Thank you all so much for giving up your time to be here.
I’m standing here tonight to tell you that we need to start making politics matter.
We’ve just been through the most surprising general election result in a generation.
We have a government that plans to slash the welfare cap once again - despite warnings from the Children’s Society that it will put our kids on the breadline. What’s really upsetting is that they are doing so with the support of the Labour Party.
For Tower Hamlets, where nearly half of our children are below the poverty line, that’s not good enough.
Nor is it good enough that my children’s generation are growing up with sky-high rents, sky-high tuition fees and sky-high living costs. Before the General Election, I remember Nick Clegg talking about helping young people with mortgage deposits. I know young people that are struggling with rental deposits.
Five more years of austerity might be too much for us to bear. Tower Hamlets needs the kind of leadership that can stand up to this government and its plan to pull the rug out from the most vulnerable in our society.
But it also needs the kind of leadership with the experience of redesigning services to get the most out of a reduced budget. I will never use central government cuts as an excuse to cut vital services.
When asked if he would maintain our Mayor’s Education Award - a Labour policy in the first place - my opponent said he couldn’t guarantee anything. The unique support we offer young people has helped make our schools world-class and put us in the top ten for sending people to Russell Group universities in spite of severe deprivation.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Under my leadership as cabinet member for housing for the last five years, Tower Hamlets has seen more than 4000 social and affordable homes built – more than any other council in Britain as recognised by central government repeatedly awarding us the highest ‘New Homes Bonus’, some £78M.
We’ve established the landmark £2m Preventing Homelessness Fund, refused to pass on cuts in council tax benefit and said no to Bedroom Tax evictions.
The work the last administration has done is why I’m proud to have been a part of it, and why I’m grateful for the former mayor’s endorsement.
Lutfur Rahman has made clear his intention to appeal. The Spectator’s associate editor, an Anglican canon and a senior law lecturer are among those that agree the judgment was troubling.
I don’t want to dwell on the Election Court judgment here.
I want this conversation to be about the future of our borough.
But I’m not going to pretend there aren’t issues with governance at the Council.
In fact, there are issues predating Lutfur Rahman, possibly even by decades.
That’s why the first thing I will do if elected is sit down with the Secretary of State’s commissioners and work out how they can help me deliver my manifesto and improve the level of service we offer.
I will move beyond the partisan bickering that has run our borough into the ground for far too long, and set out a clear roadmap with all concerned for moving the borough forward.
Transparency and accountability should mean more then turning up at committee meetings to get lectured by other politicians.
Oversight and scrutiny are fundamental, but the best thing we can do for accountability is build a better, more open, more inclusive way of doing politics.
As a mum-of-three, a Muslim woman, and the daughter of an immigrant docker, I’ve often felt as if politics doesn’t speak for me.
That’s not how it should be - our Town Hall politicians should be at the heart of local life, bringing communities together, building bridges, talking to people and standing up for people.
As a councillor I’ve done nearly five hundred home visits and raised three and a half thousand enquiries on behalf of residents.
As a mayor I will keep up that work with People’s Question Time around the borough, more surgeries than any other directly-elected mayor and answering every question the public has for me at Cabinet and Full Council, which will have more space for public participation.
Our politicians should serve the communities they represent.
We want regeneration, but regeneration in the interests of residents.
The award-winning Whitechapel Vision is a model for how it should be done - a regeneration project that doesn’t just bring shops and luxury flats, but decent jobs, affordable homes, community facilities, open spaces, better infrastructure for small businesses and a new Town Hall that will serve as a genuine community hub while keeping a historic building in public hands.
I will build a Tower Hamlets where people are proud to live - with cleaner, greener, safer streets and more school places and GP surgeries.
I will also build a Tower Hamlets where people can afford to live. That means tackling our dire housing crisis head on with more than empty words.
That starts with the five and a half thousand affordable homes I’m pledging, after already having led in creating more affordable homes than any other UK local authority.
And I will always push for genuinely affordable homes, not the 80% of market rate definition that the Mayor of London seems to think is affordable.
I will introduce a rigorous landlord registration scheme to protect private renters, so that the farce of rogue landlords getting away with revenge evictions, neglect and keeping people in squalid homes at sky high rents comes to an end.
And I will protect services for those who need them most.
Female economic inactivity in Tower Hamlets is at nearly half.
Twice as many women as men have lost public sector jobs under austerity.
That’s why I’m prioritising a Women’s Employment Hub alongside more space for childcare, which will help ensure women get their fair share of the support for small businesses, the 20,000 sustainable jobs, the 14,000 training opportunities and the 8,000 London Living Wage apprenticeships that I have pledged.
I will prioritise provision for people with disabilities - including halving the number of people with severe mobility needs on the social housing waiting list, making space for 16-25 years olds with special needs and implementing the Time to Change pledge on mental health.
And I will keep our communities safe by working together. I will take drug dealers off the streets, but will have an approach to crime that aims to understand and rehabilitate rather than simply washing our hands of offenders.
But it can’t all be bread and butter - the East End has a proud, rich and diverse cultural history that should be celebrated and supported.
I’m promising a new cultural strategy to support the arts and our creative industries.
I’m promising East End street parties to bring people together, and community awards to celebrate our living local heroes, as well as a new sports strategy and a new arts and media centre.
My background is in broadcasting and writing - I value the power of creativity to change the world.
The last month’s election result has surprised all of us.
But it has also shown us people like Natalie Bennett, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood developing progressive politics outside the Westminster bubble.
It’s about politics that’s in touch with communities and listens to people rather than polling data and focus groups.
It’s about politics that’s based on practical solutions to everyday problems.
It’s about politics that recognises the unique and valuable contribution that every single person can bring to the table.
And it’s about politics that never loses sight of a vision for the fairer future and stronger communities we all want to live in.
That’s the Tower Hamlets I want to build.