Ankit Love is the founder of the One Love Party – as well as a budding politician, he’s an artist, musician and filmmaker who wants London to be pollution-free
“I left my house, I basically live in my office and – get this – I couldn’t even register to vote because it’s not a legal living accommodation, so I’m technically homeless.”
Ankit Love, founder of the nascent One Love Party, laughs, sounding slightly bemused at his current situation. The 31-year-old artist from Jammu and Kashmir is an unlikely candidate for the London mayoralty, but he always sounds undeterred and radiating with optimism.
“My campaign manager, who’s 24, had his grandmother’s money that he inherited, and he put the whole amount in for my deposit,” says Love. “We only spent a couple of thousand on this campaign.”
Love first came to my attention when the election booklet with the candidate manifestos was sent out to London residents. Listed among the usual suspects was the mysterious ‘One Love Party’, one of two candidates who hadn’t submitted a manifesto. When asked why that was, he says he deplored the extra costs demanded to run a ‘proper’ campaign.
“They’re charging £10,000 to put our manifesto in there and we just don’t have the money,” he says, frustrated. “I can't afford ten grand – we haven’t even spent ten grand on our fucking campaign! We had to give ten grand just to be on the ballot.”
Despite the obstacle course, Love is determined to give this election his best shot. He’s the youngest candidate running, and he is capitalising on his status as an outsider underdog. “If people knew about me they’d wanna vote for me,” he says. “You meet people on the street and when they hear about us they wanna vote for us.”
Ankit Love is the quintessential jack-of-all-trades: he was born in a family of political activists who have both dedicated their lives to fighting for democracy and secular values since 1982, when his father, Bhim Singh, founded the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party.
“I was supposed go back when I was 24 and take over my father’s political party but I turned that down to focus on my art,” says Love. “But with my father standing up against the US he made a lot of iffy allies like Saddam. He and George Galloway used to hang out together with Saddam in Iraq, and Gaddafi. And I didn’t approve of that.”
“This lawyer I met said this guy was having cannabis for back problems... once they start the criminal process it’s very hard to defend him because that’s the law. That’s the problem – culturally the law is starting to dismantle to some degree but it’s not consistent” – Ankit Love
As Love discusses his planned policies, you can’t help but be drawn in by his enthusiasm. He talks rapidly, emanating ambition and warmth. He hopes to appeal to London’s politically apathetic youth by firstly beckoning the stoners. He plans to challenge the national government by legalising cannabis and having dispensaries owned by the Greater London Authority (GLA) around London.
“This lawyer I met said this guy was having cannabis for back problems and she said once they start the criminal process it’s very hard to defend him because that’s the law,” Love says. “That’s the problem – culturally the law is starting to dismantle to some degree but it’s not consistent.”
Even though it seems easy to dismiss Love as yet another pot-smoker running on a one-issue platform, what first inspired him to run was an environmental matter: air pollution. “I actually called for the army to replace the Prime Minister on this issue,” he says. “Just because so many people die, the death toll from air pollution is forecast to be 200,000 people until 2021.”
Love argues that Cameron – by ignoring a court order last year to take immediate action to curb the levels of pollution – should be removed, forcibly if necessary. He says that if they can argue Jeremy Corbyn is a danger to national security, then thousands of deaths caused by pollution are also an indictable offence.
“A sub-standard ‘affordable’ home? That’s disgusting, that’s like second-hand citizenship for housing” – Ankit Love
But Love’s green coup d’etat is only the beginning. He wants to outright ban all fossil fuel vehicles from London and to encourage the use of electric vehicles and bicycles. He proclaims that the high costs of electric cars are a small price for saving people’s lives.
His zeal is not limited to environmentalism: he wants cycle superhighways inspired by architect Norman Foster to be suspended from London’s rail system; free education for every London resident up to phD level; a million homes within a year using Chinese ‘flatpack’ skyscrapers, engineering wonders that are fully functional in less than a month.
“So how am I gonna be like other mayors and let private companies come in and give us a percentage of affordable homes that they decided on?” says Love. “A sub-standard ‘affordable’ home? That‘s disgusting, that’s like second-hand citizenship for housing.”
His self-described “techno-progressivist” fervour is infectious. Love’s insight would warm any futurist’s heart. He is indomitable even when confronted with the most obvious obstruction to his plans – money. He is convinced that the universe is waiting for someone with his plans, and healthy returns are imminent.
“This interview I had they challenged me on how I will get the money,” he says, explaining his ambitious plan to solve the housing crisis. “I was like, ‘You know what, developers borrow money from banks, they don’t come with their own cash.’ And which bank won’t want to lend money to a government building low-cost houses?”
His most sci-fi plan is a London space programme that detects potentially harmful asteroids. “We’ll probably make back the money anyway by attracting more people to London,” he says, justifying the exorbitant costs.
Love is a dilettante par excellence: in his life, he has attended both acting and oil school – “the Chevron executives were there, guys from Shell, the whole lot”. He’s been a racing car driver, an MTV pop sensation, a filmmaker. His life is a colourful patchwork of trial and error, but he never once sounds regretful about any of his jabs at belonging.
Ankit Love may not even come close to being the mayor of London but, in an election defined by tedious mediocrity at best and virulent racism at worst, he might be worth a vote.