Vote Jesmond 2017: Green Party candidate

Ahead of the general election on June 8th, JesmondLocal will be profiling each of the five candidates standing for election in the Newcastle East parliamentary seat. Continuing our five days of profiles, James Vesty meets Green Party candidate, Alistair Ford.

Green Party candidate Alistair Ford works at Newcastle University as a researcher and also graduated from the university in 2001 with a degree in Geographic Information Science.

He is a member of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and is passionate about seeing society change into a system where we start to live within our means and the constraints of the planet.

Why should people vote Green?

The Greens are the only party who have a comprehensive policy to solve the big problems we face in society. A lot of the problems we face are because we live beyond our means, economically and environmentally.

We thoroughly believe there is enough money in this country to pay for all the services we need, it’s just not distributed in the right way and a lot of it disappears offshore. Taxation in this country is outdated and so we would implement a land value tax and a Robin Hood tax because the money is there.

Instead of growing GDP, we need to focus on growing other things that matter like happiness, health and environmental protection.

Are there too many students in Jesmond?

I think there is a danger that transient populations never feel a part of the community they’re in. There needs to be a balance.

I personally think it’s quite a good policy to have purpose-built student housing in the city to take some of the pressure off of these more traditional residential areas.

There probably are too many students but I don’t think we should ever want to get rid of students or necessarily blame them for the problems we face. A lot of the problems come down to how we manage our housing stock and how we manage our waste.

Are Newcastle’s bin problems a symptom of underfunding?

I think the issue is a lack of community spirit. People don’t feel they have any responsibility to look after that community because of all sorts of reasons, like time keeping and lack of citizenship education in schools.

There’s also a wider problem with the amount of waste that’s generated – so reducing waste reduces any problems.

But you can’t deny the problems that austerity has caused this city. The council aren’t always the best at managing the money they’re given, but they are struggling with huge budget cuts caused by government policy. Green policy is to fund local services properly.

How would you improve transport in Jesmond?

Fund it properly, for a start. Nexus has had its budget cut and some of the bus services are not secured so could be cut. Green policy nationally would be to have bus services run locally, like they are in London, so that the locals have a say in bus times and routes.

We need new rolling stock on the Metro to make it more reliable, we need to make it link better with local bus services, but also make it more compatible with cycling. So we need more secure cycle parking in stations to increase the catchment area of the Metro.

Something we need to think about right across the Jesmond area is what are our streets for? At the minute they’re car parks and people don’t really use their streets other than to go up and down in their car. Studies have shown that the more traffic on a street, the less people feel part of that environment. People are trapped in their homes and don’t use the public space outside, so if you can make streets places where people live rather than just park their car then you’ll see increases in walking and cycling.

Brexit: how will the North East fare?

I’ve worked on European-funded projects for the past five years and I’ve seen the benefit that EU funding brings, sharing ideas, making links across countries, and enabling European people to work together to solve problems.

The North East relies on European funding and the benefits it brings like investment in renewable energy and the fact we have the Nissan factory here. All these benefits are down to having the single market on our doorstep.

The Greens’ policy is to demand environmental protection if we were to leave, ensure young people’s opportunities aren’t damaged by Brexit, and to guarantee European funding isn’t lost so that the university here can continue to be world-leading.

Whatever terms are agreed, we want to go back to a referendum and ask the country: do you accept this, is this good enough?

Brexit: how will the Greens fare?

Things like climate change will not go away whether we are in the EU or out of the EU.

We work with European parties to strengthen environmental controls and make sure things like air pollution levels are tackled. If we are out of Europe, the Green Party is even more important to keep these things on the agenda. It’s only through European legislation that means things are getting done.

In a post-Brexit world, these things are more important than ever and, with Mr. Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement, we have to work with other countries around the world to solve climate change. If we don’t solve climate change, all the things we’re talking about in this election are inconsequential.

What is the biggest challenge facing Jesmond?

Jesmond does have really bad air pollution which, regardless of how wealthy you are, you can’t buy clean air. That is a commons owned by us all and Jesmond isn’t in a glass bubble within the city.

Things like air pollution are affecting Jesmond and Jesmond schoolkids particularly. Kids are being taken to school with air pollution in their lungs.

Physical activity and use of public space is a problem. Three or four of the five biggest killers in the NHS could be solved with more exercise. The more we can help the people of Jesmond move around actively through walking and cycling, the more we can keep them healthy, reduce air pollution, and keep the burden off our NHS.