As a member of the Green Party, I can't help but feel a little bruised of late. Attacks have been coming from all sides, and have intensified since OFCOM joined in the fracas with their ridiculous statement that denies the Greens "major party status", despite the party polling consistently above the Liberal Democrats for months. Adding insult to injury, it seems that UKIP, a party with just 10,000 more members than the Greens, are continuing to enjoy their epic love affair with just about every media outlet, and have already been invited to participate in the televised leader debates in the run up to the General Election later this year. This, I simply do not understand. If we are to objectively examine the characteristics of what constitutes a major party, I am certain that the Green Party would easily tick the boxes;
A strong and steady member base? The Green Party has almost 30,000 members, and that figure continues to climb. (In the Yorkshire & Humber area alone, membership this year has rocketed by over 160%).
A presence in Parliament? Yep, we have that too. For the last four and a half years, the Green Party have been represented in the chamber by the inspirational Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion. Caroline was elected, unlike recent Conservative defectors to UKIP, Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell, not by fecklessly crossing the floor from a safe seat, but by engaging in a sustained, positive and committed campaign. She has provided the kind of opposition to Coalition whims the like of which Labour members could only dream of, and has repaid the support of Brightonians, and Greens nationally in droves.
A voice in the European Parliament? We've got three MEPs who consistently push for UK interests within a forward thinking and accountable EU. Incidentally, if you thought UKIP were the only party backing an EU referendum, you should think again. The Greens are committed to all European laws being devolved to the most local layer of government possible, and actively support the idea of giving the British people an explicit vote on whether to stay in the EU or leave. It is worth saying on this point, that what we want as greens, is a grown up debate of the FACTS, the BENEFITS, and the PROBLEMS surrounding the European Union, not the hysterical mudslinging and jingoism so loved by the media, by UKIP, and by an increasingly desperate Tory party.
A robust presence in local government? The Greens have been elected as the official oppositions in: Liverpool, Solihull, Islington, Lewisham and Norwich. We also have a strong presence on the city councils of Liverpool and Bristol, and we now have Councillors taking seats across the country, from Epping Forest to the Wirral, and from Newcastle-Under-Lyme to the south coast Tory strongholds of Worthing and Bognor Regis.
In addition to ticking all of the above boxes though, the Green Party are now a major political force in our nation because the established, beige political parties are running scared. Labour have attempted to make great mischief from the Prime Minister's refusal to take part in debates unless the greens are invited. Personally I welcome his stance, although I am by no means naive enough to believe that he is taking that stance out of a sense of altruism. He clearly sees that the Green Party are a threat to Labour in terms of splitting their core vote, and as he is chronically unable to command any sort of clear majority, he is only too happy to help make that happen. The Liberal Democrats are desperately trying to stem the flow of members leaving the party, and will gladly chuck whichever variety of mud they have in order to do so.
The largest dollop of disdain though, is reserved for the Labour Party. Their furious reaction belies the fact that they simply have no response to Green Party advances. They have shown time and again that they are more interested in the views of Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre, than they are in the aspirations of their core vote. Only the Green Party now unashamedly support the renationalisation of the railways, fully public funding of our NHS, a shift towards increased railfreight, and increased working rights, and only the Green Party fully oppose the cancerous TTIP agreements, and of course fracking. Where once the Labour Party possessed a burning desire to change and revolutionise, it now possess only a beige addiction to the status quo.
This is not just a matter of political mischief, or the miserable whinging of an underdog. This is a matter of duty. The Tories, like UKIP, have a duty to serve the whims of their affluent backers in the city to the detriment of everbody else. Labour has failed spectacularly in its duty to provide the vision and the leadership that we so desperately need in an age of heartless austerity, and the systematic desertion of the working poor, the disabled and the vulnerable. The Liberal Democrats had a duty to emoliate the worst instincts of a hawkish Conservative Party, and inject a progressive prospective into this feckless coalition. They chose to abandon that duty, instead choosing power, grace and favour and personal ambition.
The Green Party have a duty to continue to provide for the nation a fresh, fair and radical alternative to the 'business as usual' establishment, just as media chiefs from the BBC, ITV, SKY et al have a duty to promote and encourage a wide, engaging and relevant debate involving those extended the right to vote and elect. They have a duty, both morally and politically, to allow the Green Party, unimpeded by OFCOM's misguided slant, access to the platform that will be the Leader's Debates in the run up to the General Election, as well as the airtime afforded to major political parties for the Party Political Broadcasts. Nothing else will do. Anything else will show a neglect of leadership, and will be a moral outrage. When it comes to the leaders of media and political organisations, we have had a shortage of true leadership and duty, and a toxic plethora of moral outrages for far too long.