Today represents 100 days until the UK General Election of 2015. Which means we still have three months of this sort of cringe-worthy political squirming as seen when Andrew Neil interviewed Natalie Bennett, leader of the Greens on his Sunday Politics show yesterday
Actually, it’s worth watching even if you’re not interested in British Politics simply to view a masterful interviewer’s performance from Neil. He essentially questioned the Party’s policies (which are, for the most part, bonkers), then tackled the inevitable evasions by quoting her own policy documents back at Ms Bennett.
I had started to respect the Greens. Not agree with them, but respect them. They had started to come across as a party with genuine principles that was prepared to stand on and stand by those principles in the coming election. But this interview shows they are just as slippery and evasive as all the rest.
I’m not going to discuss the Green’s policies here. If you’ve watched the video I shouldn’t need to tell you quite how “out there” they are. But I do want to discuss something that troubles me—and that’s the hypocrisy of “The Green Serge” in British politics compared to The Establishment’s reaction to the Greek General Election this weekend.
The surge of support for the Greens—they now have well over 40,000 members, a similar number to UKIP and not that far behind the Lib Dems—is seen as a “good thing” in British politics. Voter engagement is one reason that is cited for this. And yet, when you examine their policies, they are pretty much “far left”—proper ‘old school’ socialist stuff.
And yet at the same time, when a ‘far left’ party is actually elected to power in Greece, the very same commenters who are so in praise of the “The Green Surge” are telling us it could be disastrous for Greece and indeed for the whole of Europe.
So what, pray tell, is the difference?
The difference is that the Greens are currently seen as a bit “Cuddly”. After all, they’re trying to save the planet don’t you know. And that cuts them a lot of slack. In Greece, on the other hand, Syriza are seen as ‘nationalist’—and we all know that that’s a bad thing, don’t we? How dare a political party stand up and say they are going to make things better for their fellow countrymen at the expense of the European Project.
I’m being facetious, of course. The rise of Syriza in Greece and other ‘Nationalist’ parties across Europe is quite worrying if only because History teaches us that once countries start to look inward rather than to the wider world, Bad Things tend to happen.
But anyway, back to The Green Surge.
To me, it’s symptomatic of a wider problem in British Politics. It speaks to something of a ‘Leadership Void’ we have in this country. A lack of someone the public can look to and say, “that’s someone who stands for something”. Someone the public can either love or loathe. There is no-one like that in the three “mainstream” parties—which possibly explains the rise of UKIP under Nigel Farage.
David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg all appear to be too scared of saying the wrong thing that they won’t risk saying what could possibly be the right thing. They are so scared of alienating some voters that they fail to inspire any voters.
Compare and contrast all three of these career politicians with, say, Thatcher. She was loved and hated in equal measure by the two sides of the political divide, but My God you knew, without a shadow of a doubt, exactly what she believed in and what she stood for. Can anyone tell me what David, Ed or Nick actually believe in or what they actually stand for?
No, didn’t think so.