“Running through all our policies like a stick of rock is climate change”: interview with Tracey Hague, Green Party candidate for the London Assembly

By - Thursday 7th April, 2016

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas’ series of interviews with London Assembly candidates concludes, as Tracey Hague stakes out the Green case and ‘the power of good ideas’

Photo by Croydon and Sutton Green Party, used with permission.

Tell me a bit about yourself. What makes you passionate? Why are you standing for the London Assembly as the Green Party candidate for Croydon and Sutton?

Croydon born and bred, I am a mum of two boys and active in the local community. A qualified and experienced project manager, I have more than ten years’ experience in the energy advice industry, but I have been concerned about environmental and social justice issues for most of my adult life; friends have wondered why it took me so long to join the Green Party! I stood in the 2010 and 2014 local elections, and the 2014 European parliamentary election. I want to represent my home town; we need some new ideas at local, regional and national level, and I believe that the Green Party offers that on a range of issues for the benefit of everyone.

What concerns do you come across when speaking to residents in Croydon, and how do you plan to address them if elected to the London Assembly?

For a long time now, Croydon has been desperately short of truly affordable family accommodation (three to five bedroom houses), but the vast majority of the numerous current property developments, especially in the town centre, are flats/apartments with little infrastructure (doctors’ surgeries, dentists, etc). Croydon is in danger of becoming a dormitory town or, worse, having ghettos with all the crime and social problems that ensue. Average housing costs have risen by 11% since 2011, while average wages have only risen by 1%. That’s why Sian Berry, the Green Party’s mayoral candidate, wants to introduce rent controls and a London renters’ union, to protect those who can’t afford the current private rents. As Darren Johnson explained at a recent People’s Question Time, we don’t need to build on green spaces: there is enough brownfield land to meet our housing needs, if (and here’s the key point) we build the right sort of housing.

I have already started to see families unable to afford to move within the borough who’ve then therefore moved out of London altogether. The Westfield-Hammerson development is not helping as it will be filled with faceless, homogenous chain stores; longstanding small independent businesses have already been given notice and told that there is no place for them in the new development. Half of the money spent in local independent shops benefits the local community, compared to just 5% of that spent in chain stores including big supermarkets. We need space for both, not one over the other.

Do you think that there is enough awareness and importance placed on green issues affecting the Croydon and Sutton areas, such as the incinerator being planned for Beddington Lane?

No, there is not enough awareness of green issues. Just look at the so-called consultation on the incinerator. Most local people are completely unaware of it and are horrified that it is happening. At the recent People’s Question Time at the Fairfield Halls, only one question was asked in the environment section and Steve O’Connell (Assembly Member) even pulled the questioner up about asking it during the transport section; he did not allow any other questions on the environment at all.

Most people are unaware that only burying and burning were considered when there are many other options available. We are storing up public health problems for the future, at a time when public health is a local authority responsibility yet faces yet more cuts. The site is already in a failing air quality zone (Air Quality Management Area) and this will only make it worse or shunt the problem further away for others to suffer the consequences. It is a disincentive to recycling, has already adversely affected local wildlife, is phenomenally expensive – I could go on with the many problems, but certainly councillors should have the freedom to question decisions, not be sacked for doing so (Nick Mattey has been kicked out of the Sutton Lib Dems for questioning the council’s decision on the incinerator).

Green issues such as waste are often treated as an add-on or a problem to be solved, instead of a resource, being integral to all we do. It’s a different mindset.

You’ve already touched on affordable housing but knife crime and the need for better public transport are some of the major issues facing Londoners with Croydon and Sutton being no exception. What are your thoughts on these issues?

Yes, I do know one of the founders of Lives Not Knives and the great work that they are doing in schools and the wider community including their unit in Centrale; they not only give young people the skills and coping mechanisms to stop carrying knives, respect others and not resort to violence, but also with other problems they face – confidence, self-esteem, having a good support network, employment. Likewise I know one of the founders of Mighty Men of Valour and their important work especially with young men, empowering them and giving them the life skills to achieve their ambitions.

As for public transport, there are two possible extensions to the tram network – Crystal Palace and Sutton. It seems that things are finally starting to happen on planning the Sutton extension, but the current mayor has twice made election promises to extend the tram to Crystal Palace, yet after eight years he has done nothing to deliver on this. Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones have been working for many years with colleagues from other parties in the London Assembly to enact change on various issues, for example bringing public transport back into public ownership. With Sian Berry as mayor and other Greens on the assembly, this will continue and more will be added to improve the lifeblood public transport of London, just one example of our ‘power of good ideas’. 

If you and Sian Berry were to get elected, what would you hope to achieve?

People are attracted to the Green Party for a variety of reasons including social justice and environmentalism; with our ‘power of good ideas’, we have the policies to make a real difference to Londoners on the issues that matter to them. Decent housing for all is the top one, but also fair wages for all (including the London Living Wage and fair pay ratio), clean air for our city (including air pollution, the capital’s second biggest killer), publicly-owned public transport, and adequate, good-quality policing.

Running through them all like a stick of rock is climate change, the single biggest threat facing humanity; it should be there throughout, not an add-on but integral to everything that we do, just as you see the same words all the way through a stick of rock. Often action on climate change covers many other issues, such as insulation in houses – it keeps homes warm for lower running costs, so brings financial, health and social improvements.

Any closing statements?

With all the media coverage, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that there is an election happening in London on 5th May, as well as in Scotland and Wales! Come 6th May there are six full weeks for campaigning before the EU referendum. So we Greens in London are focusing on the London elections for now.

Few people realise or even understand the different voting systems used for the three ballot papers for the London Assembly election. I know from relatives in Australia that they have compulsory voting, but they also have a brilliant programme of education in schools, explaining the voting system and a visit for all schoolchildren to the parliamentary buildings in Canberra; I really wish that we had that sort of education on politics here in the UK.

So vote Green on 5th May, on all three ballot papers for the ‘power of good ideas’ which London needs and deserves.

Andrew is interviewing all of the candidates for Croydon and Sutton in the run-up to the election on 5th May. Read his articles here.

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas

Andrew is a BA Hons graduate in Politics with Media and Culture studies from Kingston University with a strong interest in current affairs and the media. As well as being politically active in Croydon North Labour Party, he is also a regular contributor to the online current affairs magazine, The Orator and a regular feature writer for Premier Christian Media Trust. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMaurice7

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