Meet The Green Party Candidates You'll Want To Be Best Mates With
The Debrief: So, apparently more and more of us would be happy to see Natalie Bennette's Green Party hold the balance of power at the next election, but who the hell are they and what do they stand for?
David Cameron wants them at the televised pre-election debates, as many young people want to vote for them as the Tories and 34% of us would want them to hold the balance of power at the next election (compared to 26% who don't) Oh, and one of their policies? To cut working hours to 35 a week. So who is this party? No, of course not UKIP - we're talking about the Green Party. Who, incidentally, claimed to have surpassed UKIP in terms of membership numbers at the end of last week.
As we face the possibility of a new coalition this summer, and the 'underdog' of UKIP repeatedly presenting us with examples of why not to vote for them, the party that often gets left out of political conversation is making headlines, and it looks like they might be in with a chance of making some big change.
Policies aside - they're looking to decriminalise cannabis and prostitution and introduce a £10-an-hour minimum wage, one of the most revolutionary aspects of the party is its abundance of young women. We had a chat with two of its hopeful MPs, Tamsin Omond, the 30-year-old candidate standing in East Ham, east London and Amelia Womack, its 30-year-old deputy standing against Labour's Deputy Leader Harriet Harman in Peckham & Camberwell, south London to see what’s what.
Tamsin, a Cambridge graduate, entered into politics by way of Suffragette-inspired activism, starting off by attending the 2007 climate camp protest against Heathrow's third runway: 'It felt like an exciting thing to do, to go down there, see what was happening. But I got very quickly drawn into this feeling that there was a gap between political rhetoric and the facts on the ground. I had thought that I didn’t need to worry about these things and suddenly, I realised that I did.'
She later chained herself to the roof of Parliament, then encouraged people to break into the buildings (she's was then temporarily banned from going within a kilometre of it) and describes the group meetings she attends (open to any Green Party members) as 'exciting places to be…which is amazing for a political party!'
'Things like PMQs turn women off; the Green Party does politics differently'
This effervesence extends way beyond meetings at town halls with a bunch of biscuits and lukewarm tea, as Tamsin explains: 'The Greens represent something truly alternative, we turn the idea of the political party that we have all come to know, distrust and dislike and turn it on its head. And that’s why the establishment is so keen to dismiss us, because people are hungry for a new way to look at the world and we’re offering it.'
So far, this new perspective seems to come from the fact the party is so female; its spokespeople have a 50:50 gender split, compared to our current cabinet's 5:22 women:men ratio. The party is also lead by Natalie Bennett, who tells The Debrief: 'Women are switching off from politics. Things like PMQs turn women off; the Green Party does politics differently.'
'We need to make sure that there are wages that young women can build a life on - this involves looking at a living wage and also zero hours contracts as well as decent benefits for everyone that needs them. It's about not living in fear and being able to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head.'
So far, the Greens' only MP is Brighton's Caroline Lucas, but they have plotted out the sort of women-friendly policies that could win them many female voters: quotas for 40% female membership on executive boards to allowing qualified nurses and midwives to carry out abortions (at the moment it's doctors-only) and for rape crisis and domestic violence centres to 'receive guaranteed funding from core budgets.'
It’s an exciting time to be a woman. Let’s step up to it
Tamsin explains this slant: 'So many of us are women and women are the alternative to the current establishment. At the moment, we do things differently within the sphere that we’re allowed to exist in but the Green Party says, "Fuck that, we’re taking all the spheres." It’s an exciting time to be a woman. Let’s step up to it.'
Amelia, meanwhile, explains that 'The reason why I’m in my position is down to the inspiration from other women who have been in positions before me…women like our mayoral candidate, Sian Berry. I hope that it really encourages more women to get involved because I think it’s really important to have diversity in politics.'
Ignoring the fact that a great deal of the party are women—in fact, if we do what we probably should do and just look at party policies, more and more people are agreeing with the Greens, whether they like it or not. The Vote For Policies campaign - where you find out who to vote for based on policies instead of personalities - has collected nearly half a million surveys that indicate majority support for the party, based on everything from economic reforms to education and the NHS.
So who are the new Greens if not the 'sandal-wearing hippy' stereotype Amelia laughs off? Well, a YouGov profile of a Green Party member shows they’re likely to be into the arts, Russell Brand and Audrey Tatou. Similar to Brand, the party is looking to address the inequalities of the job market: 'We have to make sure people are able to have a life if they are out and working, stopping the idea of a working poor.'
'And the term "hipster" has become a derogatory term for a young person these days, but we can do things like ensure rent controls, making sure that communities aren’t divided' explains Amelia on the shifting demographics in fast-gentrifying communities across the country.
'Things like [the recent minimum wage campaign for workers at the Ritzy cinema, in what would be Amelia's neighbouring constituency should she win her campaign] gives support to local businesses, who saw that if those workers came to their pub, to their sandwich shop, if they came more often then they would have more money, too. Local communities have this higher level of thought…they are seeing the bigger picture, which I found really inspirational.'
It’s not about voting for smaller parties, it’s about voting for what you believe in
And on standing against Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader? 'Labour have let down a generation and are saying they will continue with the cuts of the coalition government, hitting the most vulnerable in society. There are other alternatives.'
So, what does it come down to? 'It’s not about voting for smaller parties, it’s about voting for what you believe in. Voting for the less bad party isn’t democracy…voting for what you believe in is democracy,' says Amelia.
As for Natalie Bennett: 'So called "small parties" are becoming more and more important by the moment and getting bigger. We now actually have 5 or 6 party politics in Britain. It's in the hands of voters to deliver political change as opposed to business as usual.'
'We've got a lot of women under 35 standing as candidates. They're a brilliant team. I'd love to see some of them - no, all of them - in Parliament to change to nature of British politics!'
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Additional reporting from: Vicky Spratt
Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviasinger
Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt
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