I have been busy with leafleting and campaigning for the Greens in the Euro elections for the last few weeks and am cautiously optimistic about the chances of increasing our representation in the European Parliament. The reason for the caution lies in the public reaction to the expenses issue which has produced in some people a loathing of all politicians and rejection of politics in general. Many people have told me that they will not vote at all, in protest against what is going on and the drip-drip of revelations in the newspapers.
As I said at the Barry Gardiner meeting (below) this is bad for democracy and we cannot afford to throw away our hard worn democratic rights, however limited we believe they are, in a fit of pique. In earlier times in this country and recent and currently in many others (remember the lone protester in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square?) people have died to gain democratic rights and a voice in their own lives. Not voting will be cutting off our nose to spite our face and open the way for the BNP and UKIP. Rather than constituting an overnight slap round the face for the greedy it will affect our lives for many years to come. It is imperative that everyone gets out and votes for positive change.
Thankfully, in the last few days I have seen evidence that people are recognising this. Talking to voters in Kilburn High Road, Wembley High Road and Willesden Green it is clear that many are giving serious consideration to voting Green and are identifying with policies such as opposing health services being opened up to free market competition, creating thousands of new jobs in green services and industries, making homes and schools energy efficient and closing down tax havens. More Green MEPs in the UK will increase our clout both at home and in Europe. Parents picking up leaflets outside schools have been particularly positive with only a 1 in 10 refusal rate.
One of the most heartening exchanges was at an elders' care home in Kingsbury where the initial reaction from the white residents was to shoo us away, saying they were fed up with all politicians, but once conversation opened up began they were adamant about the need to keep out the BNP and scathing about their policies. Curiously there has been very little evidence of the main three parties on the streets with independent candidate supporters more in evidence. A number of voters said that we were the only party that seemed to be out actively seeking votes and delivering material through their doors.
When the results are announced on Sunday I look forward to seeing Green gains but I will also be desperate for evidence that people have not given up on democracy.