10:52 Tuesday 27th May 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[A]NDIE HARPER: You’ve been getting in touch in your numbers, particularly about the recent elections. Gareth says: “I rather sympathise with Nick Clegg, because I think he’s a caring guy. I don’t blame him in terms of broken promises, because I think he was trying to reduce the effect of some of the Conservative’s policies. Nevertheless he was arrogant in thinking that anyone who doesn’t want a federal Europe was backward thinking and xenophobic, with racist tendencies. Europe must change, and that starts with the accounts. Corruption is rife, the parliamentary system packed with people who think they know best, despite the differences between the nations that make it up. I am just sad that the Greens didn’t make more headway, as they are the answer, if we want a healthy planet. And without that ..” says Gareth in Thorney, “.. we don’t have any future at all, whoever is in power.” Well that comment by email from Gareth came bang on cue, because we are returning to our main question now. Is it right to brush off the vast number of votes that UKIP received as protest? It’s been the defence used by numerous politicians following the UKIP victory in Europe. Another party who’s name has been associated with protest voting against the three main parties in the past is the Greens. Although they beat the Liberal Democrats both locally and nationally, thy failed to secure a seat in the East of England. Rupert Read was their lead candidate in the region and he joins us now. Rupert, good morning to you.
RUPERT READ: Morning Andie.
ANDIE HARPER: First of all commiserations. Last time you nearly made it. Did you think this time you’d get the extra push and get over the line, perhaps at the expense of the LibDems?
RUPERT READ: Well it was certainly a very tough election result once again for the Greens to come runners-up here in the East. So near but yet so far. We thought we had a real chance, but it was a very tough election, partly because of the overwhelming focus from the national media on UKIP, which I think was really quite absurd. And it makes me really angry that Nigel Farage and his party got this vast free amount of publicity, on top of the enormous amount of publicity they were able to buy thanks to their faceless multi-millionaire backers. And we in the Greens, at the national level – you gave us a fair crack of the whip here on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire – but at the national level we were really squeezed out. And it’s quite unfair, and as Gareth says I’m afraid unless things change pretty soon, the consequences are not going to be pretty for our children.
ANDIE HARPER: The point is that the Green Party is not hugely pro-European. You have lots of doubts about it, don’t you? But that doesn’t get focused on. It’s the anti-Europeans, the high-profile anti-Europeans, with a Leader who smokes and likes a pint and is no doubt a good bloke, that get all the publicity. You aren’t wholly pro-Europe, are you?
RUPERT READ: Well our message is indeed a subtler one than that. Our message on Europe specifically is that we think that the EU is clearly a good thing on balance, with its environmental legislation which has been brilliant for this country, clearing up the beaches and the rivers and so on, with its keeping the peace in Europe fifty five years, but that it needs serious change, it needs serious reforms. It needs to become less pro-business. It needs to give more power to the parliament. And these kinds of subtleties unfortunately don’t carry over very well to a headline in the Sun or something. And I think that UKIP with its incredibly crude and simplistic message has profited at these elections from that fact. But this is a very unfortunate thing if this is a feature of our democracy. We really ought to be able to get to messages slightly more subtle than the crude scapegoating of UKIP.
ANDIE HARPER: So you obviously are facing a general election in a year’s time. You have a Green MP of course, Caroline Lucas. You would want to get more. How are things going to change? I take your point about the media, the written media and indeed the broadcast media, but getting them, us, to change is difficult, isn’t it?
RUPERT READ: Well I think the Greens have to be taken more seriously now. We’ve shown now that there is five party politics in this country. We’ve overtaken the LibDems.We’ve grown our number of MEPs. We’ve got a new one elected in the South West where the LibDems have shrunk massively of course. There’s five party politics now in this country. We can’t be ignored any longer. The LibDems are a party of government, and we are a bigger and more important party in many respects now than they are. So that’s the answer to that part of your important question. In terms of the General Election specifically, one thing that we will take quite a lot of encouragement from is that we had some very strong results in South Cambridgeshire and in Cambridge city itself. We came quite lose to wining a ward in each place and our vote went up. We got really quite a massive vote especially in the city of Cambridge. And so we’ve got some encouragement there in terms of future local elections, and the General Election, that we have real prospects of breaking through in this county, as part of our general progress forward.
ANDIE HARPER: Is one of the problems you face that a huge number of people accept that we can’t go on treating the planet like this? We can’t carry on using up its resources and we know things aren’t right, but on an individual level not enough of us are prepared to do anything about it. I can see the dangers to the planet if you like with fossil fuel etcetera, but I live twenty five miles away from work, so I have to get in my car every day with no option. Isn’t that the biggest problem you face, making people realise that they have to do something, not just acknowledge it?
RUPERT READ: Yes, that’s a significant problem Andie, but I’d rephrase it slightly. The issue really is what we’re going to do collectively about it, and what the Government and local authorities and so on ought to be doing about it. What we believe in the Greens is that the Government needs to act to make it easier for people to make the right choice environmentally speaking. And really that’s what so many of our policies are about, in terms of our policies for example calling for a green transport revolution and a green energy revolution. It’s about making it easier for people to live more lightly on the earth, about making it easier for people to act as if we only have one planet, which of course we do. The message of people like UKIP and the hard right of the Conservative Party again is much easier in this regard. They just pretend that there’s no problem. But this is not going to be sustainable much longer, and that’s why I’m very hopeful on the backs of these election results, though they haven’t gone obviously as well as they might have done in terms of me not being elected. I’m hopeful because I think it’s clear that the Green Party now are one of the main parties in this country, and because it’s clear that the Green Party are the party of the future, if there is to be a future in which we can flourish. So I think that over time the do-nothing message of UKIP and the Conservatives is going to become less and less credible, and more and more people are going to be looking for the kind of strong leadership that we offer in the Greens.
ANDIE HARPER: It’s been really good to talk to you Rupert. Thank you very much for joining us.
RUPERT READ: Thanks Andie.
ANDIE HARPER: All the best. That’s Rupert Read, who was the lead candidate for the Greens in this area.