London

London mayoral race: Legalise cannabis, says Lib Dem candidate

Siobhan Benita
Image caption Siobhan Benita ran for mayor as an independent in 2012

A former civil servant who hopes to become mayor of London says she wants cannabis to be legalised in a bid to tackle rising levels of knife crime.

Liberal Democrat candidate Siobhan Benita launched her campaign for City Hall with pledges to cut violent crime levels and air pollution.

She also pledged to reopen closed police stations and declared an aim to "reach zero-carbon" by 2030.

Ms Benita said kindness was at the heart of her policies.

At the launch at a restaurant near St Paul's Cathedral, she said: "I want to use the huge political power you would have as mayor of London to lobby government to change."

'No issue bigger'

Talking of legalising cannabis by launching pilots across London, she said: "You can't say you're doing everything to tackle knife crime if you're not talking about drugs reform.

"We have such a violent, wealthy and illegal drugs market operating in London and it's causing so many of the issues that we're seeing in terms of knife crime."

She also praised the Extinction Rebellion protest group for putting pressure on politicians, and said there was "no issue bigger than how we collectively deal with the climate crisis".

Ms Benita criticised current mayor Sadiq Khan for continuing with the planned Silvertown road tunnel under the Thames and his four-year Underground fare-freeze scheme.

Her transport plans will be included in her forthcoming manifesto, she said.

Analysis

Karl Mercer, BBC London Political Correspondent

So, a launch at the "First Dates" restaurant of TV fame, but can London learn to love a Lib Dem candidate for mayor?

Siobhan Benita would like to think so, saying she brings kindness and compassion into a political scene that desperately needs such attributes.

She will tell you that London is a liberal city. The problem may be that it is not necessarily a Liberal Democrat one. Just three of London's 73 MPs are Lib Dems; just three of its 32 boroughs are run by them; and in the last two mayoral elections the Lib Dems have limped home in fourth place on less than 5% of the vote.

Labour and the Conservatives will try to frame the coming battle as a two-horse race and history would be on their side. Or is London ready for a 'kindness' revolution?

Others intending to run for the post include rapper Drillminister, who is fighting against media "discrimination".

Former UKIP politician and Brexit Alliance Group member on the London Assembly, David Kurten, has also declared.

Mr Kurten told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he would fill a "political space" in the mayoral race.

Mr Khan is running again for the Labour Party, Shaun Bailey was selected by the Conservatives in 2018 and has been emphasising fighting crime, while the Greens have chosen Sian Berry to run for them.

The former Tory MP Rory Stewart is running as an independent.

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