by Rob Telford
Bristol West: 10 minutes with each of your local Green candidates
Number 2: Gus Hoyt (Ashley)
Gus Hoyt is the Green Party candidate for Ashley ward. Gus was elected in 2011 and was the first Green councillor in Bristol to defend a council seat. Gus was re-elected in 2015 with the largest ever vote for a city councillor of nearly 4500 votes. Gus is a sustainable food champion and has an MSc in sustainable development.
Why are you re-standing to be the councillor in Ashley ward?
A few people recently have asked me why I’m standing again as I’ve come in for quite a lot of stick. The simple answer is because I know how much good I can do. I’ve done this for almost four years now and I would run out of fingers and toes if I counted how many projects I’ve been involved in and lives I’ve been able to improve. That’s the reason I got involved in politics in the first place and why I’m happily running again.
What are the main local issues at the moment?
It’s always litter on streets, fly-tipping, collection (or non-collection) of bins, communal bins, inadequate local transport, dangerously poor air quality, pavements being clogged up, the huge rise in tagging on the walls – not just in Stokes Croft but all through Montpelier, St Pauls and well… all over, basically.
Actually, housing issues are becoming much more prevalent in my daily casework. That doesn’t tend to be public campaigns, that’s more private, just dealing with people, every day, who are affected themselves.
Oh, and Residents’ Parking of course!
People may have voted locally for the Green Party, and they might have done in the past, but why should people vote for a Green MP?
The Green Party is the only political party that offers true vision, rather than simply “we’d substitute x for y”. The manifesto, which is coming out any day now, will be fully costed and will show an alternative, not just to austerity but to ‘business as usual’, the dogmatic mantra that economic growth should be at the foundation of all public policy. We believe that change is needed as to how we view society as a whole, not just economically but socially and environmentally.
I’ve had the opportunity of working with Darren Hall [the Green Party’s MP candidate for Bristol West] for a couple of years. I know how energetic, positive and creative he is as a worker. He has a really can-do attitude, he doesn’t let people drag him down, which I think is essential in that kind of job. And he’s absolutely dedicated not just to the green agenda but to the whole social justice and fairness agenda as well.
What’s your background? What are the passions that drive you?
I never thought I would go into politics. Most of my professional life I’ve been a chef or line cook. I’ve spent most of my life in restaurants and cafes and I think that’s formulated quite a lot of my beliefs. I started off as the pot-wash and worked my way up and I believe it’s very important when you work in any organisation to start low-down and work your way up rather than just getting drafted straight in at the top. It also helps you really appreciate all the different roles that people are going through, so it gives you a greater understanding, rather than just knowing your job and wondering why other people aren’t delivering on theirs – you actually understand why. The long hours and working at weekends was quite good preparation for becoming a councillor too!
When I was a chef in the early days, I started to look at where food was actually coming from. Meat doesn’t just come frozen or pre-packed in cellophane – where does that meat story begin? So very early on I became a food campaigner and that’s something that has driven me throughout my life and will continue to do so, whether through my professional career or not.
It was questions like this that led me to do an MSc in my 30s at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales which completely changed my life and made me realise I needed to get as involved as possible with green issues to make a difference.
I lived by the sea for a great deal of my adult life and activities like sailing and diving drove my interest in marine ecology and the almost unfathomable effect we – as humans – have had on the oceans.
What do you like most about living in Ashley ward?
Well, it’s a group of different communities, but each one is just as welcoming. I walk or cycle everywhere and generally have to factor an extra half an hour onto my journeys as I’m always bumping into people who want to engage in local issues. About a week or so ago, I was popping out to buy a pint of milk because my mum was visiting (I don’t drink milk in my tea so I had to go out specifically for that!) and bumped into a neighbour of mine who wanted to quiz me on Green Party international economic policy and our views on TTIP! I don’t know anywhere else really – well, very few other places – where that would genuinely happen. That’s the kind of discussion neighbours actually do have with each other here.
What other challenges are there locally and nationally?
The elephant in the room is the economy. Whoever gets in, whether it’s blue or red, they’ve promised that they will continue to carry on with austerity and slash councils’ budgets. The city council is just about managing at the moment. I believe about another £41m in further cuts are prescribed over the coming years. This will place cities under increasingly unrealistic pressure and is exactly why we need to collectively say no to Government cuts and Austerity.
If you were Mayor for the day, what single thing would you do?
I’m going to cheat slightly and go for two related issues. I’d follow San Francisco’s lead with regards to banning single-use plastic and polystyrene.