Andy Bentley – Home Sweet Home
I don’t think I’d looked at the Green Party since I was at university until a few years ago. In the days before the internet, information on them would have been a lot more difficult to find so even then I probably barely scratched the surface. It was easy to write them off as a single issue group.
Even then I was put off of party politics by the way the two big, legacy parties went about things. Tow the party line, orders from on high, policy by decree, and any idea that came from the opposition benches immediately criticised no matter how close it might have been to their own point of view just because it came from “them”.
When I stood for election as External Affairs Office at Coventry Polytechnic it was on a non-party-political platform; “Here I am, this is what *I* think, vote for me (or not) because you think I’ll do a good job, because you agree with I have to say, not because of the colour of my (figurative) rosette”. We had no party machine behind us, no party-affiliated student society members to spread the word.
We delivered our leaflets, knocked on doors and made our speeches. And we walked it.
As we canvassed, the point that we made over and over again was that policies should come from the bottom up, and representatives should not be told what to do or say from their “bosses” in central office. That message had resonated and the surge of support we received swept us into office.
Now some 25+ years later I find myself in the Green Party, and I think I’ve finally found a party I can call my own, where no-one tells me what to say or do, where policy rises up from the masses rather by decree from on high.
I saw policy being made at our Spring conference this year. Policies written by Party members like me, debated by people like me, voted on by *me*. I saw opposing sides of an argument being put forward and getting applauded. People clapped even if they disagreed with the points being made, because they recognised that it is important for us all to have the chance to contribute to the debate, and that we can all learn from each other.
I’m sure somewhere there are people outraged by some of the decisions made. I say “sure”, I mean there must be, right? Just because I’ve yet to meet one, that’s how politics is, right? It couldn’t possibly be that people can listen to each other, come to a collective decision, then respect that decision even if they don’t agree with it? OK, maybe I’m not so sure. Maybe this really is grass roots politics as it should be, real by-the-people for-the-people stuff.
I occasionally write to my MP or one of the other Parties’ candidates asking their opinion on a particular issue. I always, without fail, get a cut and paste reply from their Party central office telling me what their Party policy is. This makes me both sad and angry. In any Party of more than one person the chance that they all agree on every single issue is astronomical, absolutely impossible. And yet here they are towing the party line, impotent drones being fed what to say by their masters in Westminster. I spoke to one of the local parliamentary candidates after a recent hustings about his views on fracking. He opposes it, but when I’d written to him he gave me the standard copy and paste of Party policy in support of it. When I asked him why he said “because that’s the Party policy”.
In stark contract was the answer I heard at a Green Party training event earlier this year where one of the senior people within the party was asked what we should say if we were questioned about a policy that we disagreed with. According to the guy from the Green Party: “Tell them what the Party Policy is, then tell them what you believe”.
And that is why I think the system works. I agree with 99% of Green Party policy. According to every “vote on policies” style comparison web site I am a Green voter, yet I’m sure that if I looked hard enough I could find something that I disagreed with. The difference in the Green Party is that I’m allowed to say so. I don’t have to apply some fake veneer, avoid the question or simple lie about my views.
It only took me 30 years since University, but I’ve finally found a home.