IN DEPTH: It's Green time, says Pete McAskie

THE Green Party does not just do what it says on the tin – that s the message the group s candidate for the national election is trying to drum into the voters of Hornsey and Wood Green. Long dismissed as wacky environmentalists and a one-policy group, th

THE Green Party does not just do what it says on the tin - that's the message the group's candidate for the national election is trying to drum into the voters of Hornsey and Wood Green.

Long dismissed as wacky environmentalists and a one-policy group, the Green Party has undergone a change in recent years - or perhaps, instead it's just that people have begun to notice that change.

Parliamentary candidate Pete McAskie says that change is not yet completed though.

"We know people vote for the Greens because they care about the environment but sadly too many people see us as an environmental party full stop," he says.

"But quite a lot of people - more and more - are voting for us because of our social policies.

"We are promoting fairness and I notice that since we started using the word 'fairness' the other parties are also using it more."

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As well as environmentalism, social justice and equality are very much at the heart of their policies - note the all-important plural - he says.

The Green revolution has seen the party become the official opposition on Norwich Council, where they hope to take control in the May elections - Mr McAskie also says he fully expects there to be Green Haringey councillors and the country's first Green MP after this year's elections.

However, despite "positive" reaction on the doorsteps, Mr McAskie is not sure that first MP will be him.

"Of being elected, my chances are slim, but of saving my deposit I think my chances are very, very strong," he said. "Of putting pressure on the other parties I think certainly I will.

"It depends on the size of the vote but the other parties certainly do worry about us and our vote so at the very least we force them to look at their policies.

"It's very likely my vote will be greater than the difference between the first and second place, so they will have to look at why people are voting for me."

He acknowledges that for some of those voters, the "why" will be a protest vote against the traditional main parties.

"Some of it will be a protest vote - but hopefully not too much of it," he says.

"I do think the voters are voting positively for us - we have a solid core vote in Haringey."

The 59-year-old, who has lived in Haringey most of his life, is a seasoned campaigner in the area, having stood as a parliamentary candidate for Tottenham, a London Assembly representative and a council hopeful. He has also been an election agent for the party.

So what else would he bring to the role of being Hornsey and Wood Green's MP?

"My passion for politics and the environment and the fact that Haringey has been my home most of my life so I care about the borough," he said.

"People need a chance to vote green and make that statement - it's one of the strongest green boroughs in the country.

"I would be a radical politician, I would be a very hard working one and I would love it."

At the core of his policies, he says would be the importance of the health service and the danger of funding projects by Private Finance Initiatives.

"It's like buying a house on a credit card," he says. "It helps at the election, but it's appalling value."

The Party also promises to introduce a Green New Deal, which involves creating a million new jobs in sustainable industries.

He is also very keen on promoting and improving public transport.

Interestingly, when asked about his policies, saving the world from global warming is not, as many would imagine, the first thing he mentions. However, it is a subject he is passionate about.

"I feel we are starting too late - we should have started 20 or 30 years ago - but sadly everybody thought we were crazy

"If there are not fundamental changes in attitude we are not going to make it.

"We can save the worst horrors - it is possible now. It merely requires the will at every level of society."

He continues: "I believe global warming is the biggest crisis in the history of our species and people need to take it more seriously. It's the fundamental issue and in all policies we have to consider environmental implications," he says.

"The other parties will have environmental policies as well as other policies, but for us it comes into everything - it always has to be considered."

Instead of the Green Party, as many people believe, having a raft of environmental policies and not much else, they have a whole host of different policies in which the environment is always considered, he explains.

So when Mr McAskie talks about his interests in the economy and the way the system needs to be re-examined, he speaks about the important difference between price and cost and moving away from greed and consumerism through green-tinted glasses.

"We need to look at our values - instead of measuring success as GDP, we really need to have quality of life as a primary consideration," he says. "Using natural resources has a cost, destroying the future and destroying the environment is also a cost and these costs need to be factored in."

Mr McAskie says surveys where voters are handed pages of policies without the names of political parties attached to them have seen the Greens consistently top the polls.

He says the reason this is not reflected in the actual election polls and in parliament and council buildings up and down the country is because the system of voting is against them.

He still would not advocate tactical voting though.

"I believe the only wasted vote is a vote you don't believe in. Even under this system, citizens could make quite a change if people voted for what they believe in.

"If people believe in our policies I would encourage them to vote for me."

So does he think those votes will see him proving popular come the final count?

"The feedback feels very good - we certainly seem to be quite popular at the moment," he says. "You get the feeling that people are taking more interest in us and people seem more receptive.