INTERVIEW: Mike Greene, Brexit Party MP candidate for Peterborough
Ahead of the Peterborough by-election, we spoke with the Brexit Party’s MP candidate, Mike Greene. He told us that the party is about more than just Brexit; it’s about fundamentally changing British politics from the bottom-up.
In the space of just two months, the Brexit Party has become one of Britain’s leading political parties. Having won the European elections by storm, they’re now setting their sights closer to home – that is, on the green benches of Westminster.
The Peterborough by-election offers just this chance, and the Brexit Party candidate for this race, Mike Greene, is sure they can win it.
“This is much more fundamental than a protest vote,” Mike told us.
“Sometimes words evolve beyond their original meaning. Just as ‘Apple’ makes you think of technology before fruit, so will Brexit eventually become associated with independence, democracy and a new kind of politics.”
This is much more fundamental than a protest vote.
But as far as this election is concerned, the more immediate concern is convincing Peterborough that he’s the man for the job. Naturally, I wanted to know what he can offer his constituents in terms of real policy.
“I’ve been very clear on my four pledges for Peterborough," he told me. "Improve both primary and secondary education; establish a university; attract investment and jobs; build more homes.”
This is Mike’s answer to the criticism that the Brexit Party is a one-issue party. This alone might convince some, but even Mike will tell you that promises at elections don’t always translate into action:
“The definition of ‘manifesto’ mentions parliamentary promises, but more and more it’s becoming associated with broken promises. The main parties have failed the people.”
For this reason, he's keen to reassure voters of his background in Peterborough, not least having grown up in the city.
As far as education is concerned, he has an Honorary Doctorate in Education from Anglia Ruskin University for his “outstanding contributions to education,” adding that he has “spent many years speaking to parents, teachers and heads on issues they care about.”
In particular, he emphasised the urgent need to fix Peterborough's near-bottom position in national rankings for both primary and secondary education.
When it comes to the establishment of a university of Peterborough, Mike was a founding member of the committee that put the plan into motion. After he was satisfied that the project had raised sufficient funds, Mike stepped back for a while, only to find later that there were repeated delays. Bringing this to completion, therefore, is one of the pillars of his election campaign.
The job of an MP is to represent the needs of their constituents. What we’re seeing instead is a whipping system that's almost undemocratic.
In business, too, Mike can sincerely claim to have a wealth of experience. Not only did he own and run a successful business himself, he advised other businesses all around the world, including within the EU.
While Mike can claim a solid policy platform, many still question whether his party can successfully fight a general election, especially given the differing policy preferences between the North and the South. This is a critical issue for the Brexit Party. Mike's answer to this tells us something about the party's broader ambitions:
“Politics should be built up of local issues, and the job of an MP is to represent the needs of their constituents. What we’re seeing instead is a whipping system that's almost undemocratic.
"Under the whip, MPs are no longer voting in the best interests of their constituency. A successful country should be made up of successful constituencies."
In the background of such statements, one can hear echoes of Nigel Farage's promise to bring about a "democratic revolution."
The Brexit Party’s stance on no-deal has – to put it lightly – got people talking. Still, I wondered if Mike thought there was anything to be concerned about if we left the EU without a deal.
“No. I’ve advised wholesalers and large retail groups with international elements. I’ve done it here, America, Australia, New Zealand and across 18 different European countries."
"Of course," he continued, "with any change, there’s the hockey stick effect: a brief transition period, followed by an upturn that leads to a better position, but the concerns spread by ‘Project Fear’ are not founded on fact, they’re not founded on the actual beliefs of British businesses with international experience."
Just as the interview came to an end, I was curious to know if he believes, like Lance Forman MEP does, that politicians can learn from businesspeople. Not only did he agree with Lance, he also regarded it as "part of the challenge" in British politics.
“Too many politicians have never had experience outside of politics. They learnt it at sixth form, then at uni, then – after becoming an aide and perhaps a councillor – they become an MP. They are limited by this lack of real experience in work or business."
"I’m not saying there shouldn’t be career politicians," he concluded, "it’s just that the current balance is too much in favour of that route. These are people who struggle to connect."