I grew up in a safe Labour seat in Islington, north London, considered by the righwing press to be one of the hotbeds of champagne socialism, but which was and still is in many parts a strong, working class and ethnically diverse area. Jeremy Corbyn has been the MP for Islington north for 22 years and was one of the most vocal opponents of the Iraq war. Even as I marched against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, I knew that the seat would remain his and recognised that he, like Tony Benn, was prepared to stay in the party and fight for traditional Labour values, even in the face of the increasing shift to neoliberal policies. At the time I voted Green and though it made no difference in the national elections, we did manage to vote in a Green councillor.
Since then I have moved to Glastonbury, which is in the constituency of Wells, a traditional Conservative area, which has been held by the Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt on a slim margin of 800. In this election she risks losing her seat to the Conservative candidate James Heappey, and ex-soldier who has been part of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a man who believes in the free market and that David Cameron is doing a good job in the country. The thought of this man becoming MP and adding to the possibility that Cameron can form a majority government, fills me with dread. Because I am so opposed to such a thing happening, I have considered voting tactically for Tessa, who seems a decent person, even though she represents another neoliberal party who I have absolutely no time for.
This is the problem both with the present first-past-the-post system and parliamentary politics in general, because there is no chance of the Green party candidate, Jon Cousins, getting in. Cousins and the Greens do have an alternative vision. It is incomplete and there are some aspects with which I disagree. But at least there is some humanity, absent in the other three, who play the poltical game and buy into the neoliberal outlook, the abeyance to the market above human and environmental needs, and who are supported by a compliant media dependent on the corporate advertising revenues that make the whole electoral game a self-referential system that excludes the real needs of the people.
Too many people are still in thrall to this corrupt system. Too many still believe that the unbearably slow and miniscule changes that Ed Miliband seems to believe are the only way that politics can proceed, will be enough to tackle the problems of the day. But they are not enough. Whether Tessa Munt or James Heappey gets in, there will be no change to the system that creates such damage to the world. There may be small significant changes to my life in Glastonbury, but surely that is not what national politics should be about. Where is the great vision, the radical change needed? Jon Cousins can at least see the fact that we need that change. We may not agree on some specific details, and we may disagree on whether the present voting system is adequate to effect that change, but at least I could imagine talking with him about these things and have done on a couple of occasions during the local hustings.
I feel that if I am going to vote, I could vote for Jon Cousins or for David Dobbs, the Birthday Party candidate, an old raver who spoke at an election hustings I attended last night, who spoke about the Criminal Justice Bill that shut down so many raves that had a deep effect on British culture before Thatcher put a stop to this, as she undermined the miners and unions. He spoke in a language I could understand. he sounded like a human being, not a politician. I’d like to see a world where a man (or woman) like that could speak on behalf of the people of this country. But you should have seen the faces of some of the gnarled old Tory voters who looked at him as if he were from another dimension.
He has no chance of getting in but, unfortunately, neither does Jon Cousins, even though he has been a Green councillor and is well known in the community. This just isn’t good enough given the problems we collectively face. I know we can do better than this and need to do better. The Green party has some good people working for them, and a vision of a better society. But it will take a whole lot more to attract the attention of people whose lives have been limited by the neoliberal agenda, which has nothing to do with being liberal, but is all about continuing in handing power over to fraudulent financial institutions. I’m looking forward to talking about these issues among permaculturists, social justice campaigners and everyday people at Passing Clouds on Tuesday May 5, where we’ll be showing clips and discussing Green politics and the need for revolution.
Permaculture Picturehouse @ Passing Clouds, Dalston presents:
Election special: Does democracy need a revolution? Hackney South and Shoreditch prospective Green MP Charlotte George will respond to local voter Russell Brand’s call for a spiritual revolution, and will explain why voting is vital to effective change, and how she would seek to engage dissenting voters who believe radical solutions are needed, but who have no faith in the electoral process.