With less than six months until the next General Election, the campaign is in full swing for Greens. Across the country, members are canvassing, crowdfunding and getting serious about achieving some solid results in 2015. They’re even talking about electing a couple more Green MPs.
With this in mind, last week I thought I’d speak to someone who many see as potentially the next Green Party MP – Bristol’s Darren Hall. He told me about the Green surge going on in his city at the moment, and his prospects next year…
Josiah: What brought you into the Green Party, and politics more generally?
Darren: About 15 years ago I realised that climate change and the destruction of our natural ecosystems were the biggest challenges facing humanity, and I became more and more interested in the green agenda. Five years ago I got a job managing the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, and led the team that helped win the European Green Capital Award for Bristol in 2015. However, I disagreed with the way it was being run, and on leaving my job, I felt it was time to take a stand.
What do you think has caused the Green surge in Bristol and elsewhere over the past few years?
Partly good old fashioned hard work of local parties in establishing Green Party Councillors and showing that positive politics can get things done. On a broader basis, I think there is widespread dissatisfaction with short term mainstream politics and the culture of point scoring, as well as the worrying rise of UKIP, coupled with the Green Party being much clearer about its social justice agenda as well as its environmental agenda. We are definitely not a single issue party any more.
How did you get selected to become a parliamentary candidate? What’s your platform?
There were two hustings at which I presented my thoughts to Party members, and then an on-line vote. My platform was really my variety of experience and my credentials as someone who can get things done. I am an ex RAF Engineering Officer, with 4 years in the private sector, 10 years in the Home Office and 5 years in local government! The ever growing gap between rich and poor makes me really angry, and the dreadful way in which we treat the planet’s natural resources that are the source of life makes me sad. The only way I can cope is to get stuck in!
What do you think should be the most pressing issue for the Greens during the next election?
Not being seen as a single issue party, and that voting for us isn’t a wasted vote. A lot of people will be tempted to vote tactically, but the reality is that a tactical vote won’t really change anything. Voting green will.
Is the seat winnable – what do you think your chances are?
Definitely. It’s a three horse race, and if you look at recent local voting, we have polled more than any other the other local parties. Bristol West seems to vote for values, rather than party politics, and I think this will be a key element in May next year. The Green Party stands up for the long term and more and more people are thinking about the legacy that they will leave behind for their children and grandchildren.
How is the campaign going so far? What has your support been like?
The support has been fantastic. Green Party membership in Bristol has more than doubled in six months. We have a good story to tell, and I think people are looking for a genuine alternative. Green Party politics is very friendly too, and I have some great colleagues around me who are equally determined.
Some people argue the party’s sole focus for next year should be ‘Keeping Caroline’ – what would you say to that?
It is rightly our number one priority. Caroline is fantastic and deserves to be re-elected, more than anyone else I know. But we now have enough support to broaden our focus and make sure that the Green Party has an even greater voice in Parliament. In any case, Caroline has told me she would love some company!
What do you think is the most likely outcome from the 2015 election for the Greens? And who do you think will ‘win’?
I’m going to duck that one as it is so difficult to tell at the moment, but we will know more soon as the main polls are now including us as a real force in UK politics (even if the BBC aren’t!). I’m really glad that the Scotland debate has re-energised people’s interest in politics, particularly around the devolution agenda. I’m also really pleased to see people fighting back against UKIP. The Green Party is being really clear about its social policies, so expect to see our overall vote share increase massively. It’s just a shame that our voting system doesn’t reflect that.
To help Darren Hall’s campaign in Bristol West email firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is part of a series of ‘Green Challenger’ articles in the run up to the General Election. Read Adam Ramsay’s interview with Edinburgh’s Peter McColl here.
Josiah Mortimer is Green Movement Co-Editor at Bright Green.