History was made last week when the Green Party was given an equal platform with six other parties in the leaders’ debate shown live on ITV. Until that moment, the Green party had been marginalised by the broadcast media, and at times ridiculed by the print media. But 7 million people heard Natalie Bennett offer an alternative to austerity and to the Westminster establishment.
If you liked what Natalie said I’m guessing you are no fan of the coalition. The bedroom tax, the cuts to public services, the privatisation of a wide range of local NHS services, the money wasted on so-called free schools and so on…
Also, chances are, you couldn’t support the Lib Dems, even if you did last time around. After all, they are the reason our right-wing government was able to cut and sell so much.
Like me, you might also be disappointed at Labour’s current direction. Disappointed, for instance, that it plans to make its own cuts to public services, that it has moved closer to UKIP on immigration policy, that it is lukewarm on the re-nationalisation of rail services, and that it wants to spend billions replacing Trident. You may also be nervous that some of the current government’s policies had their routes in previous Labour administrations. Just look at PFI, the market approach to the NHS, academy schools, and all the cuddling up to big business.
Sure, friends may be telling you that only Labour can form an alternative government to the Tories; and that you can’t help those who need it most unless you vote Labour. It’s a fair argument, and one made sincerely enough. Plus we all know that our voting system gives only two people a chance to walk through the door to number 10. So I can understand and respect anyone who feels that Labour is the only realistic option.
But it isn’t for me.
After all the election will be won and lost in the 150 or so marginal constituencies. So for most of us, the failings of our first-past-the-post voting system means we have no chance of affecting the overall outcome. Putting it another way, for most of us tactical voting is pointless.
So I will be voting Green on May 7 and here is why:
1. For the common good. Despite the nonsense written by some journalists the Greens aren’t going to ban cars, dismantle the army and put the queen in a council house! The Green party has a vision of a fair and more sustainable society such as increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, bringing academies and free schools under local authority control, publicly owned railways, an NHS free of privatisation, investment in renewable energy, and opposition to TTIP.
2. Because I can. In this election the Green party is standing candidates in some 90% of seats in England and Wales.
3. Because a Green vote still counts. By voting Green I’m sending a message of change to the main Westminster parties.
4. Because it’s the right thing to do. Why should I vote for second best or vote tactically? Indeed, last time tactical voting resulted in the Lib Dems putting Cameron into Downing Street. This time I have a wider choice – not just austerity heavy or austerity light. What’s more, a bigger Green vote strengthens the argument for electoral reform, and shows there is an alternative to the status quo.
So for the first time at a general election I will be voting Green.