Meet Rupert Read, Green MP candidate

He went to OXFORD


It hasn’t been a great month for the Green Party.

They’ve overtaken UKIP in terms of party members, but they’re also more visible now than ever before. And what’s becoming clear is that the Greens just aren’t as media-savvy as the other parties. Leader Natalie Bennett’s had a series of embarrassing interviews where she sounds like the party doesn’t have the money or know-how to implement their policies. And their candidate for Parliament, Rupert Read, was recently embroiled in a scandal where he was accused of transphobia.

Meeting Rupert, I can tell he’s an intellectual. A philosophy professor by trade, he waxes lyrical about the holistic vision of the Greens, the morally bankrupt political system, and the 9-5 drudgery which sells us into wage slavery. Liberal Democrat candidate Julian Huppert wants to flaunt his scientific credentials; Rupert wants to flaunt his philosophical ones.

“Philosophy means the love of wisdom. Just look at Parliament – doesn’t it seem like it could use a little more wisdom?”

This is Rupert Read. He'd be even happier if you voted for him.

This is Rupert Read. He’d be even happier if you voted for him

The Greens have got their eye on Cambridge. It’s got the highest proportion of students in any constituency, and students vote Green. So what’s he standing for?

“I’m standing for the re-nationalisation of the railways and against the TTIP treaty (the EU-US trade deal) which would strip us of our democracy. I’m standing for really serious action on dangerous climate change which the Lib Dems have gone backwards on, I’m standing against fracking and I’m for a much higher living wage.” So far, so radical.

Rupert insists, though, that these are common-sense policies, appealing to working-class families as much as lefty students. I ask whether the Greens can really deliver them. They’ve already delayed (scrapped) the Citizen’s Income, which would pay a basic income to everyone. Given how much young people, in particular, have been disappointed by the promises of politicians, can we really trust Bennett and co?

Rupert replies: “We can only promise to deliver our full radical policies if there’s a Green government with an absolute majority…but we’ve learn from the mistakes made by New Labour and the Lib Dems, and we’re determined not to make the same mistakes.”

Discussing politics in the low-key lighting of an iPhone filter.

Discussing politics in the low-key lighting of an iPhone filter

He’s filled with hope about the future of the Greens: “We think that when people get a chance to find more out about us and to see that we actually do politics differently from the other parties, then people can dare to believe in something again.”

He’s wide eyed and idealistic and I feel like a cynic interrogating him. I’m reminded, though, that the Green Party’ record on women’s rights is impeccable – definitely a result of the executive roles held by women in the party.

The party also shuns the scapegoating of immigrants and ethnic minorities, unlike UKIP, whose xenophobic views Read says “won’t go down well” in a place like Cambridge. And notable LGBT+ rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is a vocal supporter of the Greens. So it’s not just a case of more of the same. Rupert jokes that a vote for him would be a ‘vote for tokenism’ in a party that champions the rights of the oppressed.

Which makes his Twitter gaffe even more surprising. For those living under a rock, Read was criticised for a series of tweets in which he complained about being forced to use the word ‘cis’, which he said ‘troubled’ him. His questioning of the word ‘cis’, which means ‘not trans’, has got a lot of people thinking he might be transphobic.

Talking to me, he says that he was misunderstood and he’s done a lot of learning about trans issues, something he outlined in an article in the Independent, along with an apology. But he still maintains that the word ‘cis’ can be oppressive, if imposed on already oppressed minorities, something which continues to trouble some in the LGBTQ community.

The smoking gun.

The smoking gun

There’s an equally troubling facet of Rupert’s history, though, which I realise during the interview. For all his talk of being anti-establishment, he seems to know a lot of the people in the establishment. He was at Oxford in the 1980s, rubbing shoulders with heavyweights who dominate English politics today.

He spills the beans on some of them; he knew Boris Johnson when Boris pretended he was a member of the Social Democratic Party: “For political reasons, one example amongst many of his ruthless approach to politics.” I ask him who he’s excited to work with or against in Parliament, and he rails off a list of friends in high places.

Maybe it’s inevitable – he was heavily involved with debating at the Oxford Union in his day, the breeding ground for politicians. The Union is where he beat Michael Gove in a debate about legalising voluntary euthanasia (Rupert was for the motion). And though he may know the establishment, he’s still pretty radical. He tells me about breaking into Clare May Ball with his sister, a Kings’ alumnus, calling it ‘the most fun he’s ever had in Cambridge’. He grins and says: All the pleasure was doubled from knowing you were there illicitly.”

And he’s passionate about the political process, saying that even if students don’t want to vote Green, they should still vote. He says the Government’s decision to disallow universities to register students in bulk “smacks of political skullduggery.” It’s too convenient, he says, that students – those least supportive of the current Government – have effectively been disenfranchised. He jokes: “To encourage you to vote, bear this in mind – every time a young person fails to register, Nigel Farage and George Osborne smile.”

So vote for Rupert – or don’t – just make sure you vote!

Want to wipe the smile off Farage’s (or Rupert’s) face? Register to vote here. Rupert – and other candidates standing to represent Cambridge in Parliament – are having a hustings at the Union on Friday the 6th.

 

UPDATE 6th March 2015: Read contacted The Tab to stress he is not troubled by the term ‘cis’. He also took issue with the link to Pink News’ report on his recent scandal, pointing to this article which he says is the only one which does not misrepresent his views.