Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Interview - Green Party Candidate for the General Election - Lesley Grahame, Norwich South

In the fifth of a series of interviews with Green Left supporting candidates at the General Election, Mike Shaughnessy talks to the Green Party's Lesley Grahame, candidate for the target constituency of Norwich South.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you came to join the Green party?

I got political when I learned about nuclear weapons as a teenager, went to Greenham in my 20s, and have been campaigning on peace issues ever since. However peace cannot be achieved or maintained without justice so a big picture approach is vital. I joined the Green Party to be part of a team that collectively works on all the issues that matter.

Why did you decide to join Green Left?

I would describe myself as an ecosocialist - social and and environmental justice are inseparable, one can’t wait until the other is achieved. Climate change won’t wait until after the revolution / the downpayments on the national debt etc.  However climate change can be a powerful driver for an economy that serves the common good and revitalises the economy in a way that recognises our interdependence. Excessive wealth is no use on a planet that can’t sustain life. A beautiful sustainable planet that only a few can enjoy is not one I want to work for.

The Green Party rightly contains people with a spectrum of opinions, left to (relatively) right, authoritarian/libertarian, emphasis on social/environmental or local/global issues. I place myself to the left in terms of distribution of wealth, being libertarian on rights, valuing freedom from harm by others, along with freedom to do as you wish, with the proviso of causing no harm. On most issues, I promote integration, rather than separation of strands.

How is the Green surge playing out in Norwich?

Well, it’s anything but dull. Our membership has risen from about 200 to 700 and our office and action days are pulling in new activists each week.

We've put motions on things like the bedroom tax, Ttip, and fracking, and we've helped residents question council and various committees. These actions have been supported by the People's Assembly and other cuts activists, some of them have come our way. Small left parties have stood in Norwich wards, but not in our target seats.

The Labour candidate would like to be in a party that opposes TTIP, Trident and austerity. But he isn’t, he's in the Labour Party, as their 6th target candidate. Labour can reasonably expect considerable loyalty in return for the many kitchen sinks thrown at getting him elected.  When Owen Jones came to speak at his invitation, Owen gave his vision for a better society. It could have come from our manifesto. I pointed this out, and asked what confidence he had in Labour implementing any of our polices. All the other quesions of that night were along the lines of ‘why aren’t you a Green then?'

How are the cuts to local authority budgets affecting Norwich and Norfolk?

Youth Services have gone.

Everyone working in public services is feeling the pinch, worrying about their jobs and their clients. 

Benefit sanctions are seeing people descend into chaos, trying to hold their lives together on nowhere near enough money, sometimes no money.

The Labour council is desperate to get any kind of growth at any cost to anyone. It's fallen for government schemes like City Deal which provided 20k for Christmas lights and allowed the Lep to take community infrastructure levy (cil) money out of the city to pay for 20 miles of unnecessary development road.

What are the main issues that you will campaign on?

Reclaim the NHS, renationalise rail, and invest in jobs that stop climate change.
Education and  local democracy are closely connected too.

Current local campaigns include trying to stop the last local authority schools being forced to become academy schools.  We're fighting over-development based on road building.

Labour promotes cycling to look green, but wants growth based on aviation, road building and GM. We want to build on the climate expertise at UEA to make Norwich a centre of excellence in renewable energy, warm affordable housing and sustainable transport.

Nationally I want to reclaim public services supporting Caroline's NHS & Public Service Users bills. My personal mission is to extend the Freedom of Information Act to any company spending public money.

All the hard won gains for people and planet are threatened by Ttip. I don't believe investors deserve special privileges and I want it stopped. The Alternative Trade Mandate proposes a different framework that puts the common good first and shows that there is a better alternative.

Globally I want to work for a nuclear weapons convention.

Norwich South is one of the Green party’s top three target constituencies. How do you rate your chances – and the Green party more broadly in England ?

Fortunes go down as well as up, so no guarantees, but our vote  in Norwich has doubled at every general election since 1997, before the green surge. We really don't know how the surge will play out in votes, but we have every reason to be hopeful.

There appears to be new Left emerging in Europe, as a reaction to governments’ austerity policies, Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain at the forefront. Can the Green party here in the UK be part of this trend?

I hope so. More than a trend, perhaps a bloc that can offer solidarity, trade and experience.

I know that you have been campaigning against EU/US trade deal TTIP, what are your fears about this treaty?

If you or I asked for a special court to allow us to pursue our interests, based on rules made by us, administered by lawyers appointed by us, and over-riding the laws of the land- we'd rightly be laughed out of court.  The fact that Ttip is taken at all seriously shows that not only money, but also power is concentrating in ever fewer hands.

Think rights at work, environmental protection - but also self-censorship by government. Senior CND people don't know whether cancelling Trident could lead to Ttip litigation. Ttip is incompatible with democracy, because it gives unequal rights to  investors.  It mitigates against one planet living because it globalises trade that should be local.

If elected to Parliament, would you vote for a Labour austerity budget?

Not for love, power or money.

I do believe that Labour would do marginally less harm than the Tories. The only scenario that would rule out the 'Never' word is one where my vote against would lead to another nightmare Tory government. I've seen councillors agonising over similar rocks and hard places, and like them I'd take guidance from the residents and party colleagues, to whom I'm accountable. 

Lesley Grahame
Parliamentary Candidate, Norwich South
Green Party Councillor, Thorpe Hamlet Ward

Tel 01603 611909
Mob 07711 298214
Twitter @LesleyJGrahame


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