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“The Green Party has always been my political home”: An interview with Green candidate Izzy Metcalf-Riener

We speak to Young Green Izzy Metcalf- Riener, a Lancaster university student who, after running in the Lancaster council elections last year for the University ward, is now standing as the Green candidate in the Castle ward by-election. 

How did you get involved with the Green party and how has your role within it developed?

 The Green Party has always been my political home and I regularly delivered Green newsletters growing up. I became increasingly politically aware and engaged during the 2015 general election and I started to properly read about Green Party policies which solidified for me that the Green Party was definitely the political party that best reflected my values.  I joined the Lancaster Young Greens Society in my final year of University.

It was great to connect with such like-minded young people and through this I got involved with North Lancashire Green Party. Standing in the 2023 Lancaster City Council elections for the University ward, alongside Tom Fish, was a pivotal moment and turning point in terms of my involvement with the party and I learnt a lot through being a target candidate. Since then, I have joined the Young Greens executive committee as Women’s Officer, the North Lancashire Green Party executive committee as Internal Comms Coordinator and I help coordinate the Lancaster Young Greens Society.

  Why are you running in the Castle ward the by election and what are your aims for Castle ward and the city of Lancaster if elected?

I am running in the Castle Ward by-election to hopefully join Green Councillors Paul Stubbins and Dave Brookes and continue their year-round hard work for residents.  As a resident of Castle Ward myself, I am deeply invested in helping our area, city, and community thrive. I am already actively involved in the local area and have organised community litter picks, and I am committed to furthering these efforts alongside Paul and Dave as part of a strong Castle Ward Green team.

My aims for Castle Ward encompass several key priorities. Firstly, I am passionate about improving green spaces within the town centre, including the creation of ‘pocket parks’, to enhance biodiversity and community well-being. Addressing issues of traffic congestion and air pollution is equally crucial, especially improving accessibility to sustainable modes of transport through influencing County Council decisions. Additionally, I am dedicated to advancing plans for high-density, sustainable and affordable housing in the town centre.

As a young woman, I am acutely aware of the importance of diverse voices in politics. I recognise the importance of representing the varied needs of our diverse community and will ensure that everyone’s voices are heard and valued in decision-making about local public services. 

 Reflecting on your campaign last year, what have you’ve learned about standing for election?

 I think it’s really hard to try and generalise my experience during my campaign last year as the  University is such a unique ward. I think it might be the only 100% student ward in the country so the strategies we used to engage voters don’t necessarily apply to a wider audience. For example, the use of social media isn’t currently very widespread in election campaigning.

My current by-election campaign has therefore felt quite different. I think the biggest thing I learned during my campaign last year is that being a candidate can be a lot of fun and it doesn’t always have to feel so serious. I think standing in such a unique ward allowed me to strip back the more conventionally ‘serious’ campaigning and focus on the fundamentals. A lot of attention is rightly put on policy and literature, but a large part of a candidate’s role is getting to know residents and making that emotional connection, which is also often the most rewarding part. This is something I’m trying to prioritise in my by-election campaign – just getting out there and connecting with residents!

What’s been your proudest Green Party moment so far?

My proudest Green Party moment so far has got to be the Greens’ success in the 2023 Lancaster City Council election. Being at the election count to celebrate getting 21 Green councillors elected was a truly unforgettable experience. I was particularly proud that we got 3 Young Green councillors elected in Lancaster, more than anywhere else in the country I believe. And although I did not get elected, seeing Tom Fish, who I ran alongside in the University ward, get elected was incredibly rewarding. It was a massive testament to all the hard work and dedication we both put into the campaign and I couldn’t have been prouder of the positive outcome we achieved.

Why do you think Lancaster Greens, and Lancaster Young Greens in particular, are achieving these results, and what would you like to see  the Lancashire Green Party   achieve in the future?

Firstly, Lancaster has such a strong Green history,  Green councillors have served on Lancaster City Council since 1999. This strong foundation has played a significant role when expanding into new wards and areas, as residents are familiar with the great work we’ve done for the city. So a lot of credit must be given to the hard work of all our current and former councillors, which has built momentum over the years. The brilliant leadership of the council by Green Councillor Caroline Jackson from 2021 to 2023 is also part of this,  and the regular dissemination of Green View newsletters throughout the area has helped keep residents informed and engaged.

 Regarding the 2023 local elections in particular, the efforts of Jamie Payne, our Campaign Organiser, were instrumental in our success. That’s why we’re currently fundraising to hire a permanent Campaign Organiser to support upcoming elections, including the general election this year and County Council election next year. Our 50×50 fundraising campaign, which is encouraging 50 individuals to donate £50 per month, is pivotal in achieving this goal.

In terms of engaging young people, credit must go to everyone involved in re-activating and running Lancaster Young Greens Society, which has been really successful in fostering involvement and uplifting and supporting young people to be more active. More broadly, the legacy of youth climate activism in Lancaster, evolving out of the school strikes movement and leading to successfully pressuring the City Council to declare a climate emergency in 2019, empowered many young people who are now actively involved in the party. The local party’s receptiveness and encouragement of young people getting involved and standing has also been crucial.

 Looking towards the future, I hope our Green success continues over the next few years. Jack Lenox is our absolutely amazing MP candidate and we’ve also already got a great team of County Council candidates selected ahead of the election next year where we aim to secure a strong presence at the County level. So watch this space!

 What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to young people thinking of standing in elections?

Just go for it! I think it’s far too easy to be put off standing for election because you think you’re not qualified enough or , you’re not old enouge, but just because most politicians don’t look like you, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be one – in fact, it’s all the more reason to do it!  We desperately need better representation within politics and as they say, “be the change you wish to see”.

I never thought I was the kind of person who could run for election and here I am running for the second time! If I had listened to all the self-doubt and continued to overthink every reason why I couldn’t do it, I would have never realised just how much I’m capable of. So, my advice would be, believe in yourself (which I know is easier said than done) and surround yourself with people who can help and support you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it as election campaigns are a lot of work and you’ll need a strong team behind you.

Wherever young people’s lives may take them, the Young Greens are there to represent and advocate for their needs, views and wants, championing the rights of students and young people aged up to 30 across England and Wales.

To get involved with the Young Greens on your campus or meet other Young Greens in your local area, visit our Groups page to find out more.