“I can be a rottweiler when necessary”: interview with Marina Ahmad, Labour’s candidate for the London Assembly

By - Thursday 4th February, 2016

New contributor Andrew Hamilton-Thomas kicks off the Citizen‘s coverage of this year’s Croydon elections with an interview with Labour’s candidate for the London Assembly

GLA candidate Marina Ahmad.
Photo by Croydon Labour Party, used with permission.

Tell me a bit about yourself. What makes you passionate? What made you want to stand for election on the London Assembly as the Labour candidate for Croydon and Sutton?

I believe passionately in fairness and making a change in London so that everyone benefits. My parents were first generation immigrants, working incredibly hard for us, my dad during the day and then building his business in the evenings, and my mum doing night shifts for years. I get my work ethic from them. I know others work as hard as my parents did, living very tough lives. I have wanted to live in London since I was ten years old; I want it to fulfil its potential as the greatest city in the world.

I’m standing for the assembly because I want London to work for everyone, it doesn’t at the moment. I know that a Labour mayor will ensure Londoners get the best governance possible. I have a strong belief in communities and people working together. I love Croydon, my eldest was born at what was then Mayday Hospital, and the town’s evolution fascinates me. I want to use my voice for people in Croydon to make sure we get the best deal possible. I take the initiative on issues and make things happen. I can be a rottweiler when necessary and I won’t put up with nonsense.

Would you say that there is enough awareness of the London Assembly elections, and of the power that the assembly has to scrutinise the mayor?

Part of my job is to ensure that voters understand the relevance of the London Assembly to their lives. In Croydon and Sutton, both outer London boroughs, it’s about showing how the issues that matter to them, such as housing, transport and policing, are influenced by the Assembly. Labour policies in London such as freeing up land held by the mayor to build houses and freezing fares for four years, resonate with people. Our policies are about making peoples’ lives easier. The Tories don’t get that, eight years of a Tory mayor have not led to a better London for all. Labour’s aspiration for London is something people understand and want to be part of. 

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

In Croydon I constantly hear about the cost of transport, rising crime, lack of housing and worries about opportunities for young people. People are very aware of Labour’s campaign to make Croydon Zone 4 and I’m already working on making this happen. I want to see London train services come under TfL, so that money from ticket sales is ploughed into more frequent trains and better service. I passionately believe in councils being allowed to build homes again, I grew up in a council house in safety and security. I’m assisting a terminally ill lady and her young child with their housing issues at the moment. It’s heart-breaking because we all know that there aren’t enough properties, even for such an urgent case. Sadiq Khan will make building council housing a priority. It is shameful that so little has been done in the last 8 years. As a mum, I want all young people to have decent training and educational opportunities. I want to help youngsters to aspire to be the best they can and believe in helping the next generation with proper training and apprenticeships.

Every council has been forced to make huge cuts because of the reduction of the central government grant to local authorities. The government cut Croydon Council’s grant by £45 million. No council wants to make cuts like this, but the government has forced this situation. The council has been able to turn the situation round to protect key services.

Knife crime in London is a major problem and there were several reported incidents last year in Croydon town centre. What are your views on crime and policing?

It’s shocking that in Croydon there has been a 36% rise in violent crime, including domestic violence. We also know that rape figures are up and so is the theft of vehicles. At the moment we only have one functioning police station in Croydon North, and there is clearly a direct correlation between an increase in crime and police cuts. The police do an incredibly hard job with shrinking resources. London has been under a ‘severe’ threat of terrorist attack for a number of years. It shouldn’t have to take something like the Paris attacks for the government to do a u-turn on axing police numbers, given the situation. I really believe in community policing for Croydon residents and I want to see more police on our local streets with knowledge of the area, not officers drafted in from other boroughs.

If you and Sadiq Khan were to get elected, what would you hope to achieve?

I want better transport for Croydon. That includes Zone 4 along with a tramlink extension to Sutton. People love Sadiq’s plan for the ‘hopper’ bus ticket where you can change buses as many times as you need within an hour. Nobody believes the Tories on tram extension as Boris reneged on his manifesto promise to do it both times he was elected. Westfield will bring people into Croydon and we need the housing to support residents now and in the future. I will do my utmost to ensure decent housing for Croydon people. I know Sadiq Khan will fight tooth and nail to back policing in London and I fully support his commitment. I believe in regenerating local high streets so that young people want to stay in the area and local economies grow because footfall increases and people spend their money in local shops. Above all, I want to stop the town becoming a dormitory to people working in the city and other areas of London.

Any closing statements?

Only a Labour Mayor and a Labour London Assembly can deliver what London really needs: decent housing, a fair and efficient transport policy and policing so that people feel safe in their communities. Voting Labour is voting for progress.

Andrew will interview all of the candidates for Croydon and Sutton in the run-up to the election on 5th May. 

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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  • Anne Giles

    And I shall be voting Conservative, of course.