Concrete spoke to Richard Bearman, the Green Party’s parliamentary candidate for Norwich South to discuss the party’s policies, before the vote on Thursday 8 June.
Mr Bearman is running against James Wright (Liberal Democrat), Lana Hempsall (Conservative), and the incumbent Clive Lewis (Labour).
When asked how the constituency would benefit were he to be elected as MP, Mr Bearman made reference to his eight years serving as a councillor for Norwich Mancroft on Norfolk County Council.
He said: “I know the city very well. I’ve lived here for thirty years and one thing is clear to me: a huge divide in inequality across the constituency, some parts of it are very rich and some parts of it are very poor. That divide has got worse under the last seven years of Conservative coalition government. Something I’ve been tackling very much is to restore some of the equalities and equal opportunities for everyone who lives in the constituency – whatever their background.
“That would be my message to the voters: if you vote Green, you get someone who will represent Norwich South well and represent the city at Westminster as I have at Norfolk County Council.”
On the topic of climate change, Mr Bearman called global warming “a crisis unfolding in front of us.” He described his work with local campaigners, such as CHAIN (Climate Hope Action in Norfolk) and Friends of the Earth. He said: “We need politicians to take it seriously otherwise there won’t be a Norfolk Broads or a Yarmouth in the future. As I said to Paston Sixth Form who were worrying about bus fares getting to Yarmouth from North Walsham: in ten years time you’ll need a ferry if we don’t do something about sea levels rising.”
With regards to higher education, the Green Party have pledged to abolish tuition fees if elected. Mr Bearman said this policy “begs the question of who’s going to pay for it” and said he thought it “should come from general taxation and be a grant.”
He said: “If you look at the number of people who come out of academic study and fail to get a job in their chosen subject, I think, once you’ve done that immense amount of work – whether it’s three years or six – you need to pursue a career and make the best value of the degree you’ve got. What I don’t like to see is graduates working behind bars and in shops as a career choice, that might be fine as a fill-in job but if you study in detail a topic and become good at it then you need to try and pursue that as your career.”
Responding to claims made by UEA students that they had felt betrayed by the Green Party’s abstention on the May 2016 leadership contest, which saw the Conservatives take back control of Norfolk County Council, Mr Bearman said: “That was spin, put about by Labour.”
He described the Green Party as “for three years, consecutively” supporting Labour leader, George Nobbs, with “certain conditions on the incinerator and on bringing in a fairer system of governance at the Council – which happened.” He added: “We do not agree with Labour on road-building or the high growth agenda or the agenda they’ve been pushing with devolution.”
He said: “Regarding the vote, what happened is there were two seats up in by-elections, one Ukip and one Lib Dems, one went to the Tories and that tipped the balance even at a vote when we had a Labour leader of the Council, the Greens voted with him in December 2015, then we lost. So the Tories had absolute control from that point on, they just chose to exercise it at the AGM and we decided to make it clear cut that we did not support George Nobbs as leader.”
However, he stressed to Concrete readers that “we do not support Conservative administration Council either, never have done and never will do, that’s because we stand by our principles.” Mr Bearman added however, that his party’s principles “are not the same as the Labour party.”
When asked what he would say to students considering ‘tactically voting’ for one of the two main parties in order to oust the other, he said:”Don’t be fooled.”
Mr Bearman described Norwich South as a “non-marginal seat.” He said Mr Lewis “has a majority which is bigger than the Green vote, bigger than the Ukip vote and it’s well ahead of the Conservative vote by a 16 percent margin.”
He added: “So whatever happens I don’t think it’s a seat that’s at risk. If you choose to vote for one of the two national parties then you’ve been fooled by the media into thinking we only have a two-party system in this country. That is the problem with what’s happening in the leaders’ debates and the focus of the national media. They’re saying there are only two choices for our national government, and that’s true there are only two choices, but voting for what you believe in is far more important than voting for someone you don’t really want and don’t really like.”
He explained that as the Conservatives have not held the norwich South seat since 1983, when Margaret Thatcher’s government won 397 seats he did not think they were “any risk” in Norwich South in 2017.
Mr Bearman told Concrete he felt he could develop on his attempts in “championing young people’s involvement” in politics. He said: “Our policy is to introduce voting at 16, but many students in higher education are also first time voters, partly because they weren’t able to vote last time or weren’t interested, but they suddenly got interested in politics.”
He added he felt that other elections, including to the European Parliament, County Council, and Police and Crime Commissioner were important. He said: “Those people who are elected make a bigger difference to your daily life in Norwich probably than people at Westminster.”
Concrete’s interviews with Mr Wright and Mr Lewis, can be found with the rest of our election coverage here. Despite multiple attempts to set up an interview, Mrs Hempsall did not reply to Concrete’s requests.