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“The Green Party is the only party at the moment that is offering that progressive vision” An Interview with Councillor James Crawford

Young Greens Press Officer Eleanor Meehan talks to Bishopston and Ashley Down councillor and Young Green, James Crawford. James was elected in August this year, ensuring that the Greens remain the largest party in Bristol City Council.

What was it that first got you involved in politics and why the Green Party in particular?

“I became politically engaged primarily after the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour Party, so I was not initially a true Green-blooded politician from day one.
Although I was engaged, I wasn’t active, but I was becoming aware of injustices in society such as homelessness and the looming and ongoing housing crisis that has come to the fore in the last couple of years. Obviously, net zero and the climate crisis were also really starting to become a very key issue. 

But I wasn’t active in that sense, and I felt quite disenfranchised from the Labour party and I realised that the Green Party is the only party at the moment that is offering that progressive vision. They are the only party that are offering this positive vision and are not just acknowledging that things are getting worse, but they want to fight to try and make things better. 

I joined the Green Party at the beginning of this year and I joined with the expectation that I would start by doing some volunteering, such as leafleting and door knocking. But because it is a very democratic party, they send out nominations for all the seats and this one came up for the Bishopston and Ashley Down seat and I just thought ‘why not just jump in at the deep end?’. I’ll put myself forward for the council position, and then I went through hustings, and here I am.”

You’re from Bristol yourself, but what is it that made you want to represent this particular ward in Bristol, what are your aims for the future, and what do you want to offer the people of Bristol during your time as a councillor?

“I’m from Bristol, I was born here. I grew up in Bishopston, so I grew up in the area that I’m representing. I’m very very fond of it and I do want to see it thrive. It’s a very nice area but it does also have some challenges, particularly around transport. It’s got two cricket grounds and a football ground, it has a population of about 10,000 people, and there’s no parking scheme of any kind, and very limited restriction on traffic which means there’s a lot of rat running in the area. And these may sound like minor issues but they do impact negatively on the area, so they are some things that I want to address. 

Speaking more generally of what I want to achieve, I want to push for a four-day working week trial at the council, and this is my little pet project over the next eight months, and hopefully, if I am re-elected in May. This is something that I really want to push for because the council employs about 6,500 people and that could make a really significant improvement to their lives.”

What advice would you give to young people who want to become active in the Green Party or see themselves in similar position to you, looking at running for their local council?

“I won’t beat around the bush, it’s not a walk in the park. The campaigning part in particular can take up a considerable amount of time and sacrifice. In terms of being a councillor, I’m still learning, and hopefully, as I progress over the next few months, I’ll be better able to listen to people’s concerns and help improve their lives. 

So overall, the advice I’d give to young people would be that it can be a leap of faith, but if you don’t put yourself forward, then someone else will. And you may not feel like you’re qualified or the right person for the job, but someone else will feel that they are and that political opponent will most likely not share your values or not want to improve the country in the way that you want to see, so if you don’t put yourself forward, your opponents will, so you just need to take the plunge.”

As we’ve seen recently, Rishi Sunak has been backtracking on climate pledges and delaying many targets regarding greenissues. Do you think that the politicisation of green issues is going to have an influence in future elections and political campaigns, and how do you think the Green Party can best respond to the Government’s actions?

“What is clear is that calls for taking action on climate change are now being heard, however, this doesn’t mean that we have won the argument. The Conservatives are increasingly climate sceptic as Rishi Sunak’s recent announcements have shown, and I have no faith that Labour will stick to their climate commitments, considering how often they have U-turned on policy in recent years. I did however find some comfort that polling indicated Sunak’s personal favourability dropped after these announcements. This shows that people are aware of it and they don’t want inaction on climate change. The problem now is the pace of change, and we need to keep up the pressure to ensure we hit our net zero targets.

We also know that net zero can be a great opportunity for a more equitable society, a more socially just society and a more economically just society, or it can be more of the same, only this time there are solar panels on your roof. We need to put forward a positive vision and that’s where the Green Party is a really good vehicle. And what I’m hoping is that when Carla Denyer is elected, she will be able to make that case, ideally alongside Sian Berry in Brighton Pavilion, and Adrian Ramsey and Ellie Chowns as well. 
And that’s my view on the national conversation, but we also need that Green pressure locally as well. Local governments have authority on a lot of transport planning, a lot of recycling schemes and other schemes that enable a lot and aim for a net zero lifestyle for local residents. It’s really important that we don’t just focus on national politics but we think at the local level as well. It may not sound significant but having a few Greens in the room, in a parish council for example, can be the difference between having a recycling round once a week versus a recycling round every month, and that impacts people’s behaviour. It sounds minor, but it’s all those little battles that need to happen as well.”

Do you have a positive message to end on for young people who many be feeling disillusioned with politics at the moment?

To reiterate what I said earlier, getting involved and taking the plunge. The climate crisis has caused a lot of anger, anxiety and stress for a lot of people and getting involved can help with that. So getting involved, volunteering, whether that’s with the Green Party, trying to get more Green politicians, or in local environmental campaigns or groups. But it is also important to take some time for yourself. You can still get burned out even if you feel like you’re fighting the good fight and when you feel like you’ve got to fight for everything, but it’s also okay to say ‘I’m going to take some time out, I’m going to slow down as well’”.

If you would like to get in touch with James regarding getting involved in the Green Party and local government, or have any general questions, you can contact him at: [email protected]

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