Second only to the question "how are you going to pay for that?" has been the question "after the election, win or lose, what will you do?" After some reflection I have come to the conclusion that the answer is basically the same: help Bristol become a genuinely low carbon city with a high quality of life for all, and in doing so demonstrate a positive vision for a better future.
If the questions at the 26 election hustings in Bristol West are anything to go by, Bristol faces a crisis in housing, creeping privatisation within a struggling NHS, a lack of school places compounded by an exodus of teachers, collapsing social and mental health services, and a costly public transport system run for profit rather than passengers. Bristolians also seem deeply concerned about unfair rhetoric around immigration and asylum detention. Other parties claim (often in earnest) to care about many of these issues, but they didn't acknowledge their underlying causes - and certainly have no long term vision regarding their solution.
Although there were some points of convergence with the other Parties, there were many more that were significantly divergent. A good example is the Green Party's position on the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP). I seemed to be the only Party candidate acknowledging that so many of our problems result from the role (and effective rule) of international capital in our society. From foreign investors driving up prices, to large corporations out-competing local independent firms by avoiding tax - we need to challenge the power corporations have over us, not enhance it. TTIP is potentially a massive corporate power grab. I have to say potentially because I have not read it, indeed those MEPs who have read it are unable to reveal what exactly is written in it (although Molly Scott Cato has stated her fundamental concerns). After years of corporate lobbying at the EU, I find it terrifyingly naive that the other parties are actively supporting a treaty that has little democratic legitimacy, even if purportedly being negotiated in our name.
Fracking is a linked issue - foisted us on through a combination of fear of the lights going out and corporate interests that can smell profit under our feet. My opponents were enthusiastic about environmental issues, in the knowledge that audiences were extremely alive to environmental concerns. I think they were somewhat surprised however by the scale of heckling from people sceptical about mainstream claims to 'green'.
Many still regard the Green's as either naively utopian or depressingly dystopian, or both. In my view, the idea that the free market will somehow solve all our problems is the most naive and depressing of them all.
I would say this wouldn't I, but we are the only party offering a genuinely different direction of travel. Whilst the main stream media enjoys asking us about banning the grand national and putting the Queen in a council house (neither being party policy) we are pointing towards a different vision for how to organize our economy and society. Further deregulation, globalization, and secretly negotiated treaties are exactly what we don't need right now, especially if we are to stand any chance of staying within two degrees of global warming. If anything we need a stronger (though not necessarily bigger) state, that can protect our rights, and redirect our economy away from its dependence on fossil fuels and towards energy efficiency and renewable energy generation. Surprising to some, this view was echoed by a recent business conferences I attended, debating the best way to solve our housing crisis, at the same time as reducing the built environment's carbon footprint.
At the heart of the Green Party's economic policy is an acknowledgement of the potential of the world's sixth largest economy to create 1 million low carbon jobs and in doing so become a world leader in renewable energy generation, smart grid technology, low impact housing, retrofit and electric transport. We can also develop a civil society with health and education systems that would enable everybody to fulfil their potential. What we lack in the UK is not potential, what we lack is the political will. It may yet turn out that we also lack a consensus!
It is exactly that lack of political will that persuaded me to stand in Bristol. Time and time again, Bristol has demonstrated it has many of the answers but is unable to put them into practice. We have even been awarded European Green Capital status, raising our profile across the world, and yet we are constrained by the same energy system, housing issues, transport problems and health & wealth inequality that blights almost every city across the globe. Although there are many practical barriers that have stymied local aspiration, the most common hurdle has been political will, both at local and national level to allow Bristol's natural innovation and creativity to become mainstream. Britain is the most centrally controlled country in Europe, meaning that local politicians are left to squabble over the marginal gains whilst "Bristol's duvet of despair" eventually settles over anyone who tries to break through the malaise.
So what next?
The Green surge gives us hope however. Tens of thousands of people have seen past the Green party's misrepresentation in the mainstream media, and have recognized that we offer the political will that will provide real change. Whether I am elected or not tomorrow, our increase in the share of the vote will give us a moral mandate to become a force for change over the next 5 years.
From the Guardian's divestment campaign, to 38 Degrees campaign against TTIP, to Positive Money's call to debate and reform control over the creation of money - the Green Party needs to step up to become more than just another political party - and to become a leader in building a social movement for real change.
The potential for such a movement is no where more tangible than in Bristol. With one of the largest and most active Green Party's in the country, an innovative and creative economy, and a powerful network of different campaigning groups, Bristol is on the cusp of creating something that could enable us to step up from being awarded Green capital status to really deserving it.
Whether I am in Westminster or not on Friday - I am going to do whatever I can to help Bristol's social and environmental grass roots take hold.
In the words of Naomi Klein - This Changes Everything!