A newly-qualified nurse faces an uphill battle to win a Liberal Democrats GLA seat as the beleaguered party attempts to rebuild support in the Labour stronghold of Lambeth and Southwark.
Michael Bukola wants to shake up Southwark’s political process and insists the work put in by the Liberal Democrats hold Labour to account.
But as Labour’s grip tightens the Lib Dems loosens as they fell from second in 2004 and 2008 but slipped to third in 2012’s GLA elections.
Mr Bukola’s manifesto focuses on a London-wide strategy for housing, crime, policing – and the eradication of the much-criticised ‘stop and search’ policy – as well as specific local issues, such as the support he has shown to the Save Southwark Woods campaign.
He cites current GLA member and Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon’s proposals to have 3,000 additional police officers in London, but also wants to see more done to improve diversity in the MET.
“To bring more BAME officers in the met, what we need is a multi-faceted approach, bringing in candidates from other sectors,” he said.
He notes the ‘Police Now’ initiative, a graduate development programme which offers young people the opportunity to try their hand at policing as a good example of this.
Born and raised in Peckham, Mr Bukola was previously a Southwark councillor and served on the now-defunct shadow cabinet between 2010 and 2014.
He knows full well the influence that Labour politicians have had over this part of south London, suggesting Labour’s 107 councillors and five MPs amount to ‘a one-party state across the constituency’.
For Mr Bukola housing, a key policy issue for all candidates, is an issue because of the ‘mismanagement’ of successive Labour councils who have failed to provide adequate amounts of social and affordable housing.
“It’s incumbent upon politicians and developers to get the best deal for local people,” he said.
“One of the things I’m hoping to do is get open and transparent transactions between property developers and local authorities – that’s what we’ve been trying to advocate.”
Although he dismisses the controversial Garden Bridge as a ‘vanity project’ Mr Bukola shows his green credentials in campaigning to improve air pollution in the borough and save Southwark Woods around Camberwell Cemetery.
Uproar over the closure of Carnegie Library, which drew national attention as protestors occupied the building in Herne Hill, is an issue which Mr Bukola cites as yet another example of the Labour administration’s failure to listen to local people.
“It’s really really sad, libraries are foundations for learning to see such a historic library like the Carnegie library be transformed into a gym, it’s a real slap in the face to local people who live there,” he said.
“What I’m hoping is that Lambeth council will see sense and come to – it shouldn’t be either or.”
Mr Bukola is also in favour of the Old Kent Road option on the potential Bakerloo line extension but admits to be being torn over the proposals.
Despite the difficulties currently facing the Liberal Democrats he hopes that their record in Lambeth and Southwark will convince voters to back his candidacy on May 5.