Lewisham Elects: The Hopey Changey Stuff

On May 22nd, Lewisham will elect its Mayor and local councillors based on a set of manifestos that could have been scribbled on a napkin - a huge missed opportunity.

If Lewisham borough (pop 275,800) was a city in its own right, it would be bigger than Newcastle, putting it comfortably in the top 20 British cities. Its future deserves proper consideration.

Lewisham has lush green spaces from Blackheath to Ladywell Fields, first class institutions like Goldsmiths, Lewisham Hospital, Laban and the Horniman, fast-improving primary schools and excellent transport links to four of the most important business hubs in the country - the City, Canary Wharf, London Bridge and Shoreditch / Tech City.

Lewisham is blessed with diversity - both of its people and its streets - from Deptford's creative cluster to Bellingham's suburbia. It has fine residential areas with handsome houses in areas like Sydenham, Forest Hill, Hither Green, Honor Oak, Catford, Lee, Blackheath and Telegraph Hill. Having scoured London in search of a new home before retaking our Brockley vows last year, we can say with absolute confidence that Lewisham boasts the greatest of all neighbourhoods.

Every time someone takes a chance on our borough, it surprises on the up-side: Brockley Market became one of the country's best food markets; Apartments at Lewisham Renaissance are selling as fast as Barratt can build them; When Holly Walsh decides to put on a show at The Amersham Arms, she can tempt the best comedians in the country to perform at £5 a ticket and whenever The Rivoli opens its doors The Avengers or Damon Albarn rush in.

The borough is benefiting from a general resurgence in the popularity of in inner-city living, bringing with it new people, energy, ambition and spending power. Successful entrepreneurs like Street Feast and Sodo are beginning to discover the area. More will follow.

Lewisham-ites are infused with this sense of the possible, but when our local politicians talk, you don't hear it. There are platitudes for our people, nods towards our communities and a few vague pledges about local infrastructure, but little about what kind of Lewisham they want to cultivate.

Cycling utopia or free-enterprise zone, BC cares less about the particulars of our politicians' vision than whether they have any vision at all. Labour often seems content to use Lewisham elections to fight a proxy war for the general election and field candidates who are passing through on their way to bigger and better things - particularly troubling, given that they have the borough locked-down for the foreseeable future.

The political discourse here is about defending Lewisham from the cold, rapacious right or the inept, complacent left. It portrays our people as perennial victims and Lewisham as the unloved, forgotten quarter and it panders to South East Londoners' hard-won chippiness. From poverty to homelessness, there are huge social challenges this borough faces, but they should not overshadow the positive or stop us from talking about what is achievable for a borough the size of Oxford and Cambridge combined, which sits at the heart of the greatest city on earth.

Having said all that, policies do matter of course. Tomorrow, we'll list the policy areas that we think should and shouldn't define this election. Please let us know what you think here and at #Lewisham2014.