BY TOBY PORTER
Jonathan Bartley is now leader of the opposition on Lambeth council and joint leader of the party nationally.
And after being re-elected to the latter earlier this month, he is planning to expand the influence of the party, which was once a fringe pressure group, but now has ambitions in his borough and across the country.
“Councils and local government are being targeted,” he said. “They are an important platform for the Greens. “We have policies which are tailored to local issues – we aim to change anti-terror legislation and are campaigning against fracking and HS2.
“We want to see a stronger Green resistance and to see the party professionalised. We need to be nimble and use that to our advantage. Our aim is to become the third party in this country.
“We are already the third largest party in London since the 2016 elections. Now we want to extend that across the country so we have a Green voice in every community. “We had one councillor in Lambeth in 2014.
Now we are the official opposition here. “I am proud to lead that group. We are thrilled with the size of the vote we got then. We will campaign against estate demolitions.
Our members have embraced that. “Being the national party leader does not change my workload for Lambeth. “I do a jobshare with Sian Berry so I have time to fulfil my responsibility to care for my disabled son and my council duties.
“We will build on what we have seen so far. But we do need more recognised figures across the country – Majid Majid is the Lord Mayor of Sheffield – who barred Trump from the city. There are a handful but that must be extended.
“We are reaching a new audience which no political party has. It feels like Labour is not doing its job in Lambeth but nationally, too. “Our showing in Lambeth was astonishing. Labour got its best ever results in London since 1971, the year I was born. “But it was not listening to local people, with its estate demolition and library closures.
A one-party state like Lambeth needs us.” Bartley spent a week with Rosamund Kissi Debrah, the mum of a girl who Government scientists agreed died from the pollution along the South Circular Road at Forest Hill. Ella died in 2013 aged nine.
“I signed her mother’s petition and Sian was there when her mother handed those 140,000 signatures to get a new inquest, which is crucial,” said Bartley. “She is bringing home to people that 40,000 people die a year from pollution.
We are facing an air pollution crisis. I do not think it is being taken seriously enough by Lambeth or Sadiq Khan. Each is expecting the other to do something and meanwhile the crisis does not get addressed.
“Lambeth is still incinerating waste in Peckham in Southwark, but the dirty air blows back into Lambeth – especially into Herne Hill. Lambeth should show some leadership on this. “The council has had a supposed clampdown on engine idling but I don’t think a single notice has been issued in the three years since then.
“Lambeth is the only borough charging residents to have ‘car free’ notices at the end of their roads on Car Free Day on Saturday. “That is putting a barrier in the way of a wonderful initiative. “We also fear people might be charged to enter the Lambeth Country Show next year, too.
It used to be this wonderful, inclusive, open event. Now fences have gone up, which put up a major barrier to people coming. That is privatising public events. “The result is a huge toll on our communities – but also destruction of open spaces.
“This is something Lambeth’s scrutiny committee should look at. “I don’t think the fences are justified by the security concerns which I have heard raised. It should be a community event, open to all. Parks are seen as revenue-raising assets.”
Bartley is keen to build on what he sees as the Greens’ record in Lambeth, through Becca Thackray from 2006-10 and Scott Ainslie from 2010-18 which includes
- the introduction of the Living Wage
- the borough-wide 20mph speed limit
- a ban on evictions for council tax arrears, because support for those tenants had been cut
“That is tangible change in people’s lives,” said Bartley. “We want more. Tenants are not being balloted on estate demolitions.
We want to block the closure of the Carnegie Library.”
The Greens also want havens for residents who are being bullied or attacked by gangs – shops on high streets like Streatham High Road and the South London Liberal Synagogue in Prentis Road, Streatham have signed up to the idea and to having stickers in their windows to signpost that they are members of the scheme – and that they will call police if someone needs help.
“There needs to be somewhere school pupils can go if they have been attacked or robbed,” he said.
“Each one would have a sticker in its window. Pupils would be told where to go if they need to.
It is an important initiative to combat knife crime and an alternative to Stop and Search, which is creating barriers in our community.
It stops schools getting the information they need to prevent it.
“Kids in schools know more about who carries knives in particular schools than parents or teachers. Havens provide a link between the police and the community.”