Deputy Leadership candidate: “The Greens are too London-centric. It’s time to change that”

Councillor Andrew Cooper bids to be Deputy Leader - arguing the Greens need to reach out to green businesses and shift away from London.

The Green Party is rightly seen as a party of principle. But we also are wrongly viewed by many as not being realistic.

We are seen as an effective party of protest: on fracking, on trees in Sheffield, on the streets with the Green Bloc presence on many demonstrations. But if we are to progress at all beyond our 3% in the opinion polls we also have to be seen as the problem-solvers, the party with practical ideas and the party that delivers solutions when we have the opportunities.

With our growing number of councillors we will grow in influence – and how we use it will be key to growing our support. As a Kirklees councillor, I proposed the UK’s first universally free insulation scheme that insulated 50,000 homes. This reduced emissions but also put money back in local people’s pockets in terms of saved energy costs – equivalent to £4 million/year. This is just one example, but one where we can show that Green policies are taking us forward there are lots more

Should Brexit occur next March, we could be in for a time of considerable political and economic instability. A party that is able to provide hope for a sustainable and secure future with that backdrop will be needed. That party should be the Green Party.

We have to build stronger relationships with green NGOs and businesses where we share common interests and values. As a small party these alliances will be essential to get our message across in an increasingly crowded political environment.

With my strong links and background in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors, I’d seek to build relationships with key industry bodies representing the ‘green’ sector.

We need to up our profile at the United Nations COP Climate Change Talks each year, to show we are involved at a global level, working hard on solutions – and challenging vested interests that threaten all our futures. We have lacked visibility on this important stage.

I will be attending the COP24 Climate Talks in Katowice in December as part of the EU delegation, and pushing hard on giving more power at the local level to tackle climate change – making real the slogan ‘Think Global Act Local’

I would produce a regularly-updated Deputy Leader Blog if elected. It is something that is needed to give greater visibility both to our membership and to the wider public of the activity of our leadership team. I’ve been a blogger for nearly 10 years now and enjoy it as a medium to get our message across.

I’d like my engagement with local parties to be more than just a ‘Royal Visit’. I’d bring practical help and advice on campaigning and local policy initiatives, based on nearly 20 years as a councillor actually getting Green Party initiatives implemented. One particular pledge would be to visit every Green councillor in England and Wales in the two year term as Deputy.

We have no national strategy in place to support our councillors once they are elected. Yes, we want to elect Green councillors – but we also need to elect great councillors.

We should provide mentoring and ongoing support through model motions, model questions to the administration and briefings. In this way we will be able to ensure that when we gain councillors, we keep them.

I believe we need someone in the Deputy Leadership team who doesn’t either work or live in London. We have become a far too London-centric party. We are really lacking in voices that can give an informed perspective that is genuinely from the regions.

So I pledge not to move to London if elected as Deputy Leader. My family are quite pleased about this…

Andrew Cooper is a Green Party councillor in Kirklees (West Yorkshire) and is running to be Deputy Leader of the Green Party of England & Wales.

This piece is part of a Left Foot Forward series on the Green Party’s current leadership election. Voting opens on the 30th July and closes on the 31st August, with the results announced in September. LFF is taking pieces from all the candidates.

Got a story or take on the leadership election? Contact [email protected]

See also: ‘Leadership candidate: the Green Party should accept the EU vote and move on’

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