You are perfectly free to despise politics and politicians. Once upon a time I did.
And then politics became necessary. A Tory government was suddenly thrust in, and the Labour government I took for granted growing up was suddenly gone, and we were all left at the mercy of Etonian men being driven to shrink the state. Suddenly ‘hating politicians’ felt like a fashion I could not afford.
Again, a lot of poorer people are apathetic and distrustful of politicians. That’s for us to change and us to convince and us to understand. My dad was a non-voter, my mum was an instinctive Labour voter who me and my brother had to remind to vote. Both had a reason to fear the Tories, but not to enthusiastically embrace Labour. That is our problem.
But then there are wealthy people, people with power and a voice, who ought to know how best to use that platform and the responsibility they have, that espouse and encourage apathy and anti-politics. The recent Green Party broadcast was just that.
It’s a cute video, perhaps just as funny as their last one. The problems with their cutesy videos are manifold, but the most striking thing on both occasions was timing. The previous broadcast -about how mainstream parties are ‘all the same’- was sent out the day Ed Miliband announced his policy to abolish the non-dom status. This new broadcast comes after months of arguments over tax credit and disability cuts, and right in the middle of a row over the Panama tax avoidance scandal, in which David Cameron has been compromised. In such circumstances, the divisions between the Tories and Labour are as stark as they’ll ever be, and any charges to the contrary appear completely disingenuous to us; but entirely reasonable to the passer-by that the Greens’ message will get heads nodding to.
Painting all ‘politicians’ as the same means that our debate over Panama and events like it will see politics tainted with a broad brush rather than the individuals and the party (the Tories) involved. It makes people angry, and there ceases to be a constructive repository for this anger.
The Greens enjoy this. They thrive off it. So often considering themselves purer than their rivals and possessing greater morals, their only way to survive -much like all populist third parties- is to lambaste their mainstream counterparts negatively. Sometimes this tactic can result in a surge of enthusiasm and support and participation: It can be Syriza or Podemos; the Pirate Party in Iceland; Sanders in America. All of these cases involve more participation. They all share in common, too, a broad base of support and voters that often touches on working class communities. They are working class movements.
The Green party is not. It achieves none of these things. It cannot stand on ‘hope’ or positivity; it thrives off a hatred of the Labour Party in particular. The worst part is that it pretends to be positive.
The Greens share this in common with other populists on the British Left, who refuse acknowledgement of the FPTP system into which they are born, all of which served to blow a hammer to Ed Miliband’s hopes of being PM and deliver a Tory majority.
They do it by raising impossible standards. And I don’t mean austerity or policy-based arguments, for those are valid and it is important to have other parties democratically pressurizing and influencing Labour from its Left (though, it makes more sense to do that from within – as Jeremy Corbyn can probably suggest), but by refusing politics. That’s right: politics. The advert was fun, it showed parliamentary politics as childish and argumentative, as it always has been and as is hard to avoid – as much as Jeremy Corbyn would like to. And it is childish, quite often, and most people don’t like it. But what we don’t need is an overwhelmingly white, middle class party thinking it can feed off that disaffection when it simply can’t. All adverts like this do when they are from the Greens, is fuel a fire that, if anyone, benefits UKIP. But, mostly, non-voting.
You think disaffected, ordinary people from modest backgrounds are going to join the Greens or Plaid or whatever next absurd and redundant leftwing party? No, because you have fucking ‘Green’ in your name.
And the worst part about the Greens and other parties to Labour’s left (that’s now contestable…) is that they consider themselves far more important than they actually are. They don’t understand that most disaffected people don’t turn to them. They demand concessions from Labour -almost all of which are unobtainable and absurdly high-maintenance, like refusing parliamentary arguing at their best and demanding policy positions that are the opposite of the general public’s at their worst. They distract Labour to their way of thinking, believing they represent the real working class voice while there are more working class people choosing to not vote than vote Green.
At the end of the day, this is not intended to be constructive, it is intended to be an expression of hatred for the mainstream and Labour’s position of Her Majesty’s Opposition. It is intended to harm ‘Westminster’, like the SNP does, but to absolutely no avail.
This type of anti-politics benefits no-one but None of The Above. All the Greens will ever achieve is, if anything, a decrease in turnout and an addition to the toxic culture of political apathy. It is irresponsible. We don’t need these type of malign messages to contest on the doorstep with contributions from middle class people who won’t have to deal with the repercussions.
That broadcast is funny, until suddenly it is not.