Thursday, January 07, 2010

The 2010 General Election...or should that be horse race?

The media have become very excited at the prospect of a general election and the big parties are reported as having begun their campaigns already!! I doubt that the public are relishing 5 or 6 months of the usual spin and drivel we get from the big three parties!! There are questions that need to be addressed about current electoral law and processes however. Is fair and broad debate facilitated? Does media coverage and access serve the public need and interest? Is the electoral system the most democratic? Have we got the law on party funding right?

In my view the process of an election is important as well as the outcome and it should be treated as such. Yet the media persistently talk of elections as merely a kind of horse race – both the local paper and BBC Newsnight's Michael Crick basing recent general election reports around betting odds ('Place your bets now for Bristol's 10 seats in the 2010 General Election', Post, Dec 31 '09 for instance) . This does not help us have full, fair and proper debate.
Past elections I’ve contested have been particularly uninspiring and lifeless, so its no wonder that younger people, women and various ethnic groups aren’t encouraged to get involved as candidates, spokespersons, interviewers…Debates, present and future agendas and learning processes are very important – not everyone fights every general election seat to win this time around, some may not fight to win at all.

Greens will certainly be fighting to win in several parts of the country. A poll conducted mid Dec 2009 in Brighton Pavillion showed a 10 point Green lead over Labour and an 8 point lead over the Conservatives in this target constituency. Prospects in Norwich South and in Lewisham Deptford are also good. In other parts of the country Greens will seek and expect to build their support, influence debates and agendas and contribute to social learning.

The narrowness of the debate amongst the ‘big three’ parties is part of the problem. There is a large measure of agreement between them – they are all consumer capitalists and all have plans to cut vital services!! Debate at the general election is likely to centre on tax and spending differences of less than 1% of national wealth. All the big parties make claims to be radical, all claim to be committed to sustainable development – but none of them have taken action to make any fundamental changes! I’ve recently taken a look back at my general election leaflets from 1987 (see the rather tired leaflet below) and 2001 (pictured top left) and issues of reconciling our economy and society with the environment then raised by Greens like me are now very much more serious and urgent.

Agreement between parties could be taken to mean that things are pretty much ok – but look around you!! There are many fundamental problems, for future generations and in other parts of the globe in particular. Thus Greens like me contest elections to: offer voters a radical option; demonstrate that to genuinely solve problems the interconnections and interrelationships between economic, social, political and environmental factors must be addressed; raise the really big issues like the gap between rich and poor here and globally, caring for the elderly, climate change and our energy-hungry lifestyles, global justice, democracy and the EU, how we can live our lives now so that future generations can also lead decent lives with real choices.