It has been a while since I have found a political party that I feel that I can get behind. Politics seem to have descended into a misguided mess. Anytime I read about a Tory or Labour MP, it is usually because of a scandal. What is going on environmentally and economically seems to play second fiddle to infighting and lies. Meanwhile, living in East London, I have become friends with a couple of people who are involved in the Hackney Green Party. They don’t seem to lie, or cheat, or claim expenses – this is a party that I can support! I wanted to find out more about them, so I sat down for a cup of tea with Matt Hanley, who is the Green candidate for Stoke Newington Central.
Illustration by Jessica Pemberton
I really liked the political broadcast; I thought it was very astute. The message is not that we have to step outside of our comfortable lives, but that the Green Party are the only political group who can deal with the contemporary and current issues that the world is facing; both politically and environmentally.
We have changed in almost a 180-degree way, twenty years ago the stereotype was beards, sandals, pipes, hemp clothes, it was almost like lecturing the public – it was unsophisticated. Twenty years ago was what, 1989? Scientists for the first time had come to an agreement that climate change was happening, and that it appeared to be man made. I guess when that news was first out there; people were like ‘look, its GOT to change’. Now we are a bit savvier. We have to present policies which are palatable to the voting public; there is no point in standing on the side lines and finger wagging, if we present a policy which will save money but drive down carbon emissions – that is what we are all about. I see the environment agenda of the Green Party very much subset of our core goal, which is social justice. Everything we do, we put the welfare of the human being at the very core. If they are not benefiting from our policies then… I don’t want to know…. that is what the Green Party stands for. So we work for human rights, LGBT rights, promoting the local economy, promoting local business, right though to reducing carbon emissions, they are all under this umbrella of social justice. We are providing a very electable platform, which will improve people’s lives. We are a very well run political party with extremely good innovative ideas to get ourselves out of this economic mess and we are also challenging climate change and enabling our communities to do the same and preparing ourselves for peak oil.
There have been a many protests organised recently, a lot of people who have never protested before are taking to the streets. What is the Green Party’s stance on direct action?
We are the political wing of the New Social Movement; we are the only party who advocate non-violent direct action. The Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, is probably the only leader with a criminal record, she has been arrested at a nuclear base up in Scotland. We support legitimate protest. There is a place for the protesting, and a place for the parliamentary process. So we are the elected wing of the protest movement.
Illustration by Aarron Taylor
Other parties don’t like their protesters do they?
Absolutely not, they just want you to nod along. Like good citizens, nod along like The Churchill Dog! (Laughs)
For people who have only heard of Hackney and have not been here, the first words that would come to mind would not be “sustainability”, “communities” or “grow your own”, but plenty of people are living by these ideals here and there is actually quite a healthy sized green movement in Hackney….
There is a massive opportunity for a green movement here, and massive support for us. It is unbelievable. In the last elections, the Greens reached second or third in every single ward in Hackney.
And you have a good relationship with Transition Town Hackney as well?
Yes, but they are completely different organisations. The Transition Town movement doesn’t want to be in the thrall of the political party. We definitely support the parties and their principles. We are all about a localised economy, we should be able to feed ourselves, produce our own energy, and I should be able to send my kid to the local school. The Transition Town model is about preparing for the onslaught of climate change and equipping communities for that transition, and that is also what the Greens are all about.
Can you see Hackney functioning well under a Green Party council?
Absolutely! They are doing it in Lewisham at the moment, which is a similar demography. They are doing all these fantastic things, for example, they have set a system up where you can go to the library and hire energy reading meters which you can take home and fix into your energy meter and this allows you to do an audit of your energy usage. I definitely want to see this launched in Hackney. It’s an innovative, creative way of thinking. It’s about putting sustainability at the core of everything, which also saves lots and lots of money!
I see The Green Party as being very accessible to young people as well.
The average age of people joining is mid to late 20’s. They are not wedded to 20th century politics, a lot of older labour supporters can’t bring themselves to leave. We have the same agenda that Labour did, back when they were good Labour. Only we can add the environmental agenda. We stand up for peace. We stand up for nuclear disarmament, no other party does that. We want public services to stay public. We want to renationalise the railways – the cost of rail tickets hits young people very, very hard. Younger people can see that we are standing up to big businesses, supporting local shops, and standing up for individuals. We have a whole plethora of progressive policies……..
Illustration by Aarron Taylor
And also The Green Party a very media savvy bunch – you are on Facebook, you organise lots of activities….
Absolutely! In fact next week we are going paintballing – ‘Paintballing for Peace’
(Laughs) What other way is there to find peace?
(Laughs), and we are going on a Hackney Greens bike ride down to Brighton, we are organising a summer solstice away down to the coast. And we go on alternative pub-crawls. (Laughs)
Speaking of young people, Matt, you are 30 years old and you are standing for Stoke Newington Council for next May. What prompted this move?
I don’t like politicians – they are all the same, especially with what is going on with news about their expenses at the moment.
Working for the Green Party, and seeing the good that they are doing, I thought, you have to step up. I know that I can do a good job. Labour are failing miserably both in Hackney and in the country. The Conservatives are the same, the Liberal Democrats are no different, and so as a Green, you just have to step up.
What will you do if you won and had the power to implement any idea? What’s the first thing that you would do?
Free insulation! It’s a scheme that stems from European legislation, which states that energy companies are obliged to give a certain percentage to energy efficiency schemes. But the councils have to apply for that. The Green Party in Kirklees is on the local council, so every single person in Kirklees gets free insulation. It drives down energy costs, and drives down the carbon emissions and creates local jobs, so it’s a win win situation. Why every single council on the country is getting on this I don’t know. It saves everyone money, make peoples homes warmer, make them healthier – it stops people going to NHS with colds and flu and also reinvigorates the local economy by producing jobs. It creates a programme of very sustainable jobs. We tried to implement it before, but the Labour Councellors called it ‘daft’, dismissed it out of hand and didn’t give a reason beyond that!
That doesn’t make any sense!
The Labour and Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats are on the wrong side of history, but there is a new movement, and it takes into account the Green Party, Transition Town and Friends Of The Earth…. Amnesty International, trade unions, CND etc and all these community grass routes organisations. This is a wonderful new social movement that can be called green with a small g and is a new paradigm of social and political engagement…. this is what the 21st Century is coming to now, but the three big parties are still clinging onto the coat tails of 20th Century ideology. This whole new multifaceted social movement (of which the Green Party are the political wing) is the new politics of the 21st century.
Illustration by Faye Katirai
Can you tell us the best changes that we can make to our lives to make our world more sustainable?
Number one is vote Green! Although I don’t want to lecture people about being ” eco trendy”. Eco trendiness and eco consumption is not going to sort this mess out. We need strong government action to allow this country to change to a sustainable economy. But back to things that you can do as an individual: don’t use your car as much. Don’t eat as much meat. Cut down, you don’t have to stop eating meat completely, just don’t buy from supermarkets. Stop shopping at supermarkets altogether, because that is killing the environment, and your local towns. Support your local shops instead.
Wise words! Thanks Matt.
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