Profile Series: Bristol's Political Societies - GreenSoc

At Bristol University, the student political spectrum is wide; we have societies to represent four of the parties, and most students seem politically engaged to some degree. The societies engage in both debates and more playful events (such as the cross-party speed dating event which took place earlier this month). I am interested in which issues polarise student opinion and which transcend politics to unite us. In this series I will be asking Bristol University's four political societies (GreenSoc, Bristol Labour Students, Conservative Association and Liberal Democrat Students) to answer the same set of (mainly a-political) questions. For the first article of the series, I spoke to Bristol's GreenSoc president Aimee Wilkinson, with imput from James Foster, Amy Heley and Lucy Rycroft.

 

Firstly, can you explain why you identify with the Green Party, and why you felt you wanted to get involved with the society at university?

The Green Party has always been a force to be reckoned with. The first time I truly understood this was after seeing footage of Caroline Lucas speaking in a parliamentary debate as the only opposition against a sea of Tories. Greens aren’t afraid to speak out about the things that really matter, like climate change and true democracy; I love that.

 

What is the gender balance like in your society?

GreenSoc is a small but inclusive society. We pride ourselves on having such a great mix of people and welcome people of all genders. Everyone is accepted here.

 

How do you feel your society gets on with the other political societies at Bristol?

As a society, we’re always open to a bit of friendly debate. Of course there are issues that we disagree on, but as a society we’re about collaboration and so we’re always happy to attend a pub night or two. In the words of our co-leader, Jonathan Bartley: “if we do disagree, we talk about it and resolve the problem.”

 

Recently, there were protests after Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg came to speak at UWE. How do you respond to the events?

In light of Rees-Mogg’s appalling and frankly archaic track record when it comes to basic human rights, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him defend the protests. Students are indeed "entitled to protest” and GreenSoc stands in solidarity with them for exercising this right. Freedom of speech and peaceful protest are basic human rights and any compromise of these is fundamentally against what the Green Party stands for.

 

What is your opinion on Bristol University’s freedom of speech policy?

Though I can understand the fear from which this policy comes from, I have to disagree with any limitation placed upon freedom of expression. The Green Party is opposed to all forms of censorship in the media and cultural activities for adults and believes that organisations, including Bristol University, should be held responsible for ensuring that both participants and audiences are not subject to any form of discriminatory treatment or abuse. The University has a duty to uphold academic freedom, whilst providing safe spaces that are free from oppression and hate speech.

 

How did you feel about Brexit at the time; how do you feel about it now?

The Greens are, and will always be, opposed to Brexit; we have made this clear. There’s no question that the Brexit campaign was fuelled by lies and opportunism, and this has left many feeling let down by the whole thing. In contrast to other parties, we believe in empowering normal people and giving them the right to decide on the future of their countries. That’s why we support a ratification referendum on the final deal made with the European Union. But lets be incredibly clear, this is not a “second referendum” or an opportunity to “try again” until we get a result we want. If the public like the deal, then we support this, but if the public decide the deal is not what they want, then they have the right to say no thank you.

 

Would you have voted for same-sex marriage in the UK; is there a general consensus amongst your society?

Of course! The Green Party was thrilled when the House of Commons passed legislation to allow same-sex marriage and it continues to put pressure on the government to be more progressive in its approach to relationships. The Green Party believes that young people should be brought up to understand that there is no "one size fits all approach" to relationships, that they may experience sexual and/or romantic feelings towards people of any or no gender, or they may not experience sexual and/or romantic feelings at all.

 

Should Trump be allowed to come to the UK?

Donald Trump is undoubtedly "a racist bigot" and it’s about time that the UK Government starts standing up to him. The recent protests in London and throughout the devolved nations have shown us that Trump and his deplorable views are not welcome here. If a visit does occur as planned, I certainly don’t think public ceremonies and state receptions are justified.

 

Do you feel like the current leader of your party is doing a good job?

The Greens are proud to do things differently, and this means we don’t have just one leader - we have two! Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley were elected in 2016 and since then they have worked consistently hard to promote our democratically-decided policies. I am proud to be represented by such intelligent, forward-thinking individuals.

 

How well do you feel you’re represented at Bristol University?

In all honesty, I think the Greens have so much to offer to the university but this hasn’t thus far translated into membership. We are working hard to change this and would be happy to hear from anyone who wants to get involved!

 

Links:

GreenSoc Facebook

Green Party Website

GreenSoc @ Bristol SU