Saturday, 15 September 2012

Q & A, Natalie Bennett, Green Party Leader

Last week was the National Green Party Conference in Bristol. I'm not a member but I know some people who are, so I thought I'd ponder down and find out more about it.

The conference looked dull on paper but was actually fascinating. More than anything, I felt moved to watch a bunch of very ordinary people trying, with seriousness and respect, to find solutions to the massive problems which governments are evading. I've never previously been in the council chamber of the city I've lived in for 13 years, and had nearly forgotten what basic democracy looked like. It was a bit of a shock to witness it.

Natalie Bennett
Anyway, there is new leader of the Green Party whose name is Natalie Bennett and I managed to cadge a few minutes of her time. I sourced the questions via twitter. I didn't want to ask her anything which could be checked simply by looking at the Green Party's policies, so I picked the questions which were a bit more unusual, and added a couple of my own. I was interested by what people wanted to ask: the NHS, mental health, equalities, technology and transport all cropped up in various forms. This makes me think that people know where the Green Party stands on things like economics and global warming, and that what they actually need do is to show more of a forward-looking, human face.

Just for the record, I liked Natalie, a no-nonsense Australian who was very patient with my silly questions (and the even sillier questions that came from the back of the hall, later on.) In the interests of full disclosure I should also point out that I got hugged by deputy leader Will Duckworth. I've never been hugged by a politician before. It was slightly alarming.

Q: Sometimes people sound very pessimistic going on about the environmental crisis. Are you a pessimist or an optimist?

A: Definitely an optimist. In a political sense I am an optimist: we went horribly wrong in the last decades in that we went after growth that went to the rich. The fact that we have to change direction now is a good thing because we weren't building a happier or a healthy society.

Q: What will the green party look like in 2020?

A: We'll have an MEP in every region, councillors in every major town, city and region, be very clearly the 3rd party, and possibly moving up from that.

Q: The party is founded around ecological issues, it has a strong economic critique, where's culture in all this?

A: The need for a cultural life, as broadly defined, is absolutely central. Life isn't all work. We focus on mass participation rather than elite culture.

Q: Is the Green Party anti-science?

A: Absolutely not. My first degree was science, agricultural science. Green party politics are more evidence-based than any other party.

Q: Is technology part of the problem, or part of the solution? And would you legalise the Segway Transporter?

A: Technology is critical but the idea that you can use it to solve all our problems by waving a wand, that isn't science. Some people think that's science but it isn't. I don't know about the transporter.

Q: And what would you do to improve the nation's mental health?

A: Provide decent benefits and wages so that people aren't weighed down by worries, address working hours culture so people have time for a life, for family and kids. Work isn't everything in life. For those who are ill or stressed we'd make sure there's decent health services.

Q: There's so many women in leadership positions in the Green Party. What are you doing right that other parties do wrong?

A: It's not to say that's everything perfect. We still have further to go but I think the party has a foundational belief in equity and fairness and an understanding that we have to do politics differently.

Q: Did you watch the Paralympics? What was your favourite thing about it?

A: I didn't. I was a little busy with other things.

Q: What's the one thing you could do that'd make a Daily Mail reader vote for you?

A: Tell them they'd get to spend more time with their children. 

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Thanks for everyone who sent in questions via Twitter. I really enjoyed crowdsourcing the interview like that, and I might do it again, so if you have ideas of who you'd like me to interview, let me know.

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