Election 2015 Q&A: Third time lucky for Green candidate Ricky Knight?

North Devon's Green Party candidate, Ricky Knight

North Devon's Green Party candidate, Ricky Knight - Credit: Archant

In the latest of our series of General Election candidate profiles, we meet Green Party candidate for North Devon, Ricky Knight

How long have you been in politics?

Member of the Green Party 31 yrs; local Cllr 12 yrs; politically active 62 yrs – this is my third run for Westminster, my thirteenth for local elections and I have stood twice for the Europeans.

Why have you decided to stand for election?

It is essential, this election of all elections, that a solution-driven, credible alternative to ‘politics as usual’ be on the ballot paper.

What are the major issues facing North Devon between 2015-20?

Affordable housing; predatory housing developments; unsustainable development, such as the pressures of national/international corporations on local businesses; the deficit of democratic representation in local government; the social time-bomb of an ageing population combined with low incomes, real poverty yet a high cost of living & the lack of decent job opportunities for young people; the NHS debacle; events over which we seem to have no control.

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What would you like to see done to combat these?

Fairer representation in local government; an end to the tunnel-vision on austerity; changing local election electoral method to proportional representation; better communication and a far better more genuinely democratic way of responding to consultation; more devolved responsibility and power from Whitehall.

How would your party deliver on this for the people of North Devon?

The Green Party can only ‘deliver’ if there is fairer democratic representation, so we would seek further political representation at all tiers of local, county, regional, national and European government; we would maintain a strong social and formal media presence and continue to communicate our message by other means, by, for instance, delivering newspapers and leaflets, organising meetings and holding events.

How much pressure do you think local services will come under should spending cuts continue? Can local authorities cope with these?

A huge amount: the pressure will increase if the cuts continue, but this depends on the make-up of the next Government and how clear any message from the electorate is. The pressure will be more because of what the Government is getting wrong than because of what it is getting right. Parish councils can do very little other than respond to superimposed edicts from above; local authorities thus far have been controlled by the same parties that govern the land. Any opposition has been ‘whipped’ out of them. Austerity is a failed neo-liberal experiment, sold as ‘we’re all in this together’ but in fact it is a damaging and dangerous lie.

Do you support or oppose further housing and renewable energy developments in the constituency? Why?

No I do not – the responsible rule of thumb for all politicians is renewable energy developments are essential if we are to achieve legally imposed CO2 emission targets. Likewise, housing developments are essential to maintain thriving communities and to ease the painful need for accommodation. However, such developments have to be in the right place and a myriad planning considerations have to be taken into account. Unfortunately, such a panacea can be a ‘catch-all’ – i.e. one can oppose a nuclear power station but support a wind farm; support a down-stream bridge but oppose yet another supermarket.

How confident are you of a successful election campaign for your party, both locally and nationally?

Absolutely confident. We are perceived as a ‘small party’, because of the electoral system, the control of the media and the existing inertia of what is (or rather was) a two-party ‘pendulum’ system; our ‘smallness’ has nothing to do with lack of popularity or credibility. Green Party membership has exploded and is set to overtake both the Lib Dems and UKIP. Last May, Dr Molly Scott Cato became the SW’s first Green MEP while nationally, the Greens took a higher proportion of the vote and have more MEPs than the coalition partners. Young people and first time voters, the future of Britain, are turning to the Greens in their droves, even without Proportional Representation to render their vote more effective. We may not have the corporate donors of the so-called Big Four, but we have the same expenses and the same work-load – and our local and national campaigns will most certainly be ‘successful’, by any yardstick.

In one sentence, what would you pledge to offer to the people of North Devon should you be elected?

Transparent & tireless leadership and broad-based, responsible representation, unsullied by special interests, corporate lobbyists or cronyism.

Why should people give you their vote?

Those at the helm of the ship of state have steered it unerringly onto the rocks and blamed and punished everybody but themselves. They have been party to the destruction of our ecosphere, the collapse of our financial and economic institutions, the erosion of trust in and finance for treasured institutions like the NHS and our education system and presided over the systematic scapegoating of the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and minority sections of society. The vote is all that most ordinary people have to register their disdain. It’s time to turf out the established parties out and use a new broom to re-establish the trust in and the credibility of the political process.

What would you say to anyone thinking about not voting in May?

The Brand Question! It’s as simple as ‘Don’t Vote – and let the Tories back in’. Not voting is essentially one way of saying you’re happy with the way things are and are happy to let ‘them’ get on with it. Regardless of the legitimate criticisms levelled by Brand at our political systems and its representatives – and I agree with most of them – his conclusion not to vote is completely irresponsible and guaranteed to perpetuate the status quo – which is exactly what those in power want.

Away from politics, give us a quirky fact about yourself?

I was brought up in Croyde – but I don’t surf – and I can’t swim!

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