14 Questions with: Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley
The only co-leadership bid in the election and it’s the one MP Caroline Lucas and Work & Pensions spokesman Jonathan Bartley. It’s all about Regina Spektor, falling through stages and sporting interests.
They chose to answer both in the 1st and 3rd person.
- What inspired you to first join the Green Party?
For Jonathan the decisive moment was a confrontation with David Cameron in 2010 over the Tory Party’s plans for disabled children. After that he decided that the time had come to commit to the Green Party who really seemed to get the link between social justice and environmental justice.
For Caroline, exactly 30 years ago this year, she came across Jonathon Porritt’s book, Seeing Green. It was a real “lightbulb” moment, where the connections were made between so many of the causes she cared about — anti-nuclear campaigning, feminism and the environment — and she joined up straight away.
2. You get given a ticket for you and a plus one to see your favourite band or artist. Who do you take and who do you go to see?
Jonathan is a big fan of Radio X, which is mainly alternative music, but he has also played in bands for the last 30 years, and is currently recording a ninth album with a blues band, The Mustangs. His ‘plus one’ would have to be his wife Lucy, and he would let her decide who to see as he wouldn’t be able to make up his mind (and so it would end up being Duran Duran).
For Caroline, it would have to be Regina Spektor (in fact she’s playing in London in November — hint!), and she’d share it with her younger son, who is also a Spektor fan.
3. Politics aside, who inspires you and why?
Jonathan is particularly inspired by Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, because of their commitment to nonviolence but also confronting injustice at huge personal cost.
Caroline would have probably come up with the same names so — for the sake of variety (and gender balance!) — she’d cite the US author Barbara Kingsolver, whose brilliant and beautiful prose is a powerful motivator for change (see her most recent book, Flight Behaviour, as an example) and the artist Frida Kahlo — because green politics is also about beauty, and because she overcame so much personal pain in order to be able to paint.
4. What do you consider to be a formative moment in leading you to where you are today?
“For both of us, it was having children. Nothing quite prepares you!”
5. What’s the most embarrassing thing you have ever done (that you’re willing to talk about!)?
Jonathan fell through a stage in front of about 2,000 people when he was 18 years old.
One of the more recent occasions for Caroline was when she intervened on a Tory MP in a parliamentary debate, forcing the speaker to sit down, only to completely forget the point she was going to make — moral of that story is to jot it down on paper before getting up to speak!
6. You have the choice of going to dinner or a drink with Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron and Theresa May (or all three at the same time). What would you talk about? What do you think they would be like?
“We’d sit down with Jeremy and Tim and persuade them about the merits of a Progressive Alliance to defeat the Tories, and to build a more inclusive, sustainable Britain.
The drink with Theresa May would probably be less amicable, since we’d take the opportunity to challenge her on some of her latest decisions — on scrapping DECC, hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers, and a divisive education policy, to name just a few of the most recent ones.”
7. It’s been a long day and you just want to let everything go for the evening. How do you unwind and relax?
“We both have labradors, so the plans would probably involve going for a walk with them. If not, Caroline is a big fan of The West Wing (currently watching it for the third time), and Jonathan might well head for the pub.”
8. If you had decided not to go into politics, what do you think you would be doing instead?
Jonathan would be a full time musician. Having worked for Oxfam for ten years, Caroline would have continued her work in international development.
9. There has been some discussion on the role you will play as co-leader, particularly in relation to your interactions with the mainstream media. Have you discussed or developed a particular strategy?
“We’ve discussed it, of course, and plan to share the different roles, and hopefully educate the media on alternative models of leadership whilst we’re about it! In policy terms, we each have particular areas we have strengths in, so it makes most sense for each of us to focus on those.”
10. If you had the power, what would be the one thing in the world you would change or implement?
“As we are answering jointly, we have put two answers. It would have to be world peace and a reversal of climate change!”
11. If you successfully win the leadership election, would you seek to be selected for a Green Party target seat in the next general election to join Caroline in Parliament? Or do you see yourself heading down a different path?
Jonathan fought Streatham where he lives in 2014, and increased the Green vote from 1.8% to 9%. He would love to join Caroline in Parliament, but is keen to do what works best for the party as a whole.
12. The Olympics are currently on! Are there any sports or sportspeople that you are keenly looking out for?
“Needless to say, we are both supporters of the Refugee Team that is competing in Rio!“
Jonathan has also been a keen supporter of the Street Child World Cup, a charity set up by friends, which has looked to highlight how street children are often “cleansed” from an area before big sporting events like the Olympics in Rio.
Meanwhile, Caroline has been transfixed by the beauty of the team pursuit in the velodrome.
13. You have the opportunity to create your own frontbench in Government. If you could pick any politician from any party, who would you pick and to which role would you appoint them?
Caroline and Jonathan would choose to pick Green Party politicians first and foremost, since the Greens have a different and distinctive approach to everything from economics to the environment.
“If we could reframe the question into which politicians from other parties they admire, then the SNP’s Mhairi Black has made a huge impression in the Commons already with her down to earth approach, and Sarah Wollaston has been a great ally in the work on parliamentary reform. The fact that they are both women is not an accident! — we desperately need a Cabinet that better reflects society as a whole.”
14. What specifically, beyond what is listed in your manifesto, do you feel you can bring to the Green Party leadership?
Jonathan is passionate about issues around disability, and it is something he would like to see have a higher profile within the party.
Caroline hopes to build on her media experience to ensure the party’s message is heard loud and clear in all communities, and in all parts of the country.
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