Green MP candidate Carla Denyer on student issues in Bristol ahead of the general election

On Thursday 4th July students will vote in the general election, we talked to Green Party candidate Carla about issues affecting Bristol students

Carla is standing for MP in Bristol Central constituency, she has been a Green councillor for Bristol for nine years. We sat down with Carla to talk about issues affecting Bristol students and Green politics. Many students live within this constituency which includes Clifton and Cotham where main campus buildings are located.

How would having a Green MP benefit Bristol students in an FPTP system?

“This is a very unusual constituency all the polling is confirming that it’s a Green-Labour marginal. There’s no possibility of the Conservatives winning in this constituency. Voters don’t have to think about getting the Tories out because that’s going to happen anyway. The decision is, do you want a 100% Labour government bearing in mind Starmer’s drift to the right? Or would you like a government that’s mostly labour, but with a handful of Greens to pull them in the right direction? You can either help us get a handful of green MPs elected in the next general election or vote for a Labour MP that will be whipped to vote with the Labour Party on every single bill.

“I’m realistic. I know I’ve got no chance of having the keys to number ten. Our theory of change doesn’t require me to have the keys to number ten. Caroline Lucas as our one Green MP has had a huge impact in parliament in terms of getting laws changed and putting topics on the agenda that just weren’t on the agenda before she was there.

“And that’s just with one MP if we can get to Three, four or more MPs elected, then think of the transformative change. Ultimately I want there to be Greens in government. But the way to get there is to go from having one foot in the door, as we have done for the last few years with Caroline Lucas, to getting a small team of us.”

How would you tackle the student housing crisis?

“Well, there’s a housing crisis in the whole country, of course, and especially in Bristol. I think Bristol central constituency has one of the largest proportions of people in the private rented sector. So I know how much of an issue it is here and it’s something I’ve been focused on for nearly a decade now.

“Well, there’s a housing crisis in the whole country, of course, and especially in Bristol. I think Bristol central constituency has one of the largest proportions of people in the private rented sector. So I know how much of an issue it is here and it’s something I’ve been focused on for nearly a decade now.

“That’s something that we’ve already been doing a lot of work on here in Bristol. The labour councillors and the green councillors worked together on Bristol City Council to get a motion passed to say that the council would lobby the government for councils to have that power and in the meantime, commissioned some research into what those would look like in Bristol.

“We simply need more homes and more affordable homes as well. So it’s also about getting the Bristol 14,000 homes that already have planning permission built, bringing empty homes, especially long-term empty homes, back into use and making it easier for the council to intervene to unblock those.”

What is your stance on tuition and maintenance fees?

“The Green Party want a fully publicly funded education system. Tuition fees can either go up and up affecting students or be frozen and universities are forced to increase their student numbers or become overly reliant on international students to make money. Bristol University seems to be doing both of these. Universities don’t have a great deal of choice with that. The Green Party would scrap tuition fees.

“To fund this, we would introduce a more progressive taxation system so that those on the highest incomes who can easily afford to pay a bit more and especially those with with substantial intergenerational wealth, pay a bit more so that overall it if it ensures everyone has access to what they need to live.

“To tackle student living costs, in the short term, if I’m elected as an MP, I’ll be pushing for an increase of the minimum wage and an increase to Universal Credit. For a long time, the Green Party has been calling for a 40-pound-a-week increase. In the longer term, the Green Party wants to introduce universal basic income to replace the very cruel sanctions-driven universal credit system. Providing everyone with a real safety net.”

Many students can’t afford to live in Bristol after they graduate, how would you tackle this?

“Bristol University famously has a high retention rate, a lot of Bristol uni graduates want to stay in the city but as you rightly point out that’s becoming increasingly difficult to do. It is partly about tackling the housing crisis as we’ve already discussed, but it’s also things like increasing the minimum wage.

“The Green Party would increase the minimum wage to £15 and remove the existing ageist exceptions, which mean that it doesn’t apply to younger people. Because the thing is, yes, some people under those age limits still live with their parents and aren’t needing to pay rent with those wages. But the people who are living on their own, without their parents’ support, are exactly the young people who most need minimum wage. Those are the people that minimum wages are designed for.”

How would you tackle the rising heating costs and energy-inefficient student housing?

“While student-shared houses are particularly bad, the whole UK housing stock is one of the least energy-efficient in Europe. And that is not just bad for the climate it’s also bad for your pocket, because you’re paying more for bills only for that warm air to go out the leaky doors and windows and poorly insulated lofts.

“It’s also not very good for our health. I mean, we keep hearing stories in the news about these sometimes tragic outcomes of living in a cold damp home. I know that especially in some of the older buildings here around Clifton down, especially where they’ve been converted, sometimes not very sympathetically into some pretty cramped student flats, dampness can be a particular issue.

“The Green Party have been lobbying the government for a nationwide insulation scheme. For people on higher incomes who can afford repayments, we would give them access to affordable loans.  And for private landlords, which is obviously the situation that affects most students will be privately renting, can also access them.”

What is your stance on the Bristol student encampment for Palestine and the Uni’s ties to arms companies?

“The Green Party has been calling for a bilateral ceasefire in Israel and Gaza since October, alongside, of course, the release of all hostages, condemning what Hamas has done. But recognising that the Israeli government’s response has been disproportionate, and has broken international law, the evidence of that is really clear. And so yes, students have every right to raise their concerns about that by peaceful protest.

“I think unlike some of the other parties, the Green Party is really clear that there is an important role for non-violent direct action in a healthy democracy. And you only have to look at countries that don’t allow peaceful protests to see the chilling effect that has on democracy and society at large.

“We specifically called for a suspension of arms sales to Israel until they stop breaking international law. And we support the International Criminal Courts announcement this week, seeking an arrest warrant on leaders of both Hamas and the Israeli government. It’s a very serious humanitarian situation and deserves a serious response. And that is both from the UK government and from organisations like universities who might be getting some of their money from people who make arms.”

How would you change transport in Bristol?

“Transport is Bristol’s Achilles heel. I think everyone no matter what your age, wherever in the city you live or what your political leanings are agrees that Bristol’s transport system is not working very well.

“The previous Labour mayor was keen on an underground, however big public transport, new infrastructure projects, especially ones that involve tunnelling are difficult.

“The answer is mainly going to revolve around making the buses better, and no, buses aren’t very sexy. But they don’t require lots of infrastructure. Bristol Green Party locally, our focus has been on making the buses better, making them more affordable, making them more reliable, and especially making them more accessible for young people. You may have seen in our local election manifesto we aim to make bus travel half-price for those under 22.

“Another thing that the Council could do to improve the existing bus services is bus franchises. That’s part of the reason why bus services in London are so much better than they are in Bristol.”

Travelling abroad can be important to students, is this compatible with reducing carbon emissions?

” Travelling doesn’t automatically mean flying. The last time I got on a plane was 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve still managed to travel. I’ve been to Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Croatia. I’ve had some wonderful adventures by rail and by sea.

“The government has chosen to subsidise aviation in many different ways to undercut travelling by train. Those on a tight budget get pushed into what feels like a forced decision to fly even when most people would rather go by train.

“There’s no tax on aviation fuel and there’s no VAT on most airline tickets. And the government adds extra subsidies to domestic flights. These are all political choices.”

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