young people as assets rather than problems to be solved. I’ve always been a champion of youth empowerment and believe in giving young people the power to shape their own lives. As a Green candidate, I would be in a privileged position to tackle this problem by lobbying for the Mayor’s Youth Londoners fund to reinstate the entirety of the cuts to our vital services. I’d also create an advisory board made up of London’s youth services and their beneficiaries to ensure that any measures proposed do meet, and are able to adapt to, the ever-changing needs of London’s youth.

My experience makes me the perfect candidate to be a vibrant, positive force to fight for young people in our capital. I am proud to have nominations from a whole host of great campaigners in the city and ask for you to put your faith in me to join our current members in City Hall. Please consider placing me as first preference on the Green Party London Assembly list and I will work tirelessly to increase our Green vote share in time for 2020.

Hannah Graham is a Green Party activist based in London. She was Co-Chair of the Young Greens from 2017-2018. She has been an active part of youth and student movements, currently working for UK Youth and previously having been an elected Sabbatical Officer at Teeside University Students’ Union, and a member of the NUS National Executive Committee.

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