“I believe in community politics and local decision making”: interview with Amna Ahmad, Liberal Democrat candidate for the London Assembly

By - Thursday 14th April, 2016

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas’ interviews with Croydon and Sutton’s London Assembly candidates continue, with Liberal Democrat Amna Ahmad making her case

Photo by Amna Ahmad, used with permission.

Tell me a bit about yourself. What makes you passionate? Why are you standing for election to the London Assembly as the Lib Dem candidate for Croydon and Sutton?

I grew up in south London, but I was born in Pakistan, moving to London when I was less than a year old. When I was growing up, there was domestic violence in my home, and I spent some time in foster care. I spent a lot of time dealing with the authorities at a young age and realised that it can be difficult to speak up and be heard. These experiences have given me the drive to speak up for others wherever I can. That’s why I got involved in politics, and I joined the Liberal Democrats because I believed that going to war in Iraq was the wrong decision. The Liberal Democrats were the only party to wholeheartedly campaign against that war.

I believe in community politics and local decision making, which is why I am a Liberal Democrat and running to represent Croydon and Sutton on the London Assembly. The current Mayor of London had the chance to make improvements in affordable housing, transport, air pollution and policing over the last eight years. He has not delivered. We need a Liberal Democrat team in City Hall, who believe in listening to local people, to make the improvements that residents want to see in Croydon and across London.

And we need support from City Hall for solutions to local problems. Our trams are crowded and our trains run late. The Liberal Democrats in Croydon have campaigned for more trams and for improvements to Southern trains – Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidate, is supportive of this plan. I support the move for TfL to take over the Southern franchise and I am liaising with local MP, Tom Brake, on how to replicate the success he has had in Sutton and Carshalton to improve rail services in Croydon.

What more do you feel needs to be done to allow women and those from an ethnic minority background to gain easier access into the British political system?

We need more role models. That way, when women, young people and those from an ethnic minority background want to get involved in politics, it will feel less daunting. A lot of people are political but that does not always translate into holding office. The Liberal Democrats have excellent role models, including Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, and that makes me proud to be a member. That said, only 23% of MPs are women so all political parties need to do more to encourage women and those from BAME backgrounds to get involved. The barriers need to be broken down. I also encourage everyone, and particularly young people, to register to vote by 18th April for the London Assembly elections on 5th May.

What concerns do you come across when speaking to residents in Croydon, and how do you plan to address them if elected onto the London Assembly?

Croydon residents tell me that they are most worried about the lack of affordable housing, the need for improvements to local infrastructure and the need to keep knife crime low.

London needs about 50,000 new homes per year to meet growing demand. Last year only 28,325 homes were built, and over 500,000 people are currently on council waiting lists. We can tackle London’s housing crisis by investing the billions realised by continuing the Olympic games precept to build 50,000 council homes to rent and 150,000 for sale or for private rent, including rent-to-buy for first time buyers starting out. The academy developed to build these homes will also up-skill young people. We must crack down on rogue landlords, who rip off private tenants, by extending mandatory registration and offering long tenancies, curbing unfair letting agent fees and giving tenants extra rights when landlords sell up. The Liberal Democrats have a costed plan which will help Londoners now, and lay the foundations for a sustainable future.

Local people have also told me that they want improvements to local transport such as the tram, stability in police numbers and jobs for young people. The Conservative mayor and the Conservative government cannot be trusted to deliver these for Londoners. Only the Liberal Democrats have the costed plans to make real change.

Another area that Caroline Pidgeon’s Liberal Democrats are passionate about is tackling knife crime. It isn’t enough just to talk about it. New approaches are needed, like youth workers in A&E, and education programmes in all schools. That way we can break the cycle of gang violence. It’s work that should have been rolled out long ago.

According to your profile on the Lib Dem website, you’re currently based in Streatham. Some may argue that although south London-based, you’re not as familiar with Croydon & Sutton compared to your local area, and therefore not as passionate about the local issues affecting residents in these wards compared to the other London Assembly candidates. What would your response be to that?

When I stood for parliament in Streatham in 2015, I came up with ideas to tackle fly-tipping, which was a serious concern for residents and a solution that needs community and council engagement. I ran a local survey to gather people’s concerns, then used the outcome to develop a plan to deliver local transport improvements. It’s this approach to listening to local people that I am bringing to the GLA election on 5th May. As a south Londoner, I understand the real concerns that many people have about keeping the things that make our city special whilst fixing serious problems. The Liberal Democrats currently have London Assembly members, like our mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon, who know how City Hall works and how to get things done. If I were elected to her City Hall team, I would work to get things done – the things that matter to people’s lives all over London. Growing up in south London helps with that, even if I do not live in the borough at the moment.

If you and Caroline Pidgeon were to get elected, what would you hope to achieve?

We would work to achieve what Londoners need – better housing, cheaper fares, transport improvements and stability in police numbers.

Any closing statements?

The Liberal Democrats provide a liberal voice for London and we have good ideas. Please support Caroline Pidgeon’s London Liberal Democrats on 5th May this year.

Andrew is interviewing all of the candidates for Croydon and Sutton in the run-up to the election on 5th May. Read his articles here.

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas

Andrew is a BA Hons graduate in Politics with Media and Culture studies from Kingston University with a strong interest in current affairs and the media. As well as being politically active in Croydon North Labour Party, he is also a regular contributor to the online current affairs magazine, The Orator and a regular feature writer for Premier Christian Media Trust. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMaurice7

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