According to today's Colchester Daily Gazette, a recent poll by Lord Ashcroft polls suggests that I stand to get 6% of the vote in Colchester. Clearly its early days however I'm certainly well aware that we've got plenty of work to do in terms of getting the message across to the people of Colchester that voting Green is the best option in May 2015. However I honestly believe that the more most people find out about the Green Party the more they like us, while in the case of the other parties it tends to work the opposite way round. There are difficult questions to answer however, so having had a fair few of them pitched at me already in the last few days, I'll answer some of them on here.
Question 1: I do like the Green Party, however surely you've no chance of winning so voting Green is just a wasted vote isn't it?
Answer: Not at all. There is widespread disillusionment with politicians in general at the moment with the belief that they are all 'in it for themselves' or all the same. Many people are angry because they believe that the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour are just not listening to their concerns. Well there is only one way that you can make them listen and that is to stop voting for them. It is the only weapon you have. There is simply no point in complaining that they are all the same if you don't vote for anything different. In addition, even if the Green candidate does not win, increasing the Green vote share will have the effect of making the other parties sit up and take notice. You can see this happening at the moment with UKIP and the effect that fear of them is having on Conservative Party policy announcements. Clearly we would like to influence our rival parties in a different way however the point is the same in the sense that it shows that change doesn't have to result just from an outright win. No Green vote is a wasted vote. That said, winning will result in the most significant change and the only way for Green candidates to win is to vote for them .One thing is certain above all else and that is keep voting for the other parties and they will keep letting you down.
Question 2: But if I vote for you it might split the Lib Dem vote and let the Tories win.
Answer: The Tories won in the 2010 election because of the Lib Dems. As a result the Lib Dems were strong enough to hold the balance of power and to enter into coalition with the Conservative Party and therefore prop up Mr Cameron's government and all of its resulting policies. The Lib Dems are not the opposition party and the Conservatives the government. Both of them are the current government and the only reason that we have the bedroom tax, the tuition fee hike, further NHS privatisation, falling real wages and a cost of living crisis is because the Lib Dem MPs have lined up to vote for the policies which have led to these outcomes. They could have stopped them. They didn't.
Question 3: You Greens would just put our taxes up wouldn't you?
Answer: A common myth. No we wouldn't. What a Green Party government would do is to reform the taxation to make it fairer and certainly not hike up the overall tax burden for the average person. In general political parties hike up VAT on goods as a stealth tax in order to disguise tax increases. Because this hits everyone, including the very poorest, the Green Party would generally avoid this and instead concentrate on cracking down of tax avoidance by large corporations and wealthy people who hire clever accountants to worm out of their responsibilities while the 'squeezed middle' get to foot the resulting bill.
Question 4: Aren't the Greens just a bunch of hippies who are soft on crime?
Answer: Well I suppose we all think in stereotypes to some extent, but the answer is no to both questions. The Green Party is the fastest growing UK party among 16-24 year olds and is certainly not the preserve of any one generation or social demographic. Furthermore if by 'hippies' the questioner means people who care about the environment, want to make a difference, believe in what they do rather than just talk from a script to get elected, care about social justice and believe that our countryside is worth protecting then I'd simply say, what is wrong with that?
As far as crime is concerned, the Green Party is not soft. I can't help but notice that tax avoidance, which the Green Party would crack down on, is seldom highlighted by those columnists who like to present the UK as awash with rising criminality. It may not always be via criminal methods but its certainly unethical. The coalition government will not invest in police resources to the extent that is needed to cut low level crime such as burglary and car crime. As a Green MP I would campaign for better police funding. Moreover only the Green Party has a serious approach to alleviating the social causes of crime as well as dealing with the consequences. Its very easy to take the 'hang 'em and flog 'em' approach which is basically shutting the stable door once the horse has bolted. Also the very politicians who do this the most they won't put the money in to expand prison places and end up having to cut the number of people being locked up. The Green Party will tackle crime by tackling its causes as the first priority; by initiating a £2 billion job creation programme, by introducing a guaranteed citizens' income in order to remove the need to thieve or beg to survive at the very bottom and we would concentrate police resources into crushing the big drug traders rather than wasting taxpayers' money by landing someone with a criminal record just for having a small amount of cannabis on him/her.
Question 5: All very well, but we like Bob Russell. What could you do better?
I'm not going to pretend that Mr Russell is a bad constituency MP. We need to be honest with people. He has done some excellent constituency work, helped a lot of people and does stand up against some inappropriate developments in Colchester. I would aim to continue with this and would see these qualities as something to aspire to rather than to disrespect. However there are local issues that I would prioritise which are still a massive problem such as transport, with regular traffic jams and inadequate bus services. Moreover the simple fact is that you cannot just divorce all connection between national politics and local politics. It can't be done. The former impacts on everyone locally. Mr Russell is a Liberal Democrat and largely (not always) votes for Lib Dem/Conservative coalition policies. For example, the coalition government has slashed the planning rules, removing most of the protection for the environment, and created a developers charter which has a presumption in favour of development. Mr Russell may oppose the planned dumping of a 2000 house estate near the A120 by Tendring Council, yet is is the government to which his party belongs which is responsible for the policies which have created the situation in the first place.
Its back to my answer to question 1; the only way to achieve change is to vote differently. I would aim to work hard within the constituency but also make a difference in parliament by not voting for the policies which I then have to shoot back to Colchester to deal with the consequences of.