Dominic Tristram, the Green Party Candidate for Bath, stood in the second of the weekly hustings organised by Bath Politics Society, in what was an altogether tamer affair than Julian Deverell’s outing for UKIP last week. Whereas Mr. Deverell faced an audience that bristled with hostility and gleefully jumped on any UKIPisms he offered forth, Mr. Tristram faced a crowd that was very receptive to his ideas and less difficult in their questioning.
Dressed in a casual jacket and David Tennant-esque red converse, he wandered from the stand and talked candidly to the crowd in his opening statements. This struck a clear difference to the suit wearing Deverell who stood stiffly behind the podium throughout. Tristram also came prepared with slides on the Green’s youth membership, budgets and, of course, the environment, and had scattered leaflets, printed with veggie ink on recycled paper, throughout the lecture theatre. The Green’s were clearly more comfortable amongst students than UKIP, as they should be, and appeared confident of making a good impression.
Questioning began on student centric issues, and Tristram was happy to take the opportunity to show his parties favourable policies. On the discussion of STEM subjects versus the arts and their relative job prospects, he said “We don’t believe any degree should be Mickey Mouse degree; and we don’t believe many are”. On housing and maintenance he criticised the power private landlords have, “They [landlords] know everyone gets these loans, they know how much you have and they charge what they can”, and suggested policies such as tax incentives to keep prices down. On the difficulties and competition for graduate jobs and internships, he asked “What sort of world is there where people are being paid less now than they were fifteen years ago?” It was all very friendly and what the audience wanted to hear, but it also all felt a bit easy.
When difficult questions did come from the audience they centred widely on the larger economic issues that The Greens have been criticised for recently. He argued that the Greens housing redistribution and reuse plan meant that the costs of their building project had been over exaggerated, but at the same time anyone looking for hard facts and figures would have left unconvinced. During the wider economic discussion things took a further shift to the left when he claimed that “It’s nonsense to talk about infinite economic growth in a closed system. Parties that believe that are lying to you”. Whilst this is a legitimate argument, such a shift from the centre ground would have caused a noticeable stir in the audience last week. This week there was mostly tacit agreement.
The debate was wound down with a few large, international questions that The Greens are often criticised on; “We want to leave NATO because it is the wrong international cooperation, it’s based on the military mindset”, and a few more progressive, national issues that are their forte; “The best way to help addicts is to treat them, they aren’t going to go their GP if they’re worried about being arrested”, but nothing untoward or overly critical came up. In the same way that the majority of last week’s audience came in anti-UKIP and left anti-UKIP, this week they mostly came in pro-Green and left pro-Green.
Dominic Tristram was knowledgeable, well prepared and impassioned when discussing issues such as privatising the NHS and government transparency, and The Greens will see this as a successful event. However, it was hard to truly get a measure of Tristram from such a friendly crowd and he is unlikely to have significantly changed many minds. He is undoubtedly popular and an almost ideal moderate Green candidate, but we should hold our final judgement until he is put under more pressure at the all-party debate.
Photo credit: Ben Butcher