Today I joined the Green Party of England and Wales. Why? In the past few days I have been suffering from an unidentifiable fatigue. I've felt short of breath and had headaches and joint pain. The explanation came when I read that a cloud of smog and pollution has blanketed across Britain, causing significant health effects for asthmatics, the elderly and sufferers of other chronic illnesses. Also in the past few days a hurricane has caused death and destruction in Vanuatu, with the president of that country attributing it to the effects of climate change. These epiphanies of anger and literal sickness have spurred me into finally joining the political party, the Greens, whose values I have agreed with ever since my interest in political began in my early adolescence. There are few human rights more fundamental than the rights to clean air and water, yet they seem to be a non-issue to our mainstream politicians and commentators.
It is bewildering that the crises of environmental derogation and climate change - which according to the overwhelming scientific evidence will pose a massive and existential risk to humanity in the upcoming century unless they are counteracted - are seemingly trivial or niche concerns among the left, even when they are integral to socioeconomic exploitation and injustice across the world.
Yet the Green Party's commitment to environmentalism, the motivation of its founding, is not the primary reason why I have been inspired and impressed by it. The Green Party, unlike Labour, opposes ideological austerity and has a party platform, motivated by fundamentally humanistic values, for a just, healthy and free society, including a universal basic income and the abolition of workfare, and NHS free at the point of use and free from privatisation, the right to secure housing, an education system centered around the individual abilities and needs of all children, the abolition of tuition fees and an expansion of investment into science and technology, and an social unconditional support for elderly, disabled and vulnerable people. As Jack Monroe has stated, a Labour Party which apes and Tories and UKIP on scapegoating of immigrants and benefit claimants has no right to claim to stand for social justice. For its conformity to the ideological austerity agenda, Labour are known as the Red Tories in Scotland for a good reason.
Yes, I remember standards in the NHS, and the state schools I attended, improving when Labour were in power in my youth. But I also remember the frighteningly oppressive nature of state bureaucracy and surveillance that expanded under Labour. I remember the Iraq War. I remember the beginnings of state-sanctioned cruelty against social security claimants, such as workfare, sanctions and outsourced disability benefit assessments, that was the genesis of the barbarism and cruelty imposed against them by David Cameron's government.
"But if you don't vote Labour the Tories will get in". I hope not; I would be happy to see a Labour government tempered by the Greens and perhaps SNP, hopefully abolishing the bedroom tax and protecting the NHS from privatisation, but also one less likely to exactly coopt the rhetoric of the Tory Party on taking "tough decisions" to deal with the "inherited" deficit, caused by the very Thatcherite ideology that Labour aligned to resulting in the economic crisis, as the Labour leadership currently does. An electoral and political system built on blackmail and moral mediocrity is not a democratic one. And the Red Tories seem to rely on it. If Labour supporters have a problem with this supposition then they shouldn't shoot the messengers.
I am one tens of thousands who have joined a Green Party that has massively surged in membership and popularity in recent months. It should consider itself in league with parties like Syriza and Podemos that are part in the Europe-wide movement against austerity. Syriza, relegating the New Labour-like PASOK to minor party status and now govern Greece, and Podemos are leading in the national opinions polls in Spain only a year after its formation. On a concluding note I would advocate that our party defects to the European United Left–Nordic Green Left grouping in the European Parliament so we can work with what should be our natural allies.