Not living in London and with no local elections in my area, I feel a bit out of touch with all that’s happening around the country this Thursday. Recently I found out that the Christian Peoples Alliance (CPA) has candidates standing for the London Assembly, so it seemed like a good idea to find out more.
In the 2008 London mayoral elections, CPA candidate Alan Craig received 39,000 1st preference votes and 80,000 2nd preference votes whilst in the London wide Assembly voting the CPA polled 2.9% of the votes. This year they are hoping to go further and win their first seat in the Assembly.
Malcolm Martin is passionate about social justice. He was instrumental in the rebirth of Mildmay Mission Hospital as the first AIDS Hospice in Europe, presenting the case to the Secretary of State and leading in the arrangement of the initial financing.
Malcolm attended London Bible College (now London School of Theology). Following this year he was invited onto the Board of Trustees and served there for 6 years, being part of the Strategic Development Committee.
At the same time he was one of the local church leaders who started Southwark Habitat for Humanity, a self-build housing charity. He is currently the Chair of Trustees of a Christian Residential Care Home for the elderly in Dulwich, and led its rebuilding programme. He is a member of a local Baptist Church and a Street Pastor.
He runs his own business as a chartered valuation surveyor.
Malcolm kindly agreed to let me interview him about his candidacy.
Hi Malcolm. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. What brought you to this point of standing for the London Assembly?
I’ve worked for over 30 years as an unpaid church leader in Peckham, Southwark and have increasingly seen the effects of the policies of successive governments and local councils on the poor, the marginalised and local businesses. It’s local businesses that are the mainstay of local economies. At the same time I’ve seen how, with many Christians opting out of politics, political parties, local councils and Parliament have increasingly lost touch with their Christian roots. This has led to our society becoming increasingly self-orientated, materialistic and secularised, with that secularism becoming the new religion. The tolerance that was for the most part offered to all is being withdrawn from those people whose life is an expression of their faith; whilst the self-orientation and materialism have increased inequalities in our society.
Making the decision to challenge politically this new orthodoxy took me two years to do – and, when I did so, I chose to do this as a member of a Christian political party. I did not wish the expression of my faith being over-ruled, or confined, by a secularist party agenda.
When I was asked by the leadership of the Christian Peoples Alliance to stand for the London Assembly, I agreed. I believe that policies worked out (or that, at least, we have tried to work out) in accordance with Scriptural principles are of far greater value and benefit to all Londoners than those which do not have such foundations.
What tensions are there being a Christian and choosing to be involved in politics?
I find that the most basic one is time. As well as being a member of a local church, I currently hold down a full-time job, whilst running for public office, chairing a Christian Care Home and being a Street Pastor. Prioritising time is a major tension, and one that any similarly active Christian (whether in politics or not) will recognise.
I also find there is the tension of seeking to find ways of reaching consensus (which is my preferred way of operating), especially where I hold strong views about aspects of public policy with which others will, and do, disagree. For whilst I need to hold firm to my views, and not agree just for the sake of being thought nice or reasonable, I still wish to respect and honour those who disagree with me – after all, we are all people made in the image of God.
This aspect leads to the tension of separating out primary beliefs or views (whether faith or political) from those that are secondary – allowing all to be stated, but agreement to be reached especially where any difference of opinion is, essentially, on a secondary aspect – even, sometimes where that is an important one. As Paul writes in 1 Cor 11:19 “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” And I am not so foolish as to think that I am always right.
Is prayer part of your work ethic?
Yes, but I am not very good at it.
What are the key policies you are presenting on behalf of the Christian Peoples Alliance?
Our Alternate Vision for London is a seven point plan:
1. A FAIRER CITY – ENHANCING EQUALITY of HEALTH
Reducing the gap between rich and poor will improve the quality of life of all Londoners. We are champions of a Living Wage of £8.30 an hour, full equal pay for women and will promote other active steps to reduce unacceptable health inequalities.
2. FAIR FARES FOR FAMILIES
We will introduce a Family Oyster Card with a 25% discount on all fares in London for all families in receipt of child benefit. It can be used at any time, including travel to work.
3. FITTING HOMES FOR LONDONERS
We will instigate Homes for London as a key department of the GLA:
- to aim at 33,400 new appropriate homes a year
- bring all homes, starting in the most deprived neighbourhoods to the Decent Homes standard
- require fair lettings, low rents and the removal of rogue landlords
- provide appropriate shelters and support for the homeless by working with private, public and charity providers.
4. SUSTAINABLE AND GREEN LONDON
A £500 million London Regeneration Fund will be established for new green businesses through leveraging existing government loan schemes. This will provide interest free loans to tackle the scourge of unemployment. In particular, it will aim at providing training and apprenticeships for NEETs.
5. ENCOURAGING LOCAL ECONOMIES
London is as much a series of local economies depending on local businesses as it is a global hub. We will encourage and support
- local economies in procurement procedures that take economic regeneration into account;
- small and start-up businesses through planning decisions and business rates
- local shops with appropriate parking and planning decisions
In particular we will press for planning powers to regulate betting shops, pawnbrokers and the large multiple grocers who extract money from local economies.
6. MARRIAGE MATTERS
We will introduce a trial scheme of accredited marriage preparation and parental support and a £1,000 first marriage gratuity. This recognises the difference strong marriages make to the well-being of children, stronger communities and lower crime.
7. REDUCING YOUTH VIOLENCE
We will launch “pathway out of a life of crime” to bring children back into law-abiding living. Family breakdown is linked to youth crime, so strengthening positive, affirming family and other relationships is our priority, with serious consequences for any young people who choose not to change.
What do you hope to achieve if you are elected?
This will depend, in part, upon how many of us are elected and which aspects of our policies find favour (see Esther 5:2) with the other political parties and individuals who make up the London Assembly. I would wish to see a significant move on the policies outlined in our Alternative Vision for London, all of which are designed to benefit Londoners.
Why do you believe Christians should vote for the CPA rather than a mainstream party?
The use of the word ‘mainstream’ here is, I would suggest, pejorative, having implicit in it that we are a ‘fringe’. Whilst we are a smaller party, the ideas and concepts we have cannot be considered not mainstream.
Whether Christians or non-Christians vote for us will depend entirely upon whether they agree with that which we are putting forward for the good of civic society. In particular in this election, we are setting out that we believe the traditional definition of marriage – one man and one woman, for mutual love and support, the procreation and raising of children, for life; to the exclusion of all others, is the best for civic society. Although, strictly speaking, this is not a London Assembly issue, it is the only opportunity that those in favour of promoting traditional marriage in civic society have to express that view. That is not a platform upon which any of those that are generally considered ‘mainstream’ parties are putting forward..
Have you had much support from those who don’t call themselves Christians?
I have no idea – I don’t ask those who support our policies as to the nature of their belief system. Indeed, that is the opposite of that for which I strive. Instead I look to put forward policies and strategies that (as far as I can ensure) encapsulate the principles of the teaching of Jesus; and then invite all people to support those policies.
How does the voting system for the Assembly work and what level of support will you need in order to be elected?
There are 3 ballot papers.
- The first, pink, is to elect the Mayor of London.
- The second, yellow, is to elect a Member of the London Assembly for a specific ‘Assembly Constituency’. (Almost all of these are made up of two adjoining Boroughs, although four ‘Assembly Constituencies’ have more than two Boroughs).
- The third, orange, is to elect 11 Members to represent London as a whole.
- all voters have a first and second choice for Mayor on the pink paper; and
- all voters have a single vote on the yellow paper for their Constituency Member of the Assembly; and
- all voters have a single vote on the orange ballot paper for the Party or Individual of their choice.
The Christian Peoples Alliance is only standing on the orange ballot under the title Christian Peoples Alliance – Supporting Traditional Marriage.
We are standing Londonwide, to give all who agree with us an opportunity to unite on the orange ballot paper. (This is regardless of who they may or may not vote for as Mayor or their Constituency Member.)
In order to be elected we need a minimum of 5%. In the 2008 London Assembly Elections we obtained 2.9% overall, but with some boroughs registering up to 10%. The 5% target on the orange paper is achievable.