The first interesting part of the campaign!
So far it’s been a simple case of Labour’s exciting “We’ll cut public services” against the Tories’ tantalising “We’ll cut public services even more”. Ooo decisions decisions!
Thankfully we have the election’s first glimmer of both excitement and substance. Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, is running for election in the Brighton Pavillion constituency. Brighton is one of the most liberal cities of Britain, both politically and culturally (having a reputation as the gay capital of the UK), and by putting its leader there the Green Party has a real fighting chance of getting its first MP into Parliament.
Many countries such as New Zealand and those in Europe who enjoy proportional representation have had their equivalent of the Green Party in parliament and even governing coalitions for many years. However, for Britain with its clunking first-past-the-post system, it’s a struggle and a rarity for any MP outside of the 3 main parties to be elected – so this is a big thing.
To illustrate how it really could actually happen, check the recent elections on this graph I just grabbed from Wikipedia:
She’s been a Minister for the European Parliament (MEP) since 1999, so it’s probably fair to assume she’s not utterly terrible as a politician, if not actually quite good at it. I saw her as a speaker at the Make Poverty History gathering in Edinburgh 2005 and the Iraq protest in Trafalgar Square, and I can confirm she is intelligent, forthright, passionate and principled – things we need in Parliament.
I’m not a die-hard or even typical Green Party supporter – I’d describe myself as a “democratic socialist”, which really deserves a whole other blog to go into ... suffice to say I am a typical liberal old-Labour supporter. Which means that despite a surprising fightback from the Labour government (probably due to the Conservatives being insipid and lame more than anything else), I have been excited by Lucas’/the Green Party’s promises of a more equal Britain, their policies on transport, their progressive attitude towards society, and of course their focus on the environment.
You can say that these are idealistic pie-in-the-sky ideas from a party that will never see government, even more so than the 3rd-place Liberal Democrats. You could point out that the Green Party of England & Wales is more hardcore about the environment than their European counterparts as described by the BBC's Mark Mardell last year. And you could point out that a party with no experience and radical policies is hardly what Britain needs right now.
But that's exactly why Caroline Lucas winning Brighton Pavillion would be awesome. The Green Party isn't seeking government - it's seeking its first ever MPs. And while Britain does need an experienced government handling the economy (one of the few things Gordon Brown's actually been good at), it's times like this where electing idealistic independent/outsider-party candidates is exactly what we need to keep pressure on whoever makes the government to rule with principles as well as pragmatism.
To put it into perspective, the Conservatives would apparently "consider" gay marriage. Even if it wasn't an obvious and lazy lie, whop-de-fucking-do, how progressive. I await the new sexual revolution with baited breath.
Good luck to Caroline Lucas - if you know anyone in Brighton Pavillion, ask them to vote for her.