by Rob Telford
Bristol West: 10 minutes with each of your local Green candidates in May 2015
Number 1: Anna McMullen (Easton)
Anna McMullen is the Green Party candidate for Easton ward. Anna stood previously in Easton in 2013 and came second. She’s a policy director for Labour Behind The Label, an anti-sweatshop organisation which advocates for garment industry workers around the globe.
Why did you decide to stand for the Green Party in the local elections?
I joined the Greens in 2010 after feeling let down with what happened with the Coalition government. I joined because I wanted to do something positive. I wanted to be part of a campaign that was trying to call for real, positive changes and achieve them.
During those four years, the Greens have achieved significant things on the council. We’ve called for a living wage for the city which has been really successful. We’ve managed to ringfence the Independent Living Fund to protect the payment that allows people with severe disabilities and care needs to be able to live independently, which is brilliant. feel like it’s a positive and great thing to be part of and I want Easton to have those sort of representatives.
What in the local area do you think is a really important thing to focus on at the moment?
A lot of people are really worried about the litter. I’m worried about the litter! It’s horrible to have streets that stop people from feeling that they live in a beautiful place and that stop people feeling positive about the places where they live and stop children from being able to play safely outside. When there’s dog poo everywhere it’s not good to have kids playing around in the streets so we need to do something about that. The Green Party would want to make that a priority and renegotiate the waste contract with the council to make sure that is better and that it covers the inner city areas with the appropriate number of collections and street sweepers.
We also think it’s really important to have more public awareness raising about litter – more signs about fly-tipping, more signs about what the right thing to do with dog mess is, and enforcement and fines. And also, positive events to help people value the streets we live in. Things like Playing Out are fantastic for helping people really connect with their neighbours and connect with the built environment in which they live and I think raising that level of respect will, in the long-term, lead to people dropping less litter.
So obviously you’re standing as the local candidate, but Darren Hall is standing as the Bristol West MP candidate. Why do you think people should vote Green nationally if they’ve previously voted Green locally?
I think the Greens locally have given a flavour of what could be done on a national level. On the national level, we stand for a lot of radical, credible policies. We hope to achieve a national living wage not just a local living wage. The Greens are committed to try to deliver £10 an hour by 2020 as the minimum wage.
Caroline Lucas has been a fantastic example of what the Greens can achieve in Parliament, consistently pushing local Brighton issues and campaign issues that really matter like No More Page 3 and petitions from her constituents about Protecting Our NHS. she’s called for the public ownership of the railways through a Private Members Bill and she won MP of the Year, which is a fantastic recognition of what she’s achieved in Parliament.
I think the Greens with more representation could deliver really exciting changes for Bristol. Bristol could count on a Green MP to stand up for what our needs are and to listen to us and to be able to say those things that other MPs won’t say because their party whips its votes and tells their MPs what they have to stand for.
Can you tell me one thing, not necessarily a local issue, that you feel passionately about in your own life or that you’ve been working on recently?
In my job, I work for Labour Behind The Label, which is an anti-sweatshop campaign. I’m a policy director. I care really strongly about the global economy and how globalisation has had a negative impact on the poor across Asia.
The global garment industry is a system that’s set up to keep profits at the top and to keep wages and conditions low in garment-producing countries. I’ve been to see slum-housing areas where workers producing clothes for Marks & Spencer, H&M, Gap, Levi’s and Disney live in tenement housing where they have no running water, they share one toilet with open sewage for 40 people and can’t afford to send their children to school. And that’s really the result of the way in which we buy cheap clothing and the way in which we’ve somehow not managed to regulate global business.
It’s also about what we do in our legal and legislative environment in the UK. It’s up to us to try and drive that change because it’s our companies (that are registered in the UK) that are the ones who are creating those supply chains and poor jobs that lead to poverty around the world. And there’s more that we can do to make sure companies are called to account on international human rights standards. That’s a strong theme in what I really care about.
Coming back to the local, what do you like most about living in Easton?
I love Easton. I love the shops. I love the make-do-and-mend environment. I love the way that you know everyone. There are a lot of people who are just really friendly and a lot of communities interact with each other. I love the fact that it’s a really diverse area. We’ve got a lot going for ourselves!
Are there any other challenges that are facing this community in the coming years?
I think we could do a lot more to support our businesses to develop. Church Road is becoming a thriving sector and a hub, but in order to make it a real destination for shoppers and to develop better transport links to help those businesses grow. I really want to do whatever I can as a local councillor on this. Childcare is a big issue. Easton ward has the most 0-4 year olds in the city. There are a lot of parents who are facing real challenges about how to deal with childcare in an affordable way and to enable as many to go back to work as possible. We don’t have enough childcare places. I want to support parent support networks to make sure there’s funding for groups like SPAN (Single Parent Action Network) and other parent support groups that allow safe spaces for parents to bring kids to play and discuss any issues that they’re facing and find solidarity. Nationally, the Greens are committed to free childcare for 1 to 6 year olds. I think that’s a really important policy to allow women to access work and not to have the economic factor be the main problem for them.
And finally…if you could be Mayor for one day, what one thing would you do?
I would arrange a meeting with David Cameron and tell him that Bristol isn’t going to accept the cuts for yet another year.