Congratulations to Peter Smorthit and his merry band of residents, who worked tirelessly over a very short space of time, and showed Hackney’s political establishment what genuine democracy looks like.
From a standing start – no money, no party organisation or resources, no brand recognition, infrastructure, advisors or team – in less than three weeks he managed to win 1,382 votes, nearly four per cent of all cast.
Peter and pals had to raise more than £1000 in a few days, simply to enter the electoral campaign. They went out flyering, speaking to residents, shopkeepers and businesses. Peter spoke to local media, including BBC Radio and News. And they pulled off a hugely successful and sold-out candidates’ hustings the week of the election. The hustings – generously hosted by the Premises Studios on Hackney Road – was the third and only fully open discussion where residents were free to ask whatever was important to them.
Hackney Cycle Campaign, who were paid thousands of ££ in ‘consultancy fees’ by the last mayor and helped plan the borough’s LTN chaos, actually excluded Peter from their hustings. To her credit the Green Party candidate Zoë Garbett attended the Premesis hustings, and the socialist trade unionists sent along a deputy after their candidate fell ill.
This is what real democracy looks like. People disagreeing but discussing and debating their ideas and disagreements. This is how civil society is built. Neither the mainstream parties nor those well-funded campaign groups such as London Cycling Campaign seem to understand this. They can’t stomach genuine public involvement and self-organisation. They prefer back-door deals, well away from public scrutiny. But we, the public are not going away. Peter’s campaign has put down a marker for the future. Hackney deserves better! We deserve better.