Interview: Welsh Green Leader Jake Griffiths
The Bright Green team sat down for a pint with future Welsh Assembly Member and leader of the Welsh Green Party – the gentle host of Green Party Spring conference in Cardiff this weekend – Jake Griffiths. Jake opened the conference this morning, and talked with us about our favorite things: macro-economics and dinosaurs.
You are standing to be an Assembly member for South Wales Central. What are the main issues impacting people in your area?
Unemployment. 25-30% of people in some areas don’t have a job. With cuts to the public sector, there’ll be major problems in these areas. There are already high rates of public sector employment, and high unemployment rates. These cuts will hit all of us who depend on services hard. But what will take the place of these jobs if these cuts go ahead?
In the longer term, linked to extreme unemployment, there’s fuel poverty at 25% across Wales, and as fuel prices go up, this is only going to get worse
And what will you do about this?
We need to go into these communities and support small and medium indigenous industries. Through my work consulting for small and medium sized businesses, I’m acutely aware of the struggles these businesses face and the opportunities they businesses provide – local jobs which won’t relocate, and high quality, often managerial jobs. Building a strong indigenous economy in Wales is tougher than attracting investment from outside from big corporations. But once you get these jobs, they will be long term quality.
And we need to tie that development the into low carbon economy we desperately need.
Assuming you are elected in May, and if no one party has a majority, what position will you take in negotiations with other parties? What would the red line issues be?
First – we are concentrating on getting elected – haven’t gone into discussions with any other parties. We are concentrating on our policies for now.
If the referendum on more powers for the Welsh Assembly passes next month, the Assembly will have some legislative powers. If you had the chance to submit a bill, do you have any ideas what you might promote?
All new buildings should have a certain percent of their energy produced from renewable sources – 10% or 20%. The cost of installation is much lower than retrofitting, and this will seriously help to tackle fuel poverty in the region over the next few years.
What can you do about cuts, practically?
I have to agree with Welsh Local Government Association – they’ve discussed how to come forward with no major redundancies, and how we need to negotiate with unions. More broadly, we are looking at the possibility of a Green Investment Bank for Wales potentially established through bonds. There are lots of great ideas out there, and we need to share them around and apply the best examples to Wales.
In your speech, you highlighted that a Labour Council in the Valleys has sent letters highlighting changes of employment conditions – including compulsory redundancies – to employees, with no prior discussion. What would a Green council have done differently?
Not sent the letters out without prior negotiation.
People in England often see Plaid MPs voting in progressive ways. Why should people vote Green not Plaid?
The Plaid leader has given complete support to nuclear power. They supported a PFI built, privately run military academy here in South Wales. They supported an out of town business park. They failed to develop an agenda to build a new economy, providing support to domestic businesses, they failed to meet renewable energy targets. They’ve worked to attract business into Wales, instead of making enough effort to support the growth of indigenous industries. Unemployment levels have remained at 25-30% in some areas.
There is a major problem with bovine TB here is Wales. The farming economy is really important, and struggling. The Plaid Govt is taking forward a badger cull. Defra have developed a vaccination program, but instead of doing this, they are culling the animals – major mistake for many people in rural Wales.
Plaid are primarily a nationalist party. They appeal to different people in different areas by supporting whatever is popular in that area. I’m not a nationalist – I fully support Welsh culture, and I speak Welsh, but I do not believe in the breakup of the UK. The UK has a place in the international community. I don’t think putting up barriers between the England and Wales as Plaid want to – or between the UK and Europe and UKIP want to do – is a progressive position.
Are you going to win?
We had 6.4% across the region at the Euros. We could get in on 6.5%, but need 7% to be sure. Only a tiny increase has us there. (Recent polls have him on 9% and 10%)
What’s your favourite dinosaur?
Tyrannosaurus-Rex: with a 4 year old and a 7 year old, that dinosaur has an amazing impact on them when you take them to the Natural History Museum in London. It has an amazing effect!