My first reaction on reading UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott's article on the Green party was to laugh - surely here is a man with a rich sense of irony? But no, he appears to taking himself seriously. So let's have a look. I'll give credit to him for at least dipping into our manifesto; but every clause in that document has been presented to a party conference where, unlike any of the other parties all members are free to come and discuss, amend and ultimately vote democratically for or against each policy. A manifesto put together by the party members!
And we Greens would welcome a lot more scrutiny of it because the polices are very popular: The Vote for Policies website created for the 2010 general election polled the views of almost 350,000 people on the policies of the main political parties - without the person being polled knowing the party connected to the policy. The Green party was the most popular party with 24% of the votes double the UKIP figure of 12%!
Of course by contrast his own party don't have a manifesto at all, to speak of, at the moment, UKIP's de facto dictator Nigel Farage having disowned the entire 2010 manifesto earlier this year! This was the one which you can mine with great amusement looking for nuggets of lunacy: bringing back "proper dress" to the theatre, scrapping paid maternity leave, allowing corporal punishment in schools, regularly deploying armed forces on the street and repainting trains in traditional colours; or, one of my personal favourites, "Abolish politically correct & under-performing Crown Prosecution Service, returning to local police prosecutions" !! The co-author, Tim Aker, is now UKIP Head of Policy and is apparently writing the new manifesto in time for next year, so expect some more (undemocratically conceived) off-the-wall ideas designed to appeal to the disgruntled Express and Mail readers, presumably like the pronouncement of Henley-on-Thames UKIP councillor David Silvester who said the floods last winter had been caused by the Government's support for gay marriage, according to the Argus newspaper.
And Arnott was clearly pleased with himself to find a Green party member who didn't know all the party's policies. I wonder then if he remembers when his own party leader was asked on live TV about the party's proposal to scrap Trident, and asking where the interviewer had got this suggestion from. When told it was on the UKIP website, Farage replied: "When it comes to websites, I'm not the expert!"
So, with the longest list of off-message candidates and spokespeople in UK political history, I wonder how many of UKIP's hip-shot policies, let alone their members, would stand up to real scrutiny? Readers will have their own favourites, but what about UKIP MEP Roger Helmer, the one man car crash with his colourful views on homosexuality? Or Lewes councillor and Euro-candidate Donna Edmunds who now regrets saying business owners should be able to refuse service to gay people and women?
Edmunds didn't get elected but her colleague Janice Atkinson who unfortunately did, has already assembled a portfolio of nasty outbursts including the shocking 'Ting-Tong' slur at a Thai constituent recently and her intemperate remarks (with now-famous one fingered gesture) at Greens and other anti-racism activists in Ashford back in May. Given her recent remarks about the French on Twitter her irritation with anti racists is understandable, and apparently shared by wide numbers of UKIP members (with some real shockers on UKIP forums reported widely in the media) right up the highest levels in the party. Nigel Farage likes to make light of his 'Romanian neighbours' comment but what do we make of UKIP candidate William Henwood's now notorious Tweet that British-born comic Lenny Henry should go to a "black country"! Then we had the UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge who allegedly advised prospective party candidates to learn from the speaking style of Adolf Hitler, describing the Nazi dictator as a "magnetic and forceful" performer who "achieved a great deal". Mmm... And of course there was now-sacked MEP Godfrey Bloom whose astonishing outbursts on 'sluts' and 'bongo-bongo land' wrecked the party's conference...the list goes on and on, evidenced by the UKIP omnishambles reported in HuffPost in the last few days alone.
All the above doesn't stop Jonathan Arnott from calling Green policies 'half baked' and 'bordeline extremist'. But in cherry picking his favourite nasties from our manifesto he saves his most negative comments for Citizens Income (CI): He says: "Think it through: if the entire population could afford to just not go to work, what would the consequence be for the economy?"
In fact, CI has a long history of academic and intellectual support from right across the political spectrum, and the widely-reported and carefully thought out proposals of the Citizens' Income Trust (which are broadly supported by the Greens) are close to revenue and cost neutral. So, just like some of the wild rhetoric trotted out by UKIP representatives on Europe and immigration, it's a case of 'don't let the facts get in the way of a good story'! Maybe before Arnott dares to call other party's policies 'half baked' and 'extremist' he ought to do a bit of the thinking himself.
And despite Arnott's claim to the contrary the Greens' last general election manifesto proposals were independently costed out; nor did they end up in the bin, condemned by the party's own leader as unfit for purpose...
On the issue of the TV debates themselves the one area where Greens and UKIP have some similarity is that they are both growing quickly in membership and are perhaps the two parties who have an independent body of ideas which lie outside the mainstream; and it's clear that the public is getting tired of the same old same old served up by the Con-Dem Lab coalition of despair. So let them both take part and I'll happily see our stall of progressive policies aimed at the Common Good of people and planet set out alongside the narrow, inward-looking spiteful, ill-conceived undemocratic ragbag of unworkable and uncosted proposals thought up by UKIPs autocratic leadership, that will do nothing at all to address the social economic and ecological crises we now urgently face.
But perhaps the last word on a lighter note should go to comedian Frankie Boyle who tweeted recently: "Glad UKIP are in debates instead of Greens. We no longer need a party trying to save the world; we need one to make us glad that it's ending!"