Five years ago, me and my classmates were turning eighteen and about to vote in our first General Election. In 2010, the Lib Dems had young people hooked with their promise to abolish tuition fees and had us believing that they were nothing like Labour and the Tories who were “all the same”. Many of my friends were taken in by ‘Cleggmania’ and like Brown and Cameron were proud to say “I agree with Nick”. Five years on, tuition fees have tripled, students and young people have been well and truly taken for a ride and those who were deceived by Nick Clegg feel pretty embarrassed when they remember how they voted in 2010.
2015 is set to be one of the closest General Elections ever and more and more students and young people are considering voting for a party who claim to be different from the mainstream parties and are promising to scrap tuition fees among other idealistic proposals. Sound familiar? I am of course talking about the Green Party and the so-called ‘Green Surge’.
I’ve recently began work as the Labour Party’s Student Vote Activator in Leeds where a worrying amount of students I speak to on the doorstep are thinking about voting Green. The Greens won’t win any MPs in Leeds. That’s a fact. The only impact voting Green in Leeds could have is that it will allow Tory and Lib Dem MPs to hold onto their seats in student areas despite having spent the last five years screwing students over. We can’t let this happen.
But the fact that voting Green could keep the Tories in government isn’t the only reason not to vote for them. The Greens are not the left wing utopian party they make out to be and students and young people deserve to see the Greens for what they really are. Lots of Green Party members consider themselves to be ‘neither left nor right’ and many ally with the Tories over Labour. As a Leeds City Councillor, I am sick to the back teeth of seeing our three Green Councillors (who were in coalition with the Tories from 2006 to 2010) voting alongside the Tories meeting after meeting.
The Greens are a sound-bite party whose initially appealing policies fail to stand up under scrutiny. Most of their economic policies are recessionary, which would mean jobs losses on a massive scale and lower living standards for almost everyone. They plan to pay for their ‘green economy’ by taxing everything from meat to games consoles to the extent that only the very rich will be able to afford these luxuries. You can’t run a country on sound-bites; if we’ve learnt anything over the past five years, surely we’ve learnt that.
The Greens aren’t as diverse a party as they’d like us to believe either. While they have an impressive track record when it comes to promoting women, their leadership is almost exclusively white, middle class and privately educated. The Greens have done very little when it comes to promoting working class people and those from ethnic minorities.
The sad truth is that if large numbers of students and young people vote Green in May we won’t see a surge in social justice or environmental progress, we’ll see David Cameron in Number 10. Many of those young people who have spent the last five years fiercely opposing the Coalition government for tripling tuition fees, introducing the bedroom tax and dismantling our NHS, are treating this election as if Labour have already got it in the bag and they are free to cast a ‘guilt-free’ vote. They are forgetting that there is a very real and frightening prospect that the Tories could be in government for five more years. If students and young people really care about reducing inequality in society and driving this vile government out of office there is only one choice on May 7th and it isn’t the Green Party.