University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Siân Berry, Green Party MP Candidate for Brighton Pavilion : GENERAL ELECTION 2024

Jade Montana

ByJade Montana

Jun 30, 2024

Across the UK, MP candidates have been setting out their agendas for constituents. Brighton Pavilion has seated the only Green Party MP for fourteen years – Caroline Lucas. After announcing her plans to step down from the seat in 2023, her long-term ally Siân Berry has been chosen as Green Party candidate for the constituency.

I recently sat down to interview Berry on Green Party policies, her plans for students at the University of Sussex, and her thoughts on the campaign so far. 

Interview with Siân Berry by Jade Montana

Since moving to Brighton last year, how have you found your experience of living here?

Absolutely fantastic! There is a better quality of life and I have been able to have a garden! Very different from my London apartment. Brighton is a wonderful city with so much to do. 

There is always something going on and the pride that the city has in itself and its diversity, or its values or culture is very different to being in London. It is a great city with great character.

How do the Greens plan on challenging the view that a vote for Green is a wasted vote under First Past the Post?

Election time is a really good time to showcase policies outside of the green box… everything needs to work together in a way that is sustainable to last into the future. We genuinely think about things in that way. 

[During elections] the media are made to give us a certain amount of time. That means we can spend a whole day talking about the NHS, water companies, what we will do for young people, and we actually have the space and time to talk about our policies. We can talk about all of that as one thing because we do recognise they [policies outside of environmental aims] are interconnected. There is no point having a green policy without thinking about the impact of colonialism and it is really important that we have that space. 

It is also about doing the work afterwards [during Parliament]. We are pushing people in power on all of these issues. I have experience working on things like helping restore bus services, getting boilers switched, getting council homes bought as well as built, pushing people on rent control: these are all things where Greens can have an influence. 

The picture within politics will drift towards the right if we are not there to push the left.

On that note, can you tell us more about Starmer’s drift toward the right?

It is a march to the right! They are deliberately shifting their policies to match the Conservatives on almost every single policy. 

We need a change of policies, not just a change of personnel. There is a danger of Keir Starmer in power without our voice, which would result in very little difference in Parliament.

The leadership debates have only featured Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. What do you think of Greens and other minor parties not being included in the leadership debates?

It is a real shame because Keir Starmer is bidding to be the Prime Minister and if he is the Prime Minister, then Rishi Sunak will be gone! People need to see how he will deal with his likely opposition… see how his policies stand up to debate. I don’t think that Rishi Sunak is the right person to be standing up to that challenge. People need to see what Parliament will look like with debate.

You have spoken widely in criticism of Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting’s plans for the NHS. What do you think about the Labour healthcare policy to solve the waiting list crisis through voluntary late shifts and weekend shifts?

We’ve stood with the healthcare workers, they have been striking for good conditions to work in, better funding, better shift patterns… They are striking for the safety of patients and we have stood with them on their picket lines which Labour has not been able to do.

Within Labour leadership there is a genuine push to involve more private companies and the NHS is not safe in their hands. 

Labour’s plan for extra funding is not the tens of billions needed to bring health services up to what is required. We’ve made that commitment. We will find that money through a fairer tax system which Labour is not prepared to talk about. [On Labour’s plan to find the money through taxing Non-Doms] that is a tiny, tiny change to raise a tiny amount of money… it will not make the difference needed.

However, whilst the Greens have supported striking junior doctors there seems to be a lack of support for our training doctors and medical students who have missed out on placements and hospital training due to the strikes. How do you plan to support healthcare students who have missed out on placements and give them the education they have been promised and have paid for?

NHS workers are not striking lightly, they know the impact – they know that students need to train on patients. It means fighting really hard for the settlement they want, they are not being unreasonable. They are asking for safer practices, we all know junior doctors work the hardest so it is in their [medical students’] best interest.

What about medical students’ short term interest? There will be a gap in the learning of these students, how do the Greens plan on supporting medical students?

If it comes to the end of this dispute there might well be students who need to take their placements again. We must make sure that we train people properly – and they must not be paying for this extra training. The amount of debt that medical students inherit is enormous. It is a very hard degree and I have massive respect for people who take that on!

Do you think that it is the media not giving Greens a platform during this election or is it Labour trying to run from Green criticism?

When it comes to deciding what to do about the debates it is very much negotiations between broadcasters and party leaders. I am sure that it is Keir Starmer himself saying he won’t do it [debate with Greens].

Would the greens ever consider a collaboration with Labour to further Green ambitions?

There is a difference between elections and after elections. We have reached out in the past but at the current time we are not doing that. 

Conservatives are toast, Labour is going to have a massive majority according to the polls and it is really important that everyone that wants to vote Green can vote Green in this election.

After elections we work in a collaborative way. We are always constructive in working with other parties. It is often Labour leadership that will tell Labour local leadership that they are not allowed to work with the Greens and that is very unconstructive. It is destructive to good governance to want your party to hold all the power. You do get better governance when people listen to each other.

Many voters are concerned that a vote for Green means they will be giving up their petrol or diesel cars. What do you say to voters that feel fearful of deemed ‘extreme’ Green policies such as converting all cars?

Read our manifesto! We are very keen to make sure everyone benefits from our vision of the future. We are all about democratic, bottom up power and changing where decisions are made. People want safer streets, good public transport, the car as a last resort, and these are all sensible things. 

Please read our manifesto if you think we’re going to ban your car!

Caroline Lucas has been a dedicated MP for Brighton Pavilion for fourteen years and has maintained close relationships to Sussex students. How do you plan on building a relationship with Sussex students if elected?

I’ve been to campus quite a few times now! I’ve attended Young Green events up there and am familiar with the area. I must say the architecture is amazing! It is beautifully done! I will be a dedicated MP and look forward to working with all students at Sussex.

Siân also completed a filmed interview for The Badger YouTube channel. There, she is answering a host of questions covering student finance, how she would work with Sussex students directly, and more!

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