It’s not easy being a Green, says co-leader Bartley

By Rachel Steinberg
December 8 2019, 10.05

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley has a wobbly kitchen table.

If you lean on it too hard you risk throwing it off-kilter and knocking over your tea.

Balance is something the divorced father of three is struggling to achieve—and he’s aware of the toll his career is taking on his children.

“To be really honest I wish I was a better dad,” said the 48-year-old.

“My kids were with me and we put up Christmas decorations. “But I lost three hours with them because I had to go up to Manchester to support Siân Berry in the debate.

“It’s this constant struggle between home and work life.

“They’re amazingly understanding. But it’s a big regret for me. “The job is always in the back of your mind. You have one eye on the news, your phone is incessantly going off. “I’m trying to be present for my children and really make those moments count.”

The table, Mr Bartley explained, was a makeshift solution to accommodate his son Samuel’s wheelchair.

Samuel, 17, has spina bifida, cerebral palsy and learning difficulties. In 2010, Mr Bartley’s impromptu on-camera confrontation with David Cameron over mainstream schooling for disabled children made national headlines.

It also reinvigorated his belief in politics.

He said: “I found the House such an oppressive place I’d just disengaged. But for 24 hours we had a debate about disabled children during a general election.”

Mr Bartley was still wearing his coat.

He went to bed after midnight in Manchester and was back in London at nine to take Samuel to the hospital.

The drummer, who played Glastonbury with his blues band the Mustangs, happily assigned instruments to his political rivals.

Mr Bartley said: “Boris would be on the bongos making a lot of noise and muddying the waters.

“The music would be inappropriate and probably a different style to the rest of the band.

“Jeremy Corbyn has made a big thing about his allotment. I can picture him putting on some soft easy listening in the garden.

“Jo Swinson on the keyboards. Rather embarrassing grime. Trying to be down with the kids but failing miserably.”

Mr Bartley’s Greens are also trying to get down with the kids—by lowering the voting and candidacy age to 16.

He said: “The idea that a 16-year-old wouldn’t be a better MP than a 26-year-old is nonsense.

“We’ve seen young people showing leadership in the youth climate strikes which our current MPs have dismally failed on.”

Mr Bartley, who was arrested during the Extinction Rebellion protests, understands it will take more for members of marginalised communities to participate fully in politics and protest.

He said: “If you’re BME your attitude to the police is going to be different.

“Expecting someone to put their body on the line is a much taller order given the way those communities have been treated.”

Mr Bartley acknowledged environmentalism might not be a priority for someone struggling to make ends meet.

That’s why, he said, the Greens are taking a bottom-up approach by investing in local communities.

The party is pledging an £89 weekly universal basic income by 2025 funded by carbon tax and £10 billion for local authorities.

Mr Bartley’s politics are inspired by his faith but he is critical of institutional religion.

He said: “Jesus was a political threat to the status quo and the establishment.

“I think that’s why I always feel happier in opposition.

“You can’t beat people into submission in either religion or environmentalism. You need to present people with choices.

“It’s not enough to say if everyone sorts themselves out and gets on the right moral footing then the world would be a better place.

“Change the system and you change people’s lives. That’s the bottom line.”

Read more about what’s important to south west London constituencies in our 24-page General Election preview special.

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