By John Millington
THE Green Party – Britain’s 4th political party is going through a change – not in policy but in personnel.
Leader and sole MP Caroline Lucas is standing down and elections for both her post and that of deputy leader are opening up.
Although much focus will be on the passing of the baton to the next leader, the deputy leadership contest will give us a glimpse into the future direction of the party.
First to declare their interest in taking on the mantle of deputy was 26 year old Brighton and Hove Councillor Alexandra Philips.
In many ways, Phillips is your stereotypical Green politician.
Vegetarian and environmentally friendly she lacks no amount of political ambition or confidence.
A councillor for 3 years already, Phillips brings a unique mix of youth and experience to the table.
One might imagine such a woman would learn to play it safe until she was established at a national level.
When we get on to the subject of the Tories and the austerity drive, Philips shows her unashamedly “left” credentials.
“There needs to be a revolution and we need to force the austerity cuts down. They are morally wrong and have a clear catastrophic effect – they are imbedded in our society,” she says.
“I am surprised it has not already happened – that is the only way that this current government would change.”
Despite her strong words, Philips likes to think of herself as a concerned citizen who wants to be in a position to do something about it.
But why not the Labour Party? Surely that’s the best avenue for a “career politician?
Philips is offended at the suggestion.
‘I am not a career politician,’ she exclaims.
“I’m in politics in the right reasons. I want people to have better a quality of life.
If she is selected to be number 2 in the party, Phillips as a qualified teacher struggling to look for full time work, she claims she can directly relate to ordinary people looking to make it in austerity Britain.
“If I am elected Deputy leader, my role would be looking at broadening fundraising schemes. And giving that moral support to the party in a very hands on role.”
Although a Green party loyalist and keen Ms Lucas, Phillips does think the party needs to speak more loudly about its social justice agenda rather than just the environment.
“The green new deal (flagship Green policy) is great thing. But we need to talk about investment in the health service, police force and how were are going to create more jobs,” she tells me.
“We also need to be completely reforming our tax system which no one has the balls to do.”
“It is not acceptable that £1million and £100million pounds are in the same tax bracket. It is ridiculous.”
“Tax evasion needs to be looked at as well as does keeping trident.”
Phillips clearly hopes that being fresh faced and untarnished by a privileged background or political scandal will distinguish her from New Labour politicians trying to get back into the electorate’s good books after losing the election over 2 years ago.
But I point out to her that you can’t be a one-woman show and people vote for parties’ not just personalities.
“The [Green] party is a left wing socialist party – it frustrates me that people are not aware of that still,” she says.
However she admits that she is at a loss why Green Party membership remains predominantly middle class, adding: “Unfortunately class divisions still exist today. There are working class people…and it is about representing those people. That is why I am here.”
The Hove Councillor is however no stranger to courting controversy.
Her decision to vote against the council budget on a “point of principle” defying fellow Greens, will endear her to anti cuts activists and victims of the austerity but it will perhaps worry more centrist elements within her own ranks that she is a bit of maverick – a charge she wholly refutes.
“It was a difficult decision – for everyone,” she says diplomatically.
“I have had a lot of support. We are not a homogonous group. We are free to vote, as we want to. And I like many others voted with my conscience.”
As I leave Phillips, I glance at the House of Commons across the road from our position and ask: “One day?”
She responds with a knowing smile, insisting she is totally focused on representing her constituents and winning the deputy leadership election.
Whatever happens the deputy election, this young Green up start will be part of our political lives for decades to come.
– Election results for leader and deputy leader to be announced in at the Green Party Autumn conference.