18 February 2015

Natalie Bennett Visits Harrogate & District


Natalie Bennett Visits Harrogate & District


Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was in Harrogate & Knaresborough Monday 16th February.  Completing a tour of the country, Ms Bennett was visiting local and ethical businesses, visiting the Food Bank and speaking to Corrina Young, the head of the new PAYF cafe run entirely on would-be food waste. Ms Bennett also delivered a public speech in the evening.

Natalie arrived at midday by rail, experiencing the crowded and uncomfortable journey from Leeds. Local Greens met her at the station, including Harrogate & Knaresborough parliamentary candidate Shan Oakes, campaigning for the renationalisation of the rail services as she arrived at the platform. The Green Party are passionately committed to investing in local public transport and Harrogate & District Greens continue to campaign for better links across the county and the electrification of tracks through the District in order to better connect communities in the area.

The focus of the day then turned to supporting local trade – a key pillar in Green philosophy, in an attempt to wrestle back control of local communities from the overly dominant multi-national corporations, those who drain our economies of resources, whilst too often failing to take any social responsibility for the societies from which they profit. Natalie spoke to staff and owner at Baltzersens, local independent cafe, discussing the need to promote further local trade/manufacturing and the real gap in the market for a local soft drink manufacturer. A Green voice in the District would help to realise these ambitions.

Taking the 36 bus service to Killinghall (and experiencing the terrible congestion and air quality plaguing the district), Natalie visited the Harrogate & District Food Bank. Part of the Trussell Trust, Natalie shared her experience of visiting a number of such food banks up and down the country, a direct results she says comes from various factors including “the vicious benefit sanctions regime”. Natalie learnt of the challenges facing the local Food Bank which has 50 volunteers at its disposal, not least in the huge demand they face but particularly in the need to outreach to rural areas.  “We should not rest until the last Food Bank closes due to lack of demand” Ms Bennett said. Harrogate & District Food Bank are always looking for volunteers/donations and more information can be found here: http://harrogatedistrict.foodbank.org.uk/

Back in Harrogate, Natalie toured further local and ethical businesses including Bean & Bud cafe, The Cheeseboard of Harrogate, Lowther’s Fruit & Vegetable Store, Blues Cafe Bar, Oxfam shop and Betty’s. Greens stand up for local business over dominant corporations and commend other businesses nationally (such as Lush – who operate to high ethical standards) and Fair Trade organisations. It is our view that local economies are more valuable than distant ones; we need to keep prosperity circling in a District, not leeching out to economic powerhouses elsewhere. This vision was one Ms Bennett espoused to each shop owner.

The Green Party also met local resident Corrina Young – founder of Corrina’s Homeless & Vulnerable Project, which provides a two course meal to those in need every Sunday in Harrogate. Corrina spoke of her new venture Corrina and Friends community pay as you feel cafe – cooked meals made from would be waste produce, all profits going back to the project. Corrina spoke of her key aim – to reduce food waste (amounting to £2.4 million per year) and help to stop some of the 4 million people going hungry each night. Ms Bennett again expressed her admiration for the project but also contempt for the fact that a humane society should ensure projects such as these are necessary. Harrogate & District Green Party continue to support Corrina in all of her efforts. The cafe is due to open on 01/05/2015 and more details can be found at http://corrinaandfriends.co.uk/ .

Ms Bennett finished her day in Harrogate delivering a well attended talk at the Constance Green Hall, St Aidan’s COE School. Here, the general public learnt of the Green vision for a sustainable and humane society as Ms Bennett delivered her speech on the ‘politics of hope’ the Green Party promotes. The full talk can be seen here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTHF1S7fqg4 .

Ms Bennett finished her tour of the area the following morning, visiting more local businesses in Knaresborough – Piccalilli (http://www.piccandeat.co.uk/) the sandwich shop, who discussed the unfair treatment small business feels in comparison to big business whose large delivery trucks cause carnage on the high street, Giraffe the clothing store and Coriander the fruit and vegetable shop, who explained the struggle to find suppliers in the local area. Finally, Ms Bennett visited the local library where she explained the Green Party’s anti-austerity stance. A library said Ms Bennett is “a vital part of a civilized society”.