IN-DEPTH: Green Natalie Bennett in the long game for Holborn and St Pancras
NEW year s resolutions can make us do all sorts of things and for Natalie Bennett it has brought her to the ballot paper. The Green candidate for Holborn and St Pancras joined her party four years ago on a January 1 whim, but one steeped in frustration at
NEW year's resolutions can make us do all sorts of things and for Natalie Bennett it has brought her to the ballot paper.
The Green candidate for Holborn and St Pancras joined her party four years ago on a January 1 whim, but one steeped in frustration at the lack of action on climate change.
"I thought this is a world just being stretched beyond its limits and I felt a responsibility to try to do something about that," she explains. "So without any real plans at all beyond saying 'Oh, it is January 1 let's do something new and join the Green Party', it all took off from there."
The 44-year-old editor of Guardian Weekly has backed it up since with somewhat more determined vigour.
She is now running for both Camden Council in St Pancras and Somers Town and the national seat.
She is a Somers Town resident and has campaigned for that area doggedly over the last year.
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"I really like Somers Town. It is a lovely community to live in and has a really nice feel - most of my neighbours know each other," she says.
"In Somers Town and areas south of the Euston Road, there are real genuine residential communities hidden away behind those facades of shops and offices. They need to be supported and not have great buildings slicing through them."
One of the issues on which Ms Bennett has risen to prominence in the area is the campaign against one of these great buildings. She has been a leading force in opposition to the UKCMRI development.
The medical research centre, specialising in cancer, is planned for the empty site behind the British Library - something which Ms Bennett says will destroy the neighbourhood.
"We need that land for Somers Town and what they are proposing to build is far, far too big for the site," she says. "We've had some good victories. They've brought in a new architect for the exterior which is a good sign. If you keep fighting these things and delay them for long enough, circumstances change. I don't believe it is a hopeless cause."
This time round the Greens electoral chances at Camden Council can be categorised in the same positive way. With three Green seats in Highgate, the new northernmost end of the Holborn and St Pancras constituency, they are aiming to return those results but also take three in St Pancras and Somers Town in the South of the constituency.
As Ms Bennett laughs: "We are starting at both ends and moving toward the middle for the eventual Green takeover."
On the national stage the slow and steady Green revolution is also in progress. Party leader Caroline Lucas is the bookmakers' favourite to be returned as MP for Brighton Pavilion and once that happens, Ms Bennett is sure the party's progress will gather apace.
"For the Green Party it is going to be transformative," she says. "Once people realise you can vote Green and get Green at Westminster it will make a huge difference."
In terms of upping the party profile though, Ms Bennett can be pleased with her own l local achievements.
At the Ham&High hustings organised for the seat with the Highgate Society, she certainly made her presence felt and earned her right to be there. The Green party was the legitimate fourth party in 2005 with 8.1 per cent, a vote share that will no doubt
go up with the acquisition of Highgate to the seat's geography.
And she has been no passive force in the campaign either - often a thorn in the side for incumbent Frank Dobson and other rivals.
Most recently she has taken a swipe at the MP on his decision to vote for the Digital Economy Bill - the legislation which aims to cut illegal file-sharing online by prosecuting those who do so and immediately cutting the internet connection to the terminal used.
"I have a great deal of affection for Frank as a person but I wonder if he fully grasped the issues he was voting on," she says.
Cutting internet connection in this day and age is similar to cutting everyday utilities, according to Ms Bennett, and those terminals used may serve more than just the illegal file-sharer.
Plus she says it presumes guilt, with the onus on the person suspected to prove their innocence.
For Ms Bennett it is a "good example where the Labour party has gone horribly wrong" - being too easily lobbied by the big powerhouses of Hollywood and the music industry.
She flips between opposing Mr Dobson on his record voting with the government, such as instances like this, but also for his reputation as a rebel.
"I am not quite sure how you're effective when you're standing against your own party when you're running," she says. "As a rebel in a Labour government what can he actually achieve?
Or indeed as a rebel in a coalition government in a hung parliament."
The same could be said for an individual Green party MP in a parliament of others.
But she says the lack of pressure in the Greens makes a world of difference - there is no whip system in their party.
In terms of her other two rivals, she describes Ms Shaw as "dogged" with the raise of an eyebrow which suggests Ms Bennett could be tempted into stronger criticism if forced.
She later takes a swipe at the party saying: "They don't have a political philosophy. Their philosophy is to get elected and that means in some places they look like the Tories and in others they look like Labour."
On the council she accuses them and their coalition partners of moving resources away from the south of the bough to the wards they hold in the north. And Conservative George Lee is not spared similar scorn.
"He is a reminder to anyone who needs one, what the Tory party is at heart," she says in her native Australian twang. "And it doesn't in any way coincide with what the people of Camden want of their representative or their politics".
Ms Bennett's life is nearly as interesting as that of her Tory rival's journey to the UK.
Growing up in an area of Australia where the chat was just "wheat and beer" she was happy to move out. She worked as a Thai civil servant, volunteer and journalist before moving to the UK 10 years ago where she is now settled and calls home.
Sticking to New Year's resolutions though may be more difficult. Prior to the election campaign before "the Green party took over" she was penning a book on the history
of women in London. She would love to return to it but knows for the sake of the Greens she should stay on and run at the election after this. She claims opposition parties, including hers, are really eyeing this seat for the next election - not next
Thursday's - as that is when Mr Dobson has said he will stand down.
"I'd like to go back to writing that but I think it is probable that won't happen," she smiles.