‘I grew up with public service’: Dalston councillor Zoë Garbett on her battle to become London’s first Green mayor

Dalston councillor Zoë Garbett

Dalston councillor and London mayoral candidate Zoë Garbett

Zoë Garbett joined the Green Party just before she moved to Hackney. Ten years later, she’s standing as a London mayoral candidate.

“The people I’ve met in Hackney, and the community activism that I’ve got involved in, it’s all been a part of my political journey,” Garbett told the Citizen ahead of Thursday’s vote.

Since joining the Greens, grassroots campaigning has been a formative experience for her.

“Getting involved in the Save Ridley Road campaign, Morning Lane People’s Space – these are issues that speak to the heart of Hackney’s culture and heritage, and involve pushing back on policies that have changed and gentrified areas.

“I’ve also got a big night-time economy in my ward, so protecting grassroots venues has been a large part of my politics.”

Garbett and her colleague Alastair Binnie-Lubbock became the borough’s first Green councillors in 2022, when they were elected in Dalston and Hackney Downs respectively.

Garbett took on the leadership of the Green group at the Town Hall, and she says the role has given her the right foundations to be London’s first Green mayor.

“So many London-wide issues are reflected in Dalston,” she explained. “I’ve done work challenging racist policing, as well as the horrific case of Child Q.

“And, living on a council-run estate and seeing the changes here, but also being a private renter and knowing how hard it is to make roots and establish security.”

Since becoming a councillor, she says she’s formed a “small but active” opposition to a dominant Labour Party.

“People feel so let down by politicians, and I think we have to fight so much for people to believe that you are trustworthy and that you will fight for your ward.

“Subjecting yourself to as much public scrutiny as possible and being transparent is the best we can rebuild people’s trust in politics.”

Garbett with fellow Green councillor Alastair Binnie-Lubbock. Photograph: Hackey Greens

Garbett said the Greens are “all about co-design and sharing power as much as possible, but when you are in power, you need to be accountable.

“You are serving your residents, and your residents need to know if you’re doing a good job or not.”

She added: “I do feel a huge responsibility to represent the party and do us proud, but also I feel a huge sense of responsibility to represent people who don’t have a voice in those conversations.”

This sense of accountability is something Garbett has carried all her life.

“My parents were both teachers. I grew up with public service and public duty being a part of my childhood, which led me to work in the NHS and want to address the inequalities that I see.”

It is this, in turn, that drew her towards politics, and particularly to the Greens.

“I got more and more fed up with the fact that we need that massive system change,” she said.

“I didn’t set out to be a politician. I’ve ended up here because I think it’s where I can make the most difference.”

It is the “principled” nature of the party that Garbett believes makes it attractive to voters.

“Lots of people have been let down by Hackney Labour’s position on Gaza, and not calling for a bilateral ceasefire quick enough and not listening to residents.”

Garbett also pointed to the possible closure of children’s centres in Hackney: “People are looking to politicians who are offering something different, who are listening and are acting in their interests.”

The Green Party is growing in Hackney; votes for the Green Party grew by 7.9 per cent between the 2018 and 2023 Hackney Mayor elections, with Garbett getting 24.5 per cent of the voter share in the November election.

“If you look at how our support has increased in Hackney, it’s from people seeing that we’re really hardworking, really dedicated to addressing inequalities, listening to residents and acting on what they tell us.”

It’s this boost locally that Garbett says “really shows the inroads the Green Party can make”.

“Greens in City Hall have often pushed the Mayor of London to take on Green ideas,” she continued.

“Saving youth centres, backing rent controls, public toilets – that’s all policy that’s come from the Green Party.”

“The policies I would introduce as Mayor of London grow from and speak to people in Hackney,” Garbett said.

“I’m really proud of what we’re building here, and [if elected mayor] I will obviously still continue to support this growing success.”

Garbett is competing against 12 other candidates in the London mayoral race. In alphabetical order, they are:

Femy Amin, Animal Welfare Party
Count Binface, Count Binface for Mayor of London
Rob Blackie, Liberal Democrat
Natalie Campbell, Independent
Howard Cox, ReformUK
Amy Gallagher, Social Democratic Party
Tarun Ghulati, Independent
Susan Hall, Conservative Party
Sadiq Khan, Labour Party
Andreas Michli, Independent
Brian Rose, London Real Party
Nick Scanlon, Britain First

You can find out more about all of the candidates at londonelects.org.uk.