Politicians don't represent those who stay in on Election Day. They know that the unemployed, young people and ethnic minorities are less likely to turn out to vote than the wealthy, pensioners and homeowners. That's why the government have slashed funding for youth services, tripled tuition fees, scrapped EMA, and are now discussing preventing under-25s from claiming welfare. For people like me currently looking for work, the situation is dire. Only one in 40 jobs created since the financial crash are full-time; and ethnic minority workers are twice as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. If you don't do politics, politics ends up doing you.
In a lot of ways, I identify with Russell Brand. We were born in the same hospital, went to the same primary school, and grew up ten minutes down the road from each other in Grays, Essex. I was a big fan of his stand-up comedy, TV and radio work. So, like many people, I was delighted when he started using his profile to address massive political issues such as inequality, corruption, social justice and the environment.
Yet, I disagreed with Russell when he told a generation of young people not to vote. If we want real, democratic political change we need to use any means necessary. Direct action, occupations, petitions, social media campaigns and pressure groups are all great ways to campaign for progressive change. However, the easiest way to protest for change is by popping down to your local polling station for five minutes every half-decade and putting a pencil mark on a ballot paper.
"Give us something to vote for!" I hear Russell shout. I totally understand that sentiment - the political spectrum's pretty uninspiring at the moment. The blue, red, purple and yellow parties all seem like different shades of grey, whipped, out-of-touch, career politicians. Rich donors fund all four parties, and their leaders seem to be competing with each other to see who can pledge the deepest cuts to welfare and the public sector. All the while turning a blind eye to growing economic inequality, corporate tax avoidance, inadequate wages and climate change.
On Question Time, Russell made several impassioned points about why he is disillusioned. He spoke of how politicians truly work for the City. He called for us to oppose austerity and close tax loopholes on corporations. He demanded we stop blaming immigrants and redistribute wealth from the powerful to the needy. He pleaded to protect the rights and pay of public sector workers, and keep the profit motive away from healthcare. He also demanded free education, free healthcare and a Living Wage as a right, not a privilege. I completely agree with Russell on all of these points. Just as I agreed with him when he spoke to Paxman about the need for real action to tackle climate change, and campaigned for affordable homes and a more compassionate drugs policy.
However, the difference between me and ol' Russ is that I will vote in the next election. I found the party he's looking for, and it's the Green Party.
The Greens don't have big corporate backers, and actively turn away donations from tax dodgers. Their policies are decided by a vote amongst the members, where each member has an equal say. They oppose austerity, and are calling for the closing of tax loopholes and the introduction of a 1% wealth tax on the richest 1%. These two measures could pay off the deficit and run a budget surplus within three years. The Green Party also oppose all creeping privatisation of the NHS, and want the health service fully nationalised and free at the point of use. They call for a Living Wage for all workers, as well as a Citizen's Income. They also want to scrap tuition fees, renationalise the railways, build more social housing on brownfield sites, and create real British climate jobs that will help build a sustainable future.
In 2014, the membership of The Green Party across the UK doubled to over 37,000 members. They are growing at a rate of almost 50 new members per day, and are consistently out-polling the Lib Dems.
When Russell worked with Green MP Caroline Lucas to get the Commons to debate drug policy they seemed to really hit it off. He wrote that Caroline was "a good person... someone in a position of some power who actually cares about things that affect us" and who is "endeavouring to enact the needs of the people".
If we want to see the changes that Russell and the Greens are demanding, then we need to help get more people like Caroline voting in the House of Commons. So please, reconsider your apathy towards voting. The Green Party is a growing movement for democratic, progressive political change in Britain. They are the only party that want to end austerity and take real action to create a more equal and sustainable future.
Please take a look at our policies, Russell. If you agree with us, then get registered and vote Green in 2015.