‘We don’t have a planet B’: Tooting Green candidate vows to tackle air pollution and housing

Despite overwhelming odds that put her at 100-1 to take the Tooting seat in this month’s by-election, the Green Party candidate says she has a fighting chance.

Esther Obiri-Darko says the borough is in need of a green voice, and is running a campaign focused on protecting the rights of tenants and the growing problem of air pollution.

Ms Obiri-Darko said: “It’s a marginal seat, and it’s not completely determined that Labour will get that seat.

“It’s up for grabs and that’s what’s exciting about by-elections.

“I’m very similar to a lot of the people that live here, I’m an immigrant, I’ve lived here for more than eight years, I’m a teacher.

“I know and understand some of the challenges that people in Tooting face.”

Currently the Green Party science and technology spokesperson, Ms Obiri-Darko believes the by-election on June 16 will give voters a chance for their voice to be heard, and not worry about tactical voting.

Ms Obiri-Darko said: “The beautiful thing about a by-election is that the government has been decided already and this is a chance for the residents of Tooting to actually vote for what they value.

“We need a green voice here, people are concerned about air quality, people are concerned about social justice.”

The housing situation in Tooting is a big priority for Ms Obiri-Darko, who rents in the borough, and she has met many concerned residents throughout her campaign.

Ms Obiri-Darko said: “I was speaking to a nurse just a couple of weeks ago and she told me she is leaving for India.

“She’s a British Nurse at St. George’s hospital and she can’t afford to rent here.

“She realised I can’t have the type of life I want here, she wants to do good things and we’re losing them.

“We need to create a situation or even legislation in which there is an equal marriage between landlord and tenant.”

Her concerns echo the former Tooting MP, now Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who said ten years ago nurses couldn’t afford to buy London homes but now, as prices rocket even further, it is junior doctors who are struggling.

Although Ms Obiri-Darko has been selected three times as a Green Party candidate, the high school teacher has never held an elected position.

“Holding office in a political realm does not make you a good MP,” said Ms Obiri-Darko.

“Having the values and experiences outside of political office brings you a lot of experience, and I’ve been a teacher for almost fifteen years.

“Having the will and independence to fight for those things and not having to think of it as a career move but a vocation.”

The Green Party had relative success in the recent London Wide elections and Ms Obiri-Darko is confident that the environmental message will continue to resonate with Tooting voters.

Ms Obiri-Darko said: “We don’t have a planet B, this is it.

“Mr Khan has said he is going to do some changes, and what I would love for him to do is to extend the ultra low emission zone to Tooting.

“This is his hometown, he needs to include it.”

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