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THE CO-LEADER of the Green Party of England and Wales, Jonathan Bartley, visited campus on November 3rd for a talk on UK politics and nuclear weapons jointly organised by the University Green Party and the University Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It was filmed by YSTV and will be available online in the coming months.
The Green Party holds its internal elections biannually, with all leadership and national executive positions available. The 2016 leadership election was interesting, as it involved the party's main personality Caroline Lucas (MP for Brighton Pavilion) standing on a joint ticket with Bartley, a local activist in Lambeth, who was little-known at the national level. They won the election with 86 per cent of the vote, which can be attributed to Lucas' huge popularity with the party's membership.
Speaking about their leadership, Jonathan said: "I feel very privileged, like I'm doing the best job in the world. I respect Caroline hugely, and we work very well together, as we are able to do so much more, both in terms of campaigning and supporting local parties. We are finding our strengths and really playing on these strengths, so Caroline may be debating disability issues in the Commons, and I'll be outside Parliament with disabled activists, so we really complement each other in our work. We've had a generally positive reaction to what we are doing, and how we do it, which is encouraging, as people were quite apprehensive to our leadership."
I asked Bartley to describe the Green Party's position in the current political landscape, post-Brexit and with Labour's lack of opposition in Parliament. "The Greens are providing very principled opposition where Labour are not, both in terms of environmental issues such as airport expansion and nuclear power, but also about transitioning the economy, making it fairer and more sustainable.
"British politics is at a crossroads and the direction we go will be crucial, for example deciding whether we meet climate change targets. Greens also want to work with others to provide opposition where there is common ground, and we want to set the agenda on issues such as fracking, shown by when Caroline stood up and said that this country can't have another fossil fuel development."
The Greens have opposed the government's position on the issues of migration and the refugee crisis. Bartley commented: "When the mask slipped at Conservative Party Conference, an ugly face was uncovered through the rhetoric used surrounding migrants and refugees."
The Greens also worked with Plaid Cymru and the SNP to change Labour's response to the issue of migration, which originally criticised the Tories for not reducing it enough. Bartley added, "I have visited the refugee camps and spoke to people there, and I feel like the Greens have unashamedly taken on that issue."
He also spoke about making campuses greener, which would involve a move towards sustainable power and payment of living wage to all staff on campus. He also posited the idea of circular economies (reduce, reuse, recycle), and said that this could be part of universities becoming zerocarbon, but that this had to start with students.
Finally, Bartley discussed the topic of progressive alliances, which would involve the Greens and Labour Party, among others, forming a pact in the run-up to the next general election, the main premise of the deal being electoral reform in the form of proportional representation. Electoral pacts, he stressed, needed to be cross-party and to start at a grassroots level, otherwise they would be doomed to failure.