Words by Joshua Hill
European and local elections will be held tomorrow. If you happen to work in the banking sector, or are the owner of a multi-million pound business, you may want to vote Conservative. But I’m neither of those, so that leaves me with a question. Who should I vote for? Labour prides itself on being a party that represents the working people of Britain, but I cant bring myself to vote for Ed Miliband’s party. Despite what he says, I just cant see him providing the kind of strong leadership needed to enact real social change. If I wanted empty rhetoric, I would just vote Lib-Dem. Nope, none of the main political parties are likely to address the problems that have served to disillusion so many people with modern politics. I contemplated not voting at all, but then Russell Brand told us all not to vote and the notion became somewhat less appealing. So, a protest vote seems the only sensible option.
In recent times, the favourite choice of protest voters appears to have been for UKIP. The party has developed enough impetus to begin to represent a threat to the established order. Nigel Farage promises change, and he’s certainly not afraid of a scrap. He’s the kind of guy that would ‘get stuff done’ and the British public seem to have responded to this overwhelmingly. But, I cant vote for Farage either. He might ‘get stuff done’ but it would almost certainly be the wrong ‘stuff’. UKIP have spent a great deal of time and effort trying to establish themselves as a legitimate political party amidst allegations of (among other things) racism. While UKIP claim not to be a racist party, I do think it would be a mistake to view them as harmless. Farage has acquired a veneer of respectability, but it is only a veneer. Nick Clegg may have been right, for once, when he claimed that ‘the mask is starting to slip‘. Questions must be raised about the legitimacy of any party that attracts the likes of David Silvester, William Henwood and Janice Atkinson, and whose own leader, Farage, has been accused of making racist comments, the latest only last week.
I think it’s unlikely that UKIP will get into power. However, the worrying aspect is the way in which mainstream parties have responded to what they perceive to be a genuine UKIP threat. Protest votes should not be disregarded as wasted votes, they carry real political power. Conservative and Labour have both been forced to move towards the political right. This is particularly true around immigration, as politicians fight to capitalize on the wave of populist, anti-immigration sentiment that UKIP has been riding (not to mention exacerbating) so successfully. I can’t help but feel, though, that debates around issues such as immigration are increasingly becoming a smokescreen to divert from other, deeper social and political problems. I think it is very dangerous to give these anti-immigration sentiments any legitimacy and, by following UKIP’s lead, major political parties risk doing just that. Glyn Ford is right, UKIP is not fascist, but it does seem to attract some of the nastier elements of British society. Elements that should remain firmly outside of mainstream politics.
One of the much more important issues that immigration helps to take the focus off is the government’s environmental policy. Recent IPCC reports have tried to highlight the ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible’ effects of climate change – yet government policy is still laughable. It’s not so much the elephant in the room, it’s the elephant that is actually destroying the room. So, for that reason I will be voting for the Green Party. I don’t expect they will come anywhere close to getting into power, but it may force some very important issues to the political foreground. If you feel let down by the modern political system and feel the need to cast a protest vote, don’t vote UKIP. Vote for a party that addresses some of the less topical, but much more important issues facing us as a country. If you plan to protest at the ballot box, use your vote wisely. A cross in the Green Party box tomorrow may begin to redress the balance of harm done by UKIP and those who live in fear of them. Maybe then we can begin to debate the issues that really matter.