Political leanings – “I don’t actually identify with any party, but I guess if I was going to lean any way, it would be towards the Green Party.”
Big Idea – To put ‘Planet Before Profit’ as she believes the government aren’t paying attention to the environmental issues. Caroline would cut funding to all future non green projects starting with scrapping HS2 and use Citizens Assemblies to investigate, discuss and make recommendations on government policies.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Tenacious, principled, easy-going.
Why are you interested in politics?
I am getting increasingly disillusioned with the type of politics that we have. I’ll be honest with you; I didn’t know much about politics at all a few years ago. I’ve really had my eyes opened. And what I realised was that I’d been labouring under the misapprehension that the government were there to take care of us. I now realise that this is a fallacy. They are self-serving, they’re not there to represent the people who elected them to power, they are there to pander to the vested interests, to line their own pockets, and feather their own nests, and are probably at the behest of multinational corporations and lobbyists and are only focussed on the next general election rather than the long-term interests of citizens of this nation and the world. We need to look beyond the next election, and we need to look beyond our borders. At around the same time, I was awakened to the climate crisis, and I began to appreciate that we need to look much further term than politicians look. The system of democracy that we have is broken, it’s not fit for purpose. When you look at the ministers who are determining policy and steering the country, they don’t represent the citizens of the nation. They are not a cross-section of the British population. I think they look to their own vested interests and their ambitions rather than what’s best for the country. I don’t think that’s peculiar to this government, I think it’s the case all over the world.
How would you describe your political leanings? Do you identify with a particular party?
I don’t actually, but I guess if I was going to lean any way, it would be towards the Green Party. I was brought up in a working class, aspirational, Tory household, and that’s the way I voted for many years. Now I’m staggered that I was entrenched in that and quite blinkered. I was brought up in a small North Staffordshire mining town during the miner’s strike, and some of my friends had dads who were miners, and some of my friends had dads who were policemen, and they were on opposite sides of the picket line, and by day the kids were at school replicating what their parents were doing. It was a really good social education. With that background in mind, I did have a sympathy and an empathy beyond that kind of Tory aspirational household. I think that’s stood me in good stead.
Who is your political hero?
At the moment, I quite like Zara Sultana, I’ve got a bit of a girl crush on her. I think she’s a really powerful woman. I think she’s really inspirational. She’s very brave in what she says, I think she’s very principled, and has a well-rounded understanding of what’s going on and what’s gone on in the past, and what needs to be done going forward.
And political villain?
Priti Patel. Don’t get me started on her.
Do you have any experience in a political role?
No I don’t, absolutely none. And I have to admit, this is all a bit of a whirlwind to me, being part of this process. I think my first real taste of political shenanigans was shortly after I became interested in politics, just prior to the 2019 election. I was involved in organising climate crisis hustings in the town where I lived at the time. That was my first foray into rubbing shoulders with actual politicians. One of them was my local MP who was standing for re-election, I met several other local politicians. That was an interesting experience, and probably an anecdote not for this interview! Around the same time, I attended my first local council meetings.
You’ve also been very active in terms of demonstrating, haven’t you?
Yeah. It all happened around the same time, really. The exposure to environmental activism came slightly before the interest in politics. I went down to London to visit my eldest daughter and it happened to be at the same time as the Extinction Rebellion protests. I had absolutely no awareness beforehand and it was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I’d never camped before, and I found myself camping in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in the pouring rain. It was just a eureka moment, really. I remember getting out of my tent in the middle of the night in the pouring rain in Central London and thinking “Of all the places in all the world, this feels like exactly where I should be right now.” That was quite a pivotal experience for me.
Have you had any run-ins with the authorities while demonstrating?
Oh yes! I’ve actually been arrested three times and summonsed once. Two of those occasions, it was planned, I went into those demonstrations knowing full well what the outcome might be. My reasons for going into those protests were well-thought-through, and it wasn’t just a case of going and sitting in a road to get arrested. I’d gone through all the political channels of phoning, making the complaints, writing emails, sending letters, being persistent, and in the end, I thought it wasn’t getting me anywhere. So I decided to take direct action. All the cases, I hasten to add, have been dropped, and there was no grounds for my arrest or for any charges associated with them. That in itself is an interesting experience. I am convinced that, in some situations, the police are used quite cynically to arrest protesters, get them off the streets, put them on bail conditions and get them out of the way so they can’t continue protesting.
What would your strengths be in the role of Prime Minister?
I’m a very honest person, and I try to be as honest with myself as I am with other people. I think I’ve got a lot of self-awareness, and I’m aware of my own limitations. I’m also very keen to encourage other people, I don’t particularly like being in the limelight, which is a bit odd considering I have a social media presence and do a lot of live-streaming. I think that I’ve got quite a broad range of experience, through my career in teaching, and subsequently in hairdressing. I communicate with lots of people from different social backgrounds. I think I’ve got a good all-round awareness for what it's like in this country for people who are struggling to make ends meet, or struggling with the NHS, or to get assistance with mental health problems. I think I’m an empathetic person, but I’m also capable of taking tough decisions. And above all other things, I would not be doing this for myself, but for the cause that I believe in. I’m not in this for any glory for myself. I’ve always maintained that if people aspire to leadership, that very aspiration should preclude them from achieving it. And, ironically, here I am.
What about your weaknesses?
I do sometimes take things quite personally. And I always go away from things wondering if I could have done things better.
If you were PM what is the first law you would pass?
Can I cheat here and say that the first thing I would do would be to repeal some laws. That would be the Nationality and Borders Bill and the Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Bill. I think they are absolutely heinous and really draconian.
What other things would you tackle quickly?
I’d like to stop HS2. It encapsulates everything that is wrong with UK politics. It is undemocratic, it’s corrupt, it beggars belief that it should be going ahead when the budget has increased more than threefold, it’s an environmental disaster, it’s financially ruinous. And I’d introduce a citizens’ assembly to decide how the money released by HS2 could be better spent on other projects that are truly green infrastructure projects, such as upgrading and improving our current rail network and insulating homes. We need to cut our carbon emissions drastically, and quickly. The IPCC report last year said unequivocally that human activities led to the carbon emissions that we see, and this year, Antonio Gutierrez, the leader of the UN, said that the environmental protestors are not the dangerous radicals, it’s the governments and corporations that have been lying to us about how we’re likely to hit our targets – we absolutely are not! I think citizens assemblies are great, because they’re not looking at the short-termism of the next general election but can look much further ahead than that. And I think they’re a great way of getting people more engaged in politics.
According to Theresa May, the naughtiest thing she ever did was run through a field of wheat. What is the naughtiest thing you have ever done?
I couldn’t possibly tell you! My kids might get to hear about it! I think it’s attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but “Well-behaved women rarely changed history.” Everybody has to be a little bit naughty.
What specific aspects of the show are you looking forward to, and what are you nervous about?
The aspect I’m looking forward to most is meeting the other people, seeing what makes them tick, and what they have to offer. When I became interested in politics, I think quite naturally birds of a feather flock together, and you tend to exist in your own echo chamber. So it’ll be good to experience a little bit more of what people are thinking outside that echo chamber. Every day’s a school day. By the same token, I think sometimes meeting other people might be quite difficult as well. It’ll be interesting to see how we all rub up against each other.
If the chance arose in real life, would you consider standing for parliament?
I’d have to question my motivations for that. If I felt that I could contribute, and there was a chance of changing the political system that we have for the better, so that it was truly representative, and did really act for the citizens, and had a long-term view to tackling the climate crisis, which is the biggest issue that we face, then yes, it’s something I would consider.
How do you feel about working with Sayeeda Warsi and Alastair Campbell?
I’m really looking forward to that. Alastair Campbell fascinates me, I think he’ll be very interesting to talk with, and Baroness Warsi I’ve seen on Question Time and things and thought to myself that she talks a lot of sense, and then she’ll say something that I’m not sure about. So it’ll be really interesting to talk to her and experience more of her views and opinions.