The race to be the next Green Party leader

Caroline Lucas is standing down as Green Party leader. Who is in the running to replace her?

Current Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP is standing down, and closing date for the ballot for who will replace her is fast approaching. Although Lucas is the party's only MP, she said at the time of the announcement that she wanted to broaden the focus to the rest of her party. She said:

We're lucky to have a wealth of capability and experience in our Party. Now feels like the right time to step aside, to allow more of that ability to come forward and help the party to grow.

The danger for the Greens, clearly identified by Lucas here, is that the party is still perceived as single-issue. By moving the leadership away from their sole Westminster MP, they perhaps hope to place the focus more on their council seats and broadening local government work.

So who is in the running to replace her? I asked each candidate to make a brief pitch, and reproduce them below with some biographical information. Voting closes on 31 August, and the result will be announced on 3 September. More information is available here.

Pippa Bartolotti

Background Entrepreneur and current leader of the Wales Green Party

Pitch I am standing for leader because this country is at a pivotal time requiring change on every level. The economy is cracking up before our eyes, and government bays for growth, refusing to admit that their type of growth has been the root of our problems. Atmospheric  CO2 has risen beyond the danger point and even the IPCC says we have less than 10 years to mitigate the effects of climate change. Green growth is progressive, sustainable, locally focussed and clean. Our challenge is to be heard above the cacophony of politics as usual.

My background as an entrepreneur brings a fresh perspective to the Green Party. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy we wish to see, and growth in the Green economies is what the world desperately needs. Business people are more likely to listen to someone who understands the issues from their perspective, who has a decent track record, and who is showing them a clear way forward.

The modern Green Party is about facing reality, and it is impossible to talk about climate change without being passionate about the economic and social policies which will establish a way of life concerned with ethical prosperity and greater equality.

Greens must turn round and face outwards. We must engage with the media, the people around us and with other politicians. Our communications, our messaging must change. I would like us to open an online information exchange, encouraging dialogue and interchange of ideas. This could make the difference between us being a party on the margins, to being a positive democratic force.

I am a mature business woman with a forthright manner and a world of experience. Time is not on the side of the fainthearted, and Greens have little to lose by being more radical, more urgent,  and more outspoken.

More at: pippabartolotti.com

Natalie Bennett

Background Former editor of Guardian Weekly, founding chair of Green Party Women, chair of Camden Green Party.

Pitch Today Britons understandably feel insecure, uncertain about their jobs, fearful about the security of their homes, worried about the lives their children will have.

They fear, rightly, for the future of the NHS, which is still being handed over wholesale to outsourcing firms, despite G4S, A4e and PFI.

It's clear that the old neoliberal economics has failed, even in its own terms - yet the three largest political parties still cling to it. 

And Labour and the coalition won't speak up for the low-paid, people with disabilities, benefit recipients, immigrants and refugees - instead they demonise them.

Choosing to specialise in financial services, the running of tax havens and a low wage economy in which a few earn giant bonuses is no long an option - just as we can't continue to treat the planet as though it were a mine and a dumping ground.

The Green Party is the only political party in Britain that understands the need for radical change - and that we can create a society that offers a better life for everyone as we restructure, relocalise and remutualise our economy.

We have the potential to make big strides in the next couple of years, but new Green Party seats in Brussels won't fall into our laps, new councillors won't just appear. We've got to be on the doorsteps and television screens of voters, in their letterboxes and on their Twitter feeds.

As a party we need to work smarter, to make sure every effort is going towards electing more Greens, helping our elected people be more effective, or promoting our policies. As leader, I want to work with Greens around England and Wales to treble to six our number of MEPs in 2014 and see nationwide growth like that in the West Midlands (leaping in two years from three councillors on three councils to 13 on seven.)

More at: natalie4leader.org

Peter Cranie

Background Currently teaches in further and higher education, longstanding Green Party candidate and activist in the north-west of England.

Pitch I’ve had extensive experience of fighting elections at all levels, in wards where we’ve taken council seats from Lib Dems, in a city where we now outpoll the Conservatives in city-wide elections, in a region where in the last Euro-elections I was a hair’s breadth from winning our first MEP seat.

I have experience of being the party’s national Elections Coordinator, of leading a regional election campaign as target candidate, of being a national spokesperson, of dealing effectively with national, regional and local media.

I want to see more Greens win elections in the near future and my leadership would aim to deliver an extra electoral gear for the party.

We need to grow as a party. We have already broadened our appeal in terms of gender, ethnicity and class, but it’s crucial that we see a greater diversity amongst high profile Greens. I speak as someone from a working class background brought up in council housing.

My role would include improving how we raise money. The leader can help focus our fundraising efforts, closely linking-up our media operation with fundraising and recruitment. Fundraising is the key that removes many of barriers to our future success as a party. As leader I would aim to deliver the Green Party’s message to more people than ever before and to communicate that message professionally, and we must raise sufficient funds to be able to do this.

We were never a single issue party but now it is time to dispel that myth once and for all, to reach a broader national audience and connect with people in language that is understandable and relevant. I’d seek to emulate Caroline Lucas’s success in broadening our appeal at a constituency level enabling us to win our first ever Westminster seat.

More at: petercranie.org.uk

Romayne Phoenix

Background Former teacher of Art and Design and mother of three teenagers, Chair of the Coalition of Resistance, National Green Party Trade Union group Co-Convenor and Green Party Social Officer for London.

Pitch The current economic and environmental crises are two sides of the same struggle; neither exists independently of the other. Both have been caused by the greed and recklessness endemic in our economic system, and will not be solved by tax cuts for the very rich and service cuts for the rest of us. We need to create a movement capable of resisting and ultimately replacing this "turbo capitalism". The Green Party can play a key role in the creation of that movement, and as leader of the Green Party I would aim to position us at the heart of the battles against austerity, privatisation and ecological vandalism.

As the Chair of the Coalition of Resistance (COR), I am working closely with MPs, trade union leaders and many other campaign group representatives, building a broad movement of active resistance to the austerity and privatisation agenda. COR is committed to a low carbon and anti-nuclear future, and fighting to prevent the scapegoating of vulnerable social groups. 

The Green Party’s policies point the way to a just transition, to a sustainable future and a more equal society. Environmentalists, trade unionists and socialists should see us as a natural political home.  A 'post growth' steady state economic model may be seen as a challenge to some potential supporters as well as political opponents, but we can cut carbon and create jobs. The Greens are ready to contribute to the debate about the future as we all consider "what sort of society do we want to live in ?"

I want to reinvigorate the party's campaigning spirit and increase our membership and activist base - particularly within working class and minority ethnic communities. Our continuing and increasing electoral successes will be supported by training and resources for our local and regional parties.

More at: romayneandwillforgreenleadership.org.uk

A Green Party campaigner canvassing. Photograph: Getty Images

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

Getty
Show Hide image

The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.