Changing Partners For Europe’s Last Tango

Brexit Party Leaflet Used As Toilet Roll

It’s my last chance to vote for a better Europe on Thursday, so I want it to be more than just a protest.

THE BEST THING about Thursday’s European Elections is that Nigel Farage et al. didn’t want them to happen. 

Even though I expect the vote to confirm the mental headlock that Leaving The EU has on around half of the country, it is still good to know that Brexit is going to be later than The Brexiteers planned. 

Going to the Polling Station will be nice, in a way. A nostalgic last tango with the European dream. A kind of Summer of 1914 experience before we start digging trenches and shooting at each other for real.

And at least I will be able to tell my grandchildren that I voted for Remain and for parties that supported Europe. 

Which means that on Thursday, I won’t – for once – be voting Labour. 

Since I was first able to vote, in 1987, I have turned up gamely at every opportunity to cast my vote for the party that I thought represented the many, and not the few.

Despite frequent misgivings over some of Labour’s policies and many of its leaders, I have always seen it as the best bet for a progressive Britain; as the best hope of distributing wealth and opportunity fairly in our country.

Even under a marmite administration like Blair/Brown, we got real progress for ordinary people, including the Minimum Wage, and the billions spent on building new schools and hospitals. 

But when it comes to Brexit, I can’t face voting for a Party that faces both ways on the issue.

I won’t support a Party that says we could still deliver what is demonstrably a bad deal for the country because some of its MPs might lose their seats in pro-Brexit constituencies.

I won’t – I can’t – vote Labour this time, because it is a Party that refused to provide leadership on the biggest issue in a generation.

Its reluctance to come forward with genuinely held ideas has helped create a vacuum into which the likes of Farage have seeped. 

That doesn’t mean that I will be voting for the Lib Dems, of course, despite their consistently pro-EU stance. 

A flyer of theirs plopped onto my doormat recently, demanding my vote because “Together, we have come so far…”

‘Together?‘ I thought. Oh no.

I didn’t vote for them in 2010, and I certainly wasn’t together with them as they decided to go into coalition with the Tories.

And I sure as hell wasn’t anywhere near them when they caved in to Cameron and Osborne and gave us, the people, £9,000 University tuition fees, plus a decade of destructive austerity, Food Banks, and generally widening inequality.

They’re lucky that their flyer is going in the recycling, and not joining Farage on the toilet paper roll.

The big argument for voting Lib Dem is, of course, that it will send a signal that the electorate is turning against Brexit.

That was – perhaps – one of the themes of the recent local council elections where a spike in his party’s vote saw Vince Cable doing a passable imitation of late-comeback era Frank Sinatra.  

Despite all this, I will be turning my back on both of the mainstream centre-left parties and voting for The Greens this week. 

For more than thirty years, I stuck with Labour partly because I saw little chance of smaller parties making much headway under our two party, First-Past-The-Post system.

There was, depending on where you lived, only one Progressive Party that had a chance of getting elected and that party was usually Labour. 

But that was before austerity, Brexit and the rise of fringe groups like UKIP.

If clowns like that can get elected under the Proportional Representation system used in European elections, why shouldn’t I use my last European Parliament vote to support a serious progressive movement whose time seems to have come at last? 

As an article in today’s Guardian points out, the European Green parties are on course for their best-ever result in this week’s vote. 

They offer a clear alternative to the likes of UKIP and Farage: socially progressive and pro-European, humane on issues such as immigration, and, of course, decisive on the climate change crisis. 

Meanwhile, the traditional parties have failed to respond adequately to big questions such as Brexit, globalisation, global warming, and the 2008 crash.

​Their poll ratings are sliding, just as the Green parties look like holding the balance of power in the European Parliament after Thursday. 

So if I do vote for The Greens, maybe it won’t just be a protest or a wasted vote.

Maybe it will be a vote for a progressive movement with a genuine future: not the worst way for us to bow out of Europe.

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