General Election 2017: Meet your Green Party candidate

We sat down with Richard Bearman to discuss the upcoming election

In case you’d missed it, a General Election is just around the corner, so we reached out to each the candidates in Norwich South to find out more what they, and their party, stand for.

First is Richard Bearman standing for the Green Party, who was elected as County Councillor for Mancroft Ward in 2009 and again in 2013. A keen cycling advocate, Richard has lived in Norwich for 30 years.

Why should students vote for the Green Party?

We have one Green MP, Caroline Lucas in parliament and in her seven years there, she’s achieved an enormous amount and we really need more Green MPs in parliament. Having a second Green MP means we do twice as much as we’ve already done. There are several ideas Caroline has put forward, like the rail re-nationalisation bill, bills concerning environmental issues, and all the other issues she’s raised as a Green Counsellor – we could double that. So that’s why Green representation at Parliament is important.

I’ve lived in Norwich for 30 years, I know it well, I’ve been a counsellor here sitting in the middle of ward that I represent. So I feel I could do an excellent job of representing the people of Norwich at Parliament.

Currently the Green Party hold one seat in Parliament.

In your party’s last election manifesto, you pledged to scrap tuition fees. What other policies do you have, locally as well as nationally, to help students with tuition and maybe even student accommodation costs?

Nationally, the manifesto will contain that pledge – to scrap tuition fees again. I think it’s really important that we do keep tuition fess out of the system because people don’t want to be saddled with a fifty or sixty thousand pounds of debt when they leave university.

In terms of the wider things, one thing we’ve been working on here in Norwich is the quality of student accommodation. Accommodation is hard to get and an unscrupulous landlord can exploit it so having a good agreement between the landlord and the student’s representatives is really important. You don’t want to be living in damp, cold, wet houses. It’s no way for anybody to be living, of any age, and certainly not if you’re trying to study as well. So the Greens will be fighting to keep that quality of accommodation in Norwich.

University can be a particularly stressful time for students, I’m sure you’ve heard that UEA will be cutting counselling courses leading to a loss of 1000 counselling hours. How will you and the wider Green Party aim to help those students suffering with mental health problems?

It is the result of funding cuts, and that’s exactly the same in the general population. The Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust has cut back on services for all ages, but particularly vulnerable are those aged 16-25, and the biggest cause of death among men is suicide. Clearly, having a mental illness or having a depression leads to an increased risk of suicide, so I really think suicide prevention services need to be upped rather than cut back.

I’m very disappointed to hear that UEA has taken that stance because if you stop somebody becoming suicidal that’s where counselling and support early on really makes a difference.

Richard (on the far right) pictured canvassing with the local Greens.

UEA is known for its green campus, what ideas do you have on working with students get them to be more environmentally friendly, and what sort of environmental policies would you like to see implemented here in Norwich?

RB: I’d like to see more students take pride in their campus, it’s your space which you live in, so it would be really good to see people doing a few litter picks like we’ve been doing in the local community, like my ward in central Norwich.

One of the other things about the environment is lighting at the campus, do you need all the lighting on in buildings all night? The county council turned off some of the street lights about five years ago, and six years ago they proposed turning off all the street lights in Norwich after 1 am. The Green counsellors at the time fought to keep them on in Mancroft and the city centre areas but in some of the suburban areas, the lights have completely gone off during the night. Now some people think that’s a bad thing, but of course, there is an environmental cost to keeping the lights on.

What the Greens proposed in 2010 is that we switch all the lighting to low energy LED lighting which would have kept them on and saved money. The council didn’t do that, instead choosing to go down the route of part-night lighting. The only reason the public were consulted about the streets lights to go on and off was because we pressed for it.

What is the Green Party stance on Brexit, and how would you like to see international students protected in their ability to study here?

The Green Party was definitely for staying in the European Union, but the referendum vote has happened. What we would want to see is the protection, the environmental protection laws, freedom of movement for students to study and work retained as much as possible. That’s what we’re pushing for – the exchange of taking the good stuff out of European Union and keeping it as much as we can.

Particularly when it comes to foreign nationals studying and working here, they should be able to come for a period without any restrictions, they should be able to apply stay as they can now and in fact Norwich and Norfolk we have a history of welcoming migrants. We should welcome people whether they’re here just for a term, a semester, a year or whether they’re moving here permanently. So that’s the Green Party view on it. We will resist the sort of Brexit this government is pushing fo rat every opportunity.

Norwich South is a Green target seat.

What would you say to young people who are known not come out to vote, to come out and vote?

I think it’s really important that everybody votes in this election, particularly young people because how you vote now and the politicians you put in will influence you longer than older people. However, older people do tend to turn out more to vote, young people have a fairly poor record at turning out, particularly 18 to 25-year-olds.

We’ve been pressing for votes at 16, so it should be 16 to 25-year-olds, but if you haven’t registered you must, if you have, you must vote. Vote for what you believe in, tactical voting normally ends up with the ‘least worst’ option, if you’re lucky. So I don’t recommend tactical voting, I recommend voting for the policies you believe in and looking at the different parties.

If I was elected as your Green MP I’d be standing up for young people in parliament just like I’ve been standing up for young people’s views in Norfolk County Council.