I am fifty years old and have never been a member of any political party, but with the media gearing up for a General Election in May next year I have more or less made up my mind to join the Green Party.
Although in theory we will be voting for individuals, the vast majority of votes cast will be for people standing as official candidates for one of a small number of dominant political parties and the whole thing will be presented as a battle for votes between these parties. One of the key elements in the battle will be a number of televised debates, and between themselves the main broadcasters have decided to limit participation to just four political parties. They were bound to include the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, and I guess they thought they would have to include the Liberal Democrats despite their huge loss of support since forming a governing coalition with the Conservative Party. What seems wrong is that they will also include UKIP but not the Green Party (or indeed the SNP).
Yes there appears to be a lot interest in UKIP which might justify inclusion, except that it seems to be almost entirely media driven. Not surprising since the real power behind UKIP isn’t Nigel Farage (he is a figurehead) but party chairman Steve Crowther, former journalist, political spin doctor, PR expert and marketing executive.
There is however plenty of genuine grassroots interest in the Green Party. According to this Guardian article Green Party membership has risen more than 50% since January, while the number of Young Greens has doubled since March. The Green Party regularly comes out ahead of the Liberal Democrats in polls and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was recently named MP of the year, so why are they being excluded from the process? Could it be anything to do with the fact that Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV was involved in the decision and whereas David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage all dutifully posed for photos holding a copy The Sun, Green Party leader Natalie Bennet has never done any free publicity shots for the Murdoch empire?
The whole thing has riled me up enough to not only sign petitions (here, here, here and here) but to bring me to the point of joining a political party for the first time in my life. If you are not yet convinced then you should check out these 12 reasons the Green Party should be included in the debates. Another reason for me is that without Natalie Bennet the debates would be an exclusively male affair.
Of course I wouldn’t join the Green Party if I wasn’t broadly supportive of their policies. There is an interesting website called Vote for Policies where you can compare policies from six UK political parties on nine key issues (Crime, Education, Health/NHS, Democracy,Environment, Immigration, Economy, Europe and Welfare). Here are my results. Interestingly I preferred Green Party policy on all issues except Environment, where I chose the policies of the Lib Dems. I also gave my postcode so I can see the results from 722 completed surveys in my constituency and compare them to the results from 452,955 completed nationally.
I know this is a self selecting survey and can not be assumed to represent wider opinion, but I was surprised how closely the local and national results matched. The only significant differences are that in Welwyn Hatfield the two most right wing parties are a couple percentage points higher than they are nationally while the two most left wing parties are a couple of points lower.
I also got some interesting data from Facebook after reading a post called Facebook can tell you if your old school mates support UKIP/BNP. More generally, if you know the numerical id of a page on Facebook then you can easily find out how many of your friends like that page. The post includes URLs to find out how many of your friends like the Facebook Pages of ten different parties – UKIP, BNP, Britain First, EDL, Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, Scottish Greens and SNP. I have 186 Facebook friends, all of whom I know in real life, and most of them have not liked any of the above pages. The only exceptions are that one friend has liked the Lib Dems page and thirteen have liked the Green Party page.
So there you have it. Green party policies clearly have a lot of support and deserve to be debated. One thing which might help force the media to include the Green Party in the televised debates is a continued rapid rise in party membership, and that alone is enough of a reason for me to sign up.