It’s the European elections in twelve days. It’s the UK general election next year.
Politics is really on my mind at the moment. It’s a mixture of excitement at exercising my voting ability for the first time (the last general election was just before my 18th birthday), hope that things may get better after this, and anxiety as UKIP fever sweeps the nation.
Whether it’s misguided praise or spitting rage, everyone seems to be talking about this new extreme-right party, and the BBC have been granting it’s leader an outrageous chunk of airtime. What I’m most baffled about is that, according to the polls, many people are voting for them because they are sick of the traditional parties and want to ”stick to the man”, as it were.
This is ludicrous. The leader of UKIP is a public school educated ex-Tory campaigner and ex banker – hardly outside the establishment. And the party’s only solution to the current day’s myriad of problems is to leave the EU. No mention of addressing the huge wealth inequality in this country, or the tax avoidance scandals, or the poverty, much less issues like climate change, fossil fuel dependency and discrimination. Real change is not on their menu, that’s for sure.
Those looking to really shake up the political world (rather than just collect bombastic headlines) should be looking to the Green Party. They’re genuinely an alternative to the old cosy three party crew. Partly because their policies are actually bold, proactive and logical (e.g. investing in green energy to create jobs and wean ourselves off fossil fuels, retrofitting houses, keeping the NHS public, lowering tuition fees, re-nationalising the railways etc) and partly because they are funded solely by their members, not big corporate backers. The three main parties and UKIP all receive funding from corporations – which to my mind seriously reduces their ability to do what their everyday supporters want and need.
I watched Question Time for the first time yesterday. I thought it’d be interesting because they had both UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Green MP Caroline Lucas on the show, as well as MPs from the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem parties as normal. As unhappy as I am about the far-right getting lots of attention, I must say it’s a breath of fresh air to have these five parties represented, simply because it widens the debate to cover more of the political spectrum, rather than the very narrow and increasingly similar centre slice the three ‘standard’ parties occupy. This is what democracy’s about: having choice, and having a plurality of views recognised.
Lucas, who happens to be my MP and someone I have a lot of respect for, was calm and collected throughout the debate, making her points eloquently even when it descended into a shouting match. I’m glad she was there, because there’s a terrible trend with our mainstream media to ignore or leave out the Green Party. The excuse used to be that they were too small. It’s true, they only have one MP. (Although they do have three MEPs and over 170 councilors). But UKIP has (thank god) not a single MP so far, and yet they’ve been getting insane amounts of coverage, and leader Farage has been on Question Time 14 times, more than any other politician! I suppose it’s just because they’re so extreme that they make ”good telly”. And then there’s all the embarrassing racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamaphobic quotes from various UKIP members that journalists keep digging up. Nothing like a bit of the old shock factor to get the press buzzing around you like wasps on discarded treacle.
This poll for the coming Europe elections shows the Greens are in first place, closely followed by UKIP, then Labour, then the Lib Dems, then the Tories and then a gaggle of smaller parties with very few votes. This came as quite a shock to me, as I’m used to the Greens being something of an under-dog. The sample is just over 1,100 people and is still growing (you can cast your vote!) but it’s obviously not at all representative of the country. However it’s clearly not something that’s just been circulated on eco forums, or UKIP wouldn’t have done so scarily well!
I suppose these two very opposite parties beating the ”main three” signifies a shift in the political climate of this country. People are fed up with business as usual, and want to try something new. That means quite different choices for different people, but at least we’re daring to demand something else.
I’m sure it’s quite obvious from my general writing that I’ll be voting Green both in the European elections and the general elections next year. If you’re intrigued, you can check out their mini manifesto here. But of course you may not agree with me.
Just please use your vote, on the 22nd May and next year.
And if you’re not sure who to vote for, this opinion quiz is actually really useful. It asks you your stance on loads of hot topic issues, gets you to rate how important they are too you, then shows which party/parties you most agree with. Good for the armchair activist who wants to get it right but doesn’t want to spend hours on research.