The Green Party’s candidate for Leeds North West, Tim Goodall, was extremely popular with students at the University’s election debates. Promising to scrap University fees, pay a living wage, protect public services and double the amount that local authorities spend on youth services, the Green Party clearly grasp the interests of the younger generation. Yet Tim’s popularity seemed to be grounded on more than the Green Party’s pledge to scrap the dreaded tuition fees. His natural charisma and firm belief in the ‘common good’ pulled on the heart strings of Leeds’ lefties.
I spoke to Tim about where his passion for politics came from, what he envisaged for Britain’s future and why the Greens appear to be the only viable alternative to the ‘Big Three’ parties.
First up, word on the street is that you’re actually an Essex boy, I was wondering how you find Leeds in comparison and what attracted you to Leeds?
I just love Leeds. Most of my friends from Essex have moved away, although North Essex is a wonderful beautiful place and a hidden secret. But my initial attraction to Leeds was on the open day and because I enjoy walking and hiking, I really like being near the hills and the dales.
My family have always been politically engaged and talked about politics. I went to my first Green Party meeting in 1989 back in Essex and I initially joined because of environmental reasons. Then I spent a couple of years in Jamaica and I was shocked to see the environmental destruction, actually seeing housing and bridges being washed away and the effects of deforestation. And also the massive inequality in Jamaica shocked me, you know, there are about 10 really rich families that own almost everything and no safety net for vulnerable people either. Gradually, we are seeing more of that here, people on benefits are more and more being made to feel like they’re scroungers. But yes, I was very politically active as a student, I was welfare secretary of the Union and I was also chair of the LGBQT society.
In what ways have you seen the effects of austerity here in Leeds and what do you think the Green Party offer as an alternative?
One of the things I’ve seen the most is people who have been on benefits who have lost their benefits due to sanctions and work capability assessments. The most vulnerable people in society who then have mental health issues because of the stress they’re experiencing from not having enough money to live on. Things like the bedroom tax, I’ve talked to people who have been hugely affected by the bedroom tax and it has caused so much stress in their lives.
Why do you think that we are seeing a rise in parties other than the ‘Big Three’ (Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats) What do you think has caused this fairly fractured political climate?
I think things like disillusionment have caused this fracture, also because of the broken promises of the parties. I think particularly with students, things like the Liberal Democrats who promised zero fees. As well, people are put off politics due to things like the expenses scandals. But thankfully, they were put off the main parties and a lot of people have realised that the Green Party offers something different and offers hope.
I think we need to have a big discussion about the EU and all the positive things that it does around the environment and around human rights. I think that it is important to have that discussion and obviously we are coming at it from a very different angle than UKIP. At the moment, I think the focus is too heavily placed on big businesses and there is not enough cooperation between countries in other ways. So we would want a very different EU, but I still think it’s worth giving people the ability to decide whether they want to be in the EU or not.
What would you say are the Green Party’s fundamental principles?
The fundamental principles are that the environment is incredibly important and that it is interlinked with the economy. Big businesses, for example, tend to disregard the environment and they cause all sorts of problems in terms of mass consumerism. But also, a very strong Green party principle is that everyone should be entitled to basic material security, free from discrimination. That’s something some of the other parties seem to miss.
What would you say to five more years of Tory rule? Do you think it would bring economic stability or rather, would it add to the hard hitting social reforms?
First of all, I don’t think that there has been economic stability. I think that austerity has made things worse, the economy hasn’t improved, countries that have gone down the route of investing have actually done better. I read something, I hope this is correct, on taxresearch.org.uk, saying that the Conservatives have borrowed more in the last 5 years than Labour did in the previous 13. My worry is that the most vulnerable people will be even more affected by even more benefit cuts. Today for example, it has been alleged that the Conservatives plan to cut child benefit, are the economic problems really the fault of children? No, we should be investing in children and the rich just seem to be getting richer. There was an article the other day saying that rich people have doubled their incomes in the last 10 years while we have so many people (including people in work) having to use food banks.
What would you say to those who are thinking of voting Labour, perhaps out of family tradition or those that think that they should be tactical with their voting and Labour have more chance of getting in?
They should vote with their heart. A lot of our new members are disillusioned Labour members who have been trying to change Labour from the inside for the last 20 years or so and have realised now that it’s just not happening. For some reason, the leaders of the party do not seem to be connected with its members. So, yes I’d say to people look at the policies, look at the manifestos, the Green Party has really good evidence-based long-term policies, we’re not just thinking about the next couple of years. Vote for what you believe in.
It seems that Leeds students in particular are supportive of the Greens. At the election Husting’s at the University for example, you were the only candidate to gain the audiences’ applause. Do you think there is a reason behind that?
We’ve been putting a lot of effort in, we came second in Headingley and in Hyde Park in the council election last year and we’ve been doing a lot of work in halls and flats as well. Leeds in general has seen a very big increase in party membership because we’ve interacted with the public.
Why do you think that Leeds students should vote Green on 7th May?
Yorkshire and Humber is the fastest growing region for the Green Party in the country and Leeds up until recently certainly has been the fastest growing area in Yorkshire. We really are doing well, with coming second in the council elections and doing extremely well in the student polls. The Green Party Society at Leeds Union is growing and they’ve been organising a lot of events to raise awareness. Really, it’s just about voting for real change. The other parties often fail to deliver on their promises. We have one MP, Caroline Lucas, and she has done so much in the last 5 years and she has such a great reputation, even all the other politicians think she is great. She’s won awards, is so honest and straight forward. Imagine what we could do if we had more MP’s as well as Caroline.
Photographs: Independent.co.uk, greenparty.org.