We spoke to the four candidates for deputy leader of the Green Party, pitching them the same questions. Here Caroline Allen gives her responses:
Picking three policies is difficult; because the thing that has always appealed to me about the Green Party is that our policies together make up a coherent vision of a different and better way of doing things. I believe we have to prioritise coherent responses to problems, these are likely to cut across several policy areas.
i. Our response to the current economic situation is the most vital policy message we need to get out. The current austerity programme is both morally and economically bankrupt. The most vulnerable are paying for the crimes (and I mean crimes) of very wealthy individuals. However I do not believe we will succeed solely by telling people what we are against, we must articulate a positive alternative. I believe we have a good framework but need to do more work here, for example I’m glad that we are in the process of reviewing industrial policy. Having a clear message about the creation of decent jobs is vital. We must look at the situation in other countries, particularly in Europe, to see what does, and doesn’t, work. We must continue to talk about tax evasion and avoidance, for example making it clear that we would withdraw protection for tax havens can only win us votes and make spending plans more credible. We must stand up for the vulnerable and promote a compassionate society, not looking for groups to blame. I believe the growth in hate crime against disabled people is one of the most chilling developments of our time.
ii. Standing up for public services that are under threat like never before. We must vigorously challenge the myth that the private sector does things more efficiently, the evidence is on our side: PFI disasters, to corruption at the highest level of big business, the state of the railways that many can’t afford to use, the price fixing of the fuel companies and excessive pay for Directors. It is clear that privatisation is about profit for the few, taken from the pockets of the many and results in both worse service for users and employment conditions for employees. People are realising this and are feeling conned; we can capitalise on their anger and must, as the NHS, our education system, social care and many other services urgently require it.
iii. Having just returned from speaking at a really inspiring event about food, I would like to be talking about our whole system of food production and consumption. It is something that affects us all and really reflects the many challenges we face; from climate and peak oil, to corporate control, globalisation and the power of advertising. It encompasses health, education and the environment. Our policies are excellent, having been recently reviewed and I am proud to have played a large part in this process and in the drafting of the European Greens Green New Deal on Agriculture paper. We are at a crucial point, will the response to the multiple crisis be more industrialisation, or our Green model that produces good quality healthy food, that all can afford, in a truly sustainable way?
- How do we retain new members?
I’ve been doing some research to help me answer this question, asking new members what they were looking for and if we have met their expectation so far. Of course my research is biased by the fact that the members I am speaking to are the ones who are active in local parties. However, I do think that asking what people want and listening to their answers is a good general principle. I would like to see us contact people who leave and asking why.
From the feedback I’ve received a welcoming local party is important and the opportunity to engage in activities that feel worthwhile. My answer below about local parties is therefore clearly relevant to this debate. Some respondents felt that it wasn’t clear how they could get involved, so improving information for new members would be helpful. People have said that they would like to feel that they could use their particular skills to help the party, something I hope my conference motion about building up policy advisors will help with. Some feel frustrated by a lack of progress and lack of media coverage, things we will only address with a broader strategy for party growth and development.
- How should we, as a party, support local parties who are struggling or going through a difficult time?
I believe that there are many local parties struggling far more than they need to. Even those that appear to be successful and dynamic are often run by just a few key activists doing too many things and feeling very stretched. Local party autonomy should not mean leaving local parties to sink or swim.
I believe that regions must take a much bigger role and that for this to be effective we need to be looking at paid staff. Struggling parties can be teamed up with others in the region and learn from other’s good practice. Having recently met up with some of those at the heart of the success of West Midlands there is much we can learn from them and if elected Deputy Leader this would be something I would want to heavily involved in. I believe supporting local parties is a key role of the Deputy Leader. We must be better at sharing, not only the strategies for success but the nuts and bolts- how to do Target to Win properly, how to put together a leaflet etc
- What’s the most controversial opinion you hold?
Some of my views would be considered controversial by the broader science community, of which I would consider myself a member. I have a science degree and my postgraduate qualifications in Veterinary Medicine, I work as a vet. I am, like the Green Party, against the release of GMOs into the environment, against animal testing and against nuclear energy. However I know that I can explain these positions very credibly and rationally and explain in a positive way why the Green alternatives are the ones that will create a better world for everyone.
I have only been able to cover a fraction of what I could say here, especially around policy and how we get the message across. Please do contact me with any further questions: firstname.lastname@example.org, 07909733905 and please visit www.carolinefordeputy.org