With the ever growing mistrust of the Labour Party reaching new heights and creeping scepticism over the Conservatives and the substance of their policies, political pessimism is rife in Britain. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the MP expenses scandal and higher education cuts have all served to intensify the scrutiny to which political parties are subject. What comes with this is a culture of pessimism and negativity engulfing the political world that reigns supreme, highlighted by a downturn in voter turnouts from 71.4 per cent in 1997 to 61.4 per cent in 2005.
Now is a time, in the run up to the General election, to be more pro-active and optimistic and move away from the reactionary behaviour that characterises, and comes to embody, our negative attitudes towards politics. The genuine chance the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas holds in becoming the first Green MP is something that should not only excite Brighton voters, but also help to restore some optimism. There is a viable alternative to the mainstream parties with which we have all become so disenchanted.
So what is it about the Green Party that we can smile about? A significant source of optimism can be found through the leader of the party, Caroline Lucas. Party leader since 2008, the same year in which she was judged amongst the Guardian’s top ‘eco-heroes’. Lucas has galvanised and united a party once opposed to leadership. She is an intelligent, passionate and eloquent leader who has improved the decision making process of the Greens and broadened their political focus.
Although general opinion still inevitably views the Greens as a party of purely ecological concerns, Lucas has helped to stress the importance of other policy areas alongside their vows to fight climate change. The Green Party maintains the firm belief that there needn’t be a flat choice between ‘environment’ and ‘economics’. They “reject this as false”, stating, “we CAN do both”. The creation of new ‘Green collar jobs’ under the ‘Green New Deal’ to aid economic recovery, commitment to the NHS and nuclear disarmament along with their stance against the gradual privatisation of higher education, all demonstrate the Greens aim to tackle important social issues in tandem with their environmental policy.
The notion that the Green Party is a single issue party and concerns over their being too focused on environment to represent students’ needs is a view misplaced. The Greens have been at the forefront of campaigns to oppose higher education cuts, and their own policy supports the scrapping of tuition fees. Lucas also spoke at a Stop the Cuts Campaign meeting on Sussex campus last month. On the issue of university cuts Lucas said that “Sussex has a brilliant record of delivering some of the most exciting and innovative courses in the country. The proposed cuts will have a potentially devastating impact on the university, and they should be stopped.” She continued, saying that the “Greens are calling on the government to reverse its policy of demanding cuts from universities, and to recognise that education is not a commodity to be privatised and sold to the highest bidder. It’s a vital public service, and a right, which should be valued and supported.”
Polls out last week show Lucas to be on course for a momentous victory. The latest ICM polls indicate an eight-point advantage over the Conservative candidate and closest rival Charlotte Vere, with Greens on 35 per cent, Conservatives on 27, Labour on 25 and the Lib Dems on 11 per cent. The fight is not won yet and students at the University of Sussex should take the opportunity to be a part of shaping such an historic event in helping to elect Britain’s first ever Green MP.
University of Sussex students need to get behind Caroline Lucas with all the force, effort and determination that are put into campaigns such as The Israeli Goods Boycott, Stop the Cuts Campaign and No Platform for Fascism. Student activism and mobilisation has the potential to send a serious political message to others in encouraging people to ‘go Green’. If you determine to vote Green, to make it count ensure you are registered to vote in the Brighton Pavilion constituency.
It is essential that Sussex students are more positive, optimistic and, most importantly, proactive in their support for the Green Party rather than being reactive and investing in outdated ideals that hold no real prospect for change. The Green Party promise that a vote for them is “a vote for REAL change” and not “one more Labour MP or one more Conservative” that “won’t make any real difference”.
It is now time for Brighton to demonstrate that the radical, progressive and alternative view of the city is not merely an undeserved label, but a reality and that we as constituents can help pave the way for a greener Great Britain.