The Greens have an incredibly attractive set of policies but would a vote for Natalie Bennett’s party have a detrimental effect?
After being forgotten for years – bar Caroline Lucas’ electoral success in 2010 – it seemed as if nothing would come of the ‘one issue’ Green Party, but recently something has changed, a ‘Green Surge’ is apparently taking place. Recently, on websites such as Facebook and Twitter, I have noticed many of my friends engaging in Green Party infographics, friends who have showed no interest in politics before now, so I was particularly surprised. After looking into this ‘Surge’ I noticed Green membership has risen to 20,000 members and is apparently rising by a further 1,000 every week. As well as this the website voteforpolicies.org revealed that the Greens would win the next General Election if people voted on the policies they supported the most. Polling also indicates the Greens are the second largest party among 18-20 year olds. This suddenly got me excited about the prospect of a new, anti-establishment party with ideas and views I could get behind. So then I had to ask myself, should I join?
I’ve been a member of The Labour Party since I was 16 and I recently participated in some work experience with my local Labour MP: I thought I was a committed Labourite. I used to dismiss the Social Democratic routes of Socialism in this country as too left wing and I thought I was a devout believer in The Third Way, even supporting David Miliband in the Labour leadership election. But recently I’ve felt disillusioned with a party going leftwards in one sense and rightwards in another…. What does Ed Miliband’s Labour Party actually believe in? I’ve also become more passionate about ideas such as the highly popular campaign to renationalise the railways and a policy with a different approach to fiscal matters – an alternative to Osborne’s austerity economics. The mainstream has also become less interested in issues such as renewable energy, helping the poorest (not simply vilifying them) and social issues such as equality. This is probably a result of the widely held view that party leaders are pandering to UKIP and the like-minded reactionary segments of the population.
But one of the most important issues to me at present is education. I feel like this is an area which should serve business, but not be a business. It should create the entrepreneurs of the future to drive our country forward. I completely agree with the view of scrapping tuition fees and abolishing private schools. The education system should become less elitist and self-serving, yet sadly this seems to be the direction it’s going. It should give opportunity to everyone and allow all of the talents to be fully recognised. This sector of society as well as public transport for instance, is vital to economic growth and our future. It should be free and encourage social mobility on a mass scale, yet with higher costs, harder exams and a fragmented system due to the private/state divide – not to mention the huge Uni fees – it seems quite the contrary. This may sound like a wacky socialist utopian vision of education, but it’s not. If we want our country to thrive there are certain areas which should be run by the people for the people and only the Greens seem to be in touch with this idea. They support ending University fees and having a fair high quality comprehensive school system. The curriculum would be made less restrictive, allowing teachers more freedom over what, and how, they teach and greater flexibility for pupils. The party would also expand apprenticeships broadening the proportion of people who can succeed to the top of their chosen path in life. With the Green Party focus being on helping the young people of this country to succeed, not simply categorising them into ‘successes’ or ‘failures’ through a rigid system based on academic ability, we could see a new and enthusing education system for the country.
However, while these ideas may not be utopian, the idea of mass Green success is. The reality of our voting system, our constituencies and our media mean the party will not be able to implement these ideas after 2015. Yes, you might say Labour will take notice of a rise in Green support, but the reality is if every Labour voter with these preferences voted Green the Conservatives would have the most to gain. The closeness of the polls mean if you want something resembling this vision, albeit a watered down version the only option is to vote Labour. Of course, if you live in a Tory-Lib Dem marginal it’s a different story. But the prospect of another 5 years of a Tory government is not a pleasant one, even if it does mean voting for the lesser of two evils and waiting a bit longer to support a party which you can truly believe in.