A Stroll With City University Greens

A Stroll With City University Greens

Alan, the President of City University’s Green Party Society, delivering a leaflet through a letterbox near Tufnell Park. [Photograph by: Masato Shibayama]

On a cloudy Wednesday afternoon, the President of City University’s Green Party Society, Alan, went around Tufnell Park handing out leaflets in an attempt to persuade more Londoners to vote for more Green Party MPs (it’s also councillors, importantly) to lead their city to progress. 

Whilst strolling around the colourful neighbourhood of Tufnell Park, I asked Alan some questions regarding the Green Party of England and Wales, its current place in London’s political environment and the nature of student political campaigning in London. The dialogue below is the transcribed version of our recorded conversations. 

QUESTION 1: So why are you advocating for the Green Party?

So that’s quite a big question to answer all at once. But if I was thinking about local politics, both in Islington and London as a whole, it’s a mix of getting residents the attention that they deserve. I think a lot of people feel that they aren’t listened to, and a lot of these Labour majority councils take their decisions behind closed doors. They don’t go out and speak to people about what it is that they actually want and, so, the result is a very apathetic local government. 

But on the other hand, if we think about London as a whole, it’s a place where I can speak about issues that I think are very important to students. So, London is one of the cities with the highest population of students. Nearly half a million students are living in London, which is a very significant group and I feel that by having more representatives elected from the Green Party we can better represent those interests. 

If we think of some people who are currently running, we have Ria Patel, for example, who’s one of the councillors who is now running for the London Assembly. She’s only recently graduated from King’s College and she’s going to be doing her Master’s. She’s a young person who represents our interests very well. It means that it gives a voice to everyone

QUESTION 2: So what is the difference between the Green Party and let’s say, the Socialist Workers Party? 

In the case of the Socialist Workers Party, I’ve spoken to some of their campaigners at City University and they don’t engage with the political system. So in the end, it means that they don’t represent many people. 

But that’s beside the point. I think that the greater point to be made is that in the Green Party, there are a lot of experienced and well-meaning spokespeople and campaigners who I think embody this idea of constructive politics. They don’t go campaigning on attack ads, they don’t go campaigning on negative points. They are very experienced people who have a very optimistic outlook on how things can be done if we work for them. 

So I think the point that you brought up earlier, when you asked me about Carne Ross, was a really good one. He’s a seasoned diplomat. He now works for a non-profit that advises diplomats to make better decisions where they can. And I think that’s the kind of people who we want in politics. It’s the people who are experienced, who are well-meaning, and who are in it because they are experts in their area and believe that they can do better to help people.

QUESTION 3: Why did you choose Tufnell Park for your leafleting campaign today? 

So our objective is to represent as many people as we can. But we do have limited resources, which means that if we want Green ideas to get in the government and want councils to take notice of what residents who are voting for the Green Party want, we have to target our support to areas where we are likely to get councillors for the next local election. So although it is unfortunate and would like to be able to run and represent everyone, we have to concentrate our resources because that’s how elections work in the UK.

We have a rather unfair first past the post system which affects other smaller political parties as well. And we’ve seen that, for example, the Liberal Democrats are expected to gain three times as many seats, in parliament, at the next election even though their share of the vote is expected to drop. 

So if we want to get a more representative portion of our elected representatives, whether that’s councillors, London Assembly Members, or even MPs, we have to focus on support. We have to focus on campaigning rather, than in areas where we stand the best chance of getting seats. And so in the case of Tufnell Park, we’ve had that support for quite a long time. And we have some dedicated candidates for councillors who we believe would make excellent representatives and, so, we’re campaigning in this area to make sure that that support translates into representation and local government.

QUESTION 4: So who usually supplies you with the leaflets? 

So the leaflets are sent to us by the Green Party of England and Wales and they are written by someone local to the council. So I know, for example, that in Hackney, they’re written by one of the local campaigners. He is part of the kind of committee that organises the members and such. And so, yeah, it’s usually someone writing about local issues. And also the issues that they write about are often from canvassing. So when you go out and canvas, you knock on people’s doors, you ask them, what are their local concerns? What are they interested in seeing their elected representatives do? And then they will write about either the ideas of policy that the Green Party has or the progress that we’ve made on campaign issues.

QUESTION 5: I didn’t know that going to these houses randomly and putting posters in them is legal. Is it legal? 

Yeah, I mean, it’s delivering political information to residents. And from what we’ve heard from most residents, they feel that it’s a way of receiving news of their local area. So sometimes, for example, it includes information about what’s happening in a certain ward. So even smaller scale than Islington because in Islington as a whole there are already some newspapers or online articles that you can find, but even then there is kind of a lack of local news. So, for many residents, that’s how they feel it is.

On the other hand, if someone doesn’t want it, that’s fine. They’re not obliged to read it. We’re not going out and being annoying outside a station or something of the sort. So it’s very much for residents to decide. If they don’t want it, well, that’s completely fine. We understand that. When we know that there’s going to be, for example, multiple flats that share a postbox, we’re not going to deliver to each flat. We won’t deliver one for each flat because sometimes some people aren’t interested in it. But yeah, it’s legal and allowed.

And I would say, much preferable to just your local restaurant sending you a bunch of leaflets…although, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. We do try to avoid spam. 

QUESTION 6: Who is the person on the leaflet? 

Great question! So the person on the leaflet is Zoë Garbett and she’s the Green Party’s candidate for the Mayor of London. I know that she used to be an NHS nurse for most of her working life. She became a councillor for Hackney almost two years ago. And she’s been working since to represent the people of Dalston Ward in Hackney. She also ran for the Mayor of Hackney, and I think it was a promising show of support that she increased her share of the vote significantly which, I think, proves that Londoners want change and that they want a new mayor. And so that’s what we’re campaigning for.


In speaking of Zoë Garbett, she came to the City, University of London on March 6th as a guest speaker for a Q&A session organised by Alan and the Green Party Society. During this talk, students had the chance to discuss ideas for social change for London with her and two young councillors from the Green Party. For more events like this, and to join City’s Green Party Society, follow this link.