May 7th – Do The Right Thing

April 18, 2015

We are on the verge of what feels like the most important UK general election of my adulthood. Against a backdrop of the global financial crisis and austerity we are witnessing a rise in far right extremism across Europe. Scotland very nearly voted to break up the country, and probably would do so if given another chance. The position of the traditional third party in British politics has been destroyed and new parties are soaring in popularity. The relentless rise of the media and especially social media, is bringing politicians and their personalities, if not their policies, ever more to the fore. What is for certain is that the result of this election is incredibly difficult to predict, and that alone makes this vote important and intriguing. So, how should you vote? Read on for my suggestion!

Firstly, if you are financially comfortable and your choice of political party is motivated by maintaining or increasing your personal wealth, then this post probably isn’t for you. However, I would ask you to have a long hard look in the mirror and make sure you are happy with what you see. I choose to believe in the good in all people but also that anyone can be seduced by commercialism and the lure of owning more shiny things. Just make sure you are comfortable being the type of person who puts their own desires ahead of the needs of the less fortunate. People have a tendency to become more right wing in their voting behaviour as they age. I’ve heard this attributed to having children and the desire to protect what belongs to their family. This baffles me. My children were born since the last general election and it is far more important to me that they grow up as caring, selfless, tolerant members of a positive society than that they have holidays abroad twice a year. If you are becoming increasingly opposed to paying your fair share of tax as you age, please don’t blame it on your kids.

Next up, a few thoughts for those of you who believe that conservative fiscal ideology is best for society as a whole. The people who believe that if you keep tax and public spending low you motivate people to work hard and you reward the successful. Those of you who believe that benefits encourage laziness and that privatisation promotes valuable competition and efficiency. You and I are never going to agree but if you truly think that’s what’s best, then I respect that. However, I cannot fathom how any decent human being would vote for the morally bankrupt collection of cheats and bigots that comprise the current Conservative Party in the UK.

The party whose chairman used a false name to run a company offering online get rich quick schemes and a publication called “Stinking Rich 3”. Oh, and he lied about this for several years.

Or, how about the Chancellor whose best man’s hedge fund made £36m from the under priced sale of the Royal Mail.

Then there is the cuddly Mayor of London who referred to the £250,000 per year he gets from the Daily Telegraph as “chicken feed” and who attributed the high rates of women entering Malaysian universities to the fact that “They’ve got to find men to marry.”

Or how about my delightful local MP who is opposed to gay marriage and the teaching of the updated definition of marriage in schools. Astonishingly, he tried to justify this by asserting that parents of children who held similar view might be treated as bigots and outcast. You mean bigots and outcasts would be treated as bigots and outcasts? Maybe he’s an outlier. A lone maverick extremist. In fact, the majority of Tory MPs voted against gay marriage.

Nice guys, aren’t they? Well, perhaps you can forgive them all that stuff because of the great job they are doing of running the country. Maybe they’re a bit naughty but they know what’s best for us deep down? Let’s have a look at this government’s performance, then. I urge you read Eoin Clarke’s full list, very brief highlights of which include:
  • Homelessness, which fell by 41% under Labour, is up 27% under Cameron
  • We have 10,000 fewer teachers and three times as many over crowded classrooms
  • £11b was spent on NHS Agency Staff & NHS Redundancies, only for 25% of the redundant staff to be re-hired
  • Uncollected tax has risen by 10% (£3b) since 2010
  • The number of children living in absolute poverty increased by 13% under Cameron, whereas Labour cut it in half
  • Despite their racist advertising vans and anti-immigration rhetoric, immigration is up by 20% since 2010 (yay!) although the government lied about this, claiming it had fallen by 25% (boo!)
Now, a quick aside on UKIP. Again, if you are even vaguely contemplating voting UKIP, I suspect my ramblings will fall on deaf ears, but here goes anyway:

Firstly, a reminder from Vice that your party members and officials are genuinely batshit crazy. A visit to the UKIP party conference unearthed party representatives including racists, homophobes and Neil Hamilton.

UKIP have gained popularity by capitalising on irrational fear.  Times are tough, so UKIP tells us to be fearful of those who are different. Someone’s got to be to blame, right? But, as we all know, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”  And Darth Farage is all about the dark side, even if he’s not so keen on dark skin.

To quote Owen Jones’s excellent open letter to UKIP supporters:

“I’m not going to waste your time or patronise you by preaching the benefits of immigration. Instead, I want to ask you this. Who has caused our country most problems: the bankers who plunged us into economic disaster, the expenses-milking politicians who have the cheek to lecture us on benefit fraud, the wealthy tax-dodgers keeping £25 billion a year from the Exchequer; the poverty wage-paying bosses and rip-off rent-charging landlords; or Indian nurses and Polish fruit pickers?”

So, why not vote Labour, the party of the people? Well, because they are not the party of the people any more. They are watered down Tories. One part austerity to three parts diluting agent just makes the poison taste less bitter. Tony Blair’s administration had years to abolish zero hour contracts, but didn’t. It was also Blair who took us to war in Iraq, and that went well, didn’t it? Several Labour MPs were caught with their fingers in the expenses till. One of Labour’s most senior politicians, Jack Straw, was caught in a very unsavoury cash for access sting.

Even if you believe those transgressions are in the past (and I don’t) then look at the current Labour manifesto. Raising minimum wage to just £8 an hour and not not until October 2019? Cutting tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000? Not even close to being good enough. And why no Robin Hood tax, a tiny levy on financial trading that would raise billions from the greedy banking system that got us into this mess in the first place?  

If you believe that the gap between the rich and poor is too large, if you believe that the fortunate have a duty to help the less fortunate, if you believe that the country should not be run by a rich, powerful elite of white men in grey suits and most of all, if you believe that the current political system is not working, then (in England at least) you must vote Green.

The Greens are the only party offering change, hope and positivity. There is enough wealth in this country for us all to live comfortably and happily. We just need distribute that wealth more fairly. The Green Party propose meaningful action to do this, targeting the richest individuals and corporations who have more than they can possibly need or deserve, in order to deliver free education, decent homes for everyone, better transport and a stronger NHS. They also propose radical reform to the political and banking systems that have failed us for so many years. 

One of the common criticisms of the Green Party is the suggestion that they won’t be able to balance the books. How will they possibly pay for all this kindness and decency? First of all, if you read their manifesto, they explain exactly how they will pay for it all. But, more importantly, this question is ludicrous as it implies that the incumbent parties have done an immaculate job of managing the country’s finances. Thank goodness we’ve not been racking up any debt thanks to the financial geniuses we’ve had in power! Whether they can balance the books is far less important than what they will do when the books don’t balance. Who will they penalise? Where will they go for money? Austerity policy says take the money from ordinary families. Green policy says take it from the richest. Which do you prefer?

Another argument against voting Green is that it is a waste of a vote. The cold harsh reality is that unless you live in a constituency that is likely to be marginal, in terms of selecting our elected representatives, however you vote, it is “wasted”.

But I don’t think it’s as straightforward as that. It is unlikely that a majority single-party government will be created following this election. It is highly feasible that no stable coalition will be successfully formed. There is a good chance that we’ll have another general election within a year or two. So, for the smaller parties, momentum is crucial. The Greens are polling anywhere between 4% and 8% and likely to retain their one MP with an outside chance of gaining another. Imagine if they got 8% and 2 MPs. That could put them on a par with the Lib Dems in terms of share of the vote and close to UKIP’s number of seats won. Then, imagine if their results improved further at the subsequent election. Before long, the Greens could have the third biggest share of the vote and become a significant force in British politics. And, from there, who knows!

If we don’t vote for the government we want, we won’t get it. That much is certain. But just in case you aren’t convinced, George Monbiot has conveniently identified the 16 constituencies where tactical voting away from Green may be advantageous. If you don’t live in one of them you really have no excuse. Monbiot also brilliantly articulates the fact that the Tories have duped us into thinking that reducing the deficit is the most important issue we face, with Labour following suit. In fact, this is a strikingly similar tactic to UKIP’s amplification of fear over immigration. Whether it’s spending on public services or people who happened to be born in a different place, these are not the real boogiemen. The problems we face are caused by greed, selfishness and a broken, old system designed to benefit a small ruling elite.

The Green Party manifesto is uplifting, original and vibrant. Take a couple hours of your life, and read it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And, come May 7th, do the right thing. Vote for the good guys.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: