Bristol West: 10 minutes with each of your local Green candidates in May 2015
Number 7: Jerome Thomas (Clifton)
Jerome Thomas is the Green Party candidate for Clifton. He is the director of Strategy and Risk for the business Metrosafety which he set up with his business partner in the early 1990s.
Why are you standing to be a councillor in Clifton ward?
I want to play a part in building a constructive, inspiring, fairer vision of the future in the community where I have lived for over 20 years and where I’ve raised a family with my wife Catherine. I’m standing for the Green Party because I think we need a radical and changed approach to how we live in the world. The Green Party is asking the right questions and providing relevant answers.
What do you think the important local issues are at the moment?
There’s a lack of appropriate community centre facilities and the threatened closure of the library raises the risk that one of the few community facilities in Clifton will be taken away. But it also gives us an opportunity to envisage an improved library and community centre which could significantly benefit the community in the coming years.
Providing better transport solutions and making walking and cycling safer. There’s a real lack of public transport within Clifton and there are plenty of opportunities to make walking and cycling safer. I’d be keen to see a 20mph limit introduced onto the Hotwell Road to make it less like a dual carriageway and more like the Whiteladies Road and Gloucester Road. Upper Belgrave Road would also benefit from a 20mph limit and this would actually help with the flow and the speed of traffic.
There are places where we need improved crossings, to improve safety, such as the crossing at Merchant Road opposite The Pump House.
Air quality is becoming a serious problem nationally and in the ward it is a particular problem on the Hotwell Road, where levels of particulates and Nitrogen dioxide often breach safe European standards. It would be valuable to be able to monitor air quality locally on a regular basis and for people to have access to that. We need get into place effective policies for reducing air pollution. There are always exciting creative initiatives emerging from Clifton and Hotwells. For example, a number of people have got permission for the closure of the Portway for five Sundays this summer. It is great to be able to support that initiative for people to be able to enjoy the Gorge without the everyday roar of traffic.
If people have voted Green locally before, why should they vote Green for the parliamentary election?
The Green Party is the only party that genuinely has care for the planet and for social justice at the core of its being. When Jack Straw was parading his ability to operate below the radar for big business in Brussels, it was an important reminder of how politics can often work in practice. Caroline Lucas has shown the huge influence one principled, capable, caring MP can have. Just think of the difference two or more could make and how Darren could contribute as an additional radical Green and capable voice in Parliament.
What’s your background? What are you passions? What are you up to at the moment?
I’ve always been motivated by community and active citizenship and making a difference. In terms of my background, I grew up as part of a large extended family in the north Cotswolds, I went to Chipping Camden Comprehensive School. I then studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Magdalen College, Oxford before joining an American management consultancy in the mid 1980s. Unable to cope with its modern feudalism, I then spent a couple of years working for a community project with unemployed people in west London before starting my own business. That business, which I started with my business partner, is now a national safety business with over 80 employees. I’ve been fascinated by the challenges of developing a business with a social conscience and developing the skills to make organisations work better and more effectively.
I was a Labour Party member for 25 years and was particularly active in Bristol in the run-up to the 1997 Election. I was a trustee of the charity the British Holistic Medical Association for 10 years along with my wife Catherine who is an holistically-minded GP and lead doctor at the Penny Brohn Cancer Care Centre.
A key shift for me in my Green political approach was attending a two-week course in January 2012 at Schumacher College in Dartington on green economics and business. From that, I was inspired firstly to join the Green Party, and secondly to play a more active part in the area of energy, which I feel is at the heart of the changes that we need to be involved in in society. Following from that, I became Chair of the Energy Action Group as part of the Bristol European Green Capital year and have served on the Green Capital Partnership steering group, as well as being a member of the panel which awarded the small grants for Green Capital year. I feel very positive about the way in which the Green Capital year has given organisations and people with great ideas the opportunity to make a difference and to sow the seeds for the radical changes in society that we need.
Are there any other local or national issues that you think are going to be important in the next period of time?
Taking a broader perspective on city and regional government the experience with the independence movement in Scotland has shown us how politics can become revitalized. The Green Party in Bristol may be helping us forge our own distinct Bristol political identity. It is very encouraging that all the major UK political parties are starting to sing the benefits of regionalization after decades of centralization and emasculation of local Government. The combination of the Green agenda and regionalization presents exciting opportunities. This could be in the areas of transport, energy, health and education. But balanced against that is the reality of the severity of the cuts currently being imposed by central Government on Bristol.
Many voters are irritated with mainstream politics and mainstream economics. If politicians can’t provide the old fashioned benefits of economic growth and rising living standards in a stable environment then people begin to seek credible alternatives where they can help shape the solutions. This frustration with the failure of conventional approaches has found a voice in the margins including in the Green Party but is likely to become increasingly mainstream in the next few years. At the moment voters are more irritated and resentful with the failure of the old than they are excited by the possibility of a new and transforming society.
On a global level I start from the principle we only have one planet to live on. In an increasingly globalized and competitive world we need to better work out how we can lead healthy, happy lives within that overarching constraint – whether that is in the area of food, transport, energy, housing, or nature. This also includes working out working as communities across the city, the country and the world to reduce the likelihood of climate change and mitigate its effects. The Transition movement has provided a strong framework and inspiring examples of how we can make these sorts of changes. The Green Party can have an important role in bringing them into the mainstream.
If you were Mayor for one day and you could change one single thing, what would it be?
Introduce an ultra-low emissions zone for vehicles.
You can follow Jerome on Twitter here: @bristoljerome
The Clifton page on the Bristol Green Party website is here: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/Clifton
Jerome has also made a video about his campaign, viewable here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocnZjT7AwWQ
For all of the other Bristol West 10-minute interviews, go here: http://robertjessetelford.com/blog/?page_id=474