Last week a petition, set up by a student, became one of the most popular Change.org petitions ever. More than 260,000 people have called on the BBC to include the Green Party in the Leaders' debates ahead of the 2015 General Election. The growing appeal of the Green Party and the unmistakable popularity of its key messages and policies contrast dramatically with the relentless under-reporting and undermining of Green views in the press and media. This constantly reinforces the perception that the Greens are not a serious party.
My work as an MEP confirms, with depressing regularity, this absence of the Green perspective. There was a glaring example last week when the Financial Times gave space for a former Dutch finance minister to portray herself as a crusader against tax avoidance. In fact, her country is arguably the leading tax haven in the European Union. Yet I know, through my work on the European Parliament's Economics Committee, that it is my Green colleagues Eva Joly, Philippe Lamberts, and Sven Giegold, who have for years led the charge against the robbing of the public purse through smart accounting. This is exactly the issue that has emerged so embarrassingly in the Luxleaks scandal.
Greens do not limit themselves to rhetoric but have made constructive and highly technical proposals, including an eight-point action plan against tax avoidance by multinationals in Europe. Concrete proposals include forcing corporations to report their activities transparently according to where they take place - otherwise referred to as 'country-by-country reporting' - and harmonisation of corporation tax across the EU so as to avoid 'sweetheart deals' - known as the common consolidated corporate tax base or CCCTB.
In other areas, that rarely reach the headlines, Green MEPs and their advisors are working to control corporate power and protect the rights of citizens in the EU and beyond. For example, my Dutch Green colleague Judith Sargentini, has been the leader on the issue of conflict minerals - used in smart phones, tablets, laptops and other electronic devices - the exploitation of which has fuelled conflict, particularly in the Congo. She has negotiated with the larger groups who oppose action in this area, arguing for tough and binding EU rules to root out conflict minerals, to make these restrictions mandatory, and extend them to products made outside the EU.
German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht has led the Parliament's work to protect the privacy of European citizens from digital snooping. New regulations to create safeguards against the gathering and storage of our private data by corporations, as well as pressure for strict penalties when data protection rules are broken, are thanks to her leadership on the issue. As with many areas, this is an example of where Greens are fighting to protect citizens against corporate power; pushing for regulation that goes way beyond proposals by the Commission.
In the UK, Greens play a vital oppositional role, so desperately needed in our current political climate. Our two Westminster representatives - Caroline Lucas in Parliament and Jenny Jones in the Lords - have between them been challenging some of the greatest threats to our environment and our democracy almost double-handed. Who else but the Greens are going to fight the encroachment of corporate power through worrying developments like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? Who else is fighting for a £10 minimum wage by 2020; to keep our NHS truly public or championing the renationalisation of our railways? And whether or not you agree with the precautionary Green approach to issues as diverse as GMOs, nuclear power, and fracking, surely if democracy is to mean anything we need an alternative to the three-party consensus on free markets and unchallenged corporate power.
It would appear the powers that be want you to imagine a future without the Greens. This is the future the BBC is prefiguring with its decision to exclude us from the election debates. By doing so, they create a self-fulfilling prophecy: Greens are not a serious electoral option and our contribution therefore means nothing. Given our willingness to take on corporate power, this is no doubt the future that corporations want too. It is also, apparently, the future Labour wants, hence its decision to establish a taskforce to attack the Greens and to target the Brighton Pavilion seat of Caroline Lucas, an MP repeatedly honoured with 'MP of the year' awards.
Thankfully, with our rapidly rising membership, growing number of councillors and opinion poll ratings which put us ahead of or level with the Lib Dems, there is little reason to imagine a world without the Greens.
Which brings us back to that petition, set up by a young person campaigning to ensure that the leader debates are more than just an old boys club and include a green and feminine perspective. We owe it to future generations and to women - not to mention many men - that Greens become a more prominent and powerful part of the political landscape. Given the powers rallying against us, it will be a tough battle. But a necessary one, as I simply cannot imagine a future without the Greens.