I arrive at the Green Party’s head office on St. Clement’s Street. It’s drizzling on a typical English winter day. The first impression one gets is the green stickers all over the office windows. The sort of bright summer green that surprises you in November.
I am greeted by David William’s assistant. He is clean-shaven but wears dishevelled clothes. They look like they’ve been worn for years and washed so many times. Something one would perhaps expect as an Eco choice.
I meet David Williams inside, he warmly offers a handshake and enquires as to whether I would like coffee or tea. He is unassuming and soft-spoken.
There is no air of pretension or self- importance about him. His white beard makes him look like an affable, avuncular figure.
After the exchange of initial pleasantries, I opine that he must get the standard questions so often – “What are your policies?” “ What do you think are your chances in the upcoming General Election?” Perhaps this could be chance for him to communicate to our readers things he finds interesting.
‘The first thing we want to try and get across to people is that this is not the Brexit election, this is actually the climate crisis election.
Even if the worst came to the worst, and we left the European Union, we can still campaign to re-join the European Union. But we cant say the same about the climate emergency. Something has to de done now. Not warm words, but actual, very strong policies. And we, the Green Party, has been trying to put that forward for three decades now.
Sadly, without people taking much notice of us, to be honest. But, recent developments such as ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and the children’s strikes have raised the profile of what’s going on.
And we’ve suddenly had a situation, where the UN, for example, have been coming out with more and more information about what’s going to happen. There is more practical evidence, be it fires in Australia or California, or droughts in Sudan and Ethiopia and Kenya, or wild weather like typhoons, cyclones hitting the Gulf of Mexico and the coast of eastern China – all of that is adding up to people becoming much more aware that this is a crisis and something has to be done.
The big parties have also moved. They want to be carbon neutral 2050. But given that the UN says if you’re to carbon neutral in the next 10 years, you’re gonna have to have a massive problem, and it will be irretrievable from that point onwards. Labour has moved, too.
They have at least put forward the rhetoric. There’re very few policies proposed because they don’t want to offend anybody. That’s really the essence of it.”
He elaborates on his personal journey in British politics. ‘I was in the Labour Party for 32 years.
I know the mentality of how they approach it. For example, if we say, our policy is to close all coal-fire power stations almost immediately. Labour won’t adopt that because they people in coal-fire power stations might be worries about losing their jobs – Trade Union members. But they wonts have to worry about losing their jobs. It won’t be radical. Labour won’t take on vested interests.
Labour aren’t really getting the plot for some of the things. For example, in their Climate Change proposals, they have things such as regional air expansion. 17% of the climate change gasses are coming from aeroplanes.
They pledges zero emissions. It’s only a target, with no real policies aimed at achieving that. Very sad. But at least the pledge is there. The debate has changed.’
With the note of optimism in his words, his tone brightens up, a sparkle in his eye. ‘This campaign is better than previous ones. I am an ex-city councillor and an ex-county councillor here.
I am well-known locally. I have been around for 14 years now, getting to know people and working hard for them. I think we’re gonna do pretty well in this election.’
There is something about the way he delivered that statement. One sees politicians portray confidence at their electoral prospects in so many different stereotypical ways – passionate, assertive, hopeful.
But David Williams delivers it in a tone with such boyish delight, as if he is finally realising a childish dream. There is pure delight in his voice. He thinks he is making the world a better place.
‘In Oxford West, I think there is a strong feeling that they want to send a message about climate change, about resistance to Brexit and the cuts. here, there’s a tremendous number of cuts in the National Health Service. 40% cuts in local government funding from the central government. Massive effects on all social services that they deliver.
We (the Green Party) were the only one who stood against that. When it came to the crunch in 2016 at the County Council, there were only two votes against 56 million pounds worth of cuts, from myself and the other Green Party councillor. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories all said there was no alternative – we’ve got to go along with this. Well, no, we don’t.
Austerity was a political choice. This country has used that as an excuse to attack the public services. Everywhere else in Europe, Germany, for example, they just went for a Keynesian approach of fiscal stimulus.
I am an economist training. It is my view that public spending does boost the economy in a recession; welfare benefits, school funding, NHS funding all help. Most of the European countries didn’t adopt austerity. Obama didn’t. Here, it’e become all too convenient to attack the public services.’
He reflects on his political career so far. ‘I am a veteran campaigner. I was a Labour councillor for 20 years. I was a parliamentary candidate next to Corbyn’s constituency. I gave it up because it became Tory-beating, whilst accepting Neo-liberal principles such as privatisation. Almost all Labour MPs now have been Blairites.
There is a battle for the soul of the Labour Party.I’ve known Corbyn since 1992. We worked together on the anti-apartheid and anti-war protests and demonstrations. He was very good there. But he is no good on environmental changes and climate crisis.’
It’s perhaps unsurprising that we end the conversation on climate change. With that, I head for the door decorated with green stickers.