Twenty years ago, amid a backdrop of disillusionment with the established parties and growing concerns over environmental issues, including nuclear power following the dreadful Chernobyl accident, the Green party shocked the political elite by winning 15% of the vote in the 1989 Euro elections. Fast-forward to the present, and the emerging story of the 2009 Euro elections is that overlaid upon a massive economic and environmental crisis is the extremely widespread public anger at the abuse of the expenses scandal by MPs from the main three parties: anger that promises to drive millions of people into voting for smaller parties.
Could these circumstances lead to another great bounce for the Green party? Or will it be that others among the small parties will more effectively cash in on the bonanza of headlines condemning the disconnectedness of the main parties?
The media have talked up the threat of a BNP breakthrough, particularly in the north west region. Even taking into account the possibility some are too embarrassed to tell pollsters they will vote for the BNP, the latestround of polls indicate that recent events have failed to translate intosignificant support. Those wishing to punish what they see as criminal behaviour on the part of the Westminster parties by voting BNP should avail themselves of the record of criminal convictions by some BNP members and leaders.
What of Ukip? While the media initially portrayed them as the main beneficiaries of the expenses scandal, polls again show their support to have levelled off. Like the BNP, a vote for Ukip would actually be a vote against cleaning up politics: two of their MEPs have already been charged or convicted of fraud, and their leader Nigel Farage has apparently boasted that his party costs the taxpayer over £2m of public funding. Farage was rated among the worst 10 MEPs out of the entire 786 in the European parliament in terms of accountability and transparency. He presides over a party so rabidly anti-Europe that they vote against any EU legislation, regardless of any potential benefit to the UK. At a time when the EU is the only possible leader on global climate, and when the EU is responsible for some 80% of the UK's environmental legislation, Ukip's climate change denial is not only embarrassing but is very dangerous.
The Green party, in contrast, has proven itself a constructive and trustworthy force in European politics. Its leader, Caroline Lucas MEP, was rated among the most transparent and accountable MEPs in the same report that exposed Nigel Farage. Greens have consistently called for an overhaul of the political system to stamp out corruption, including the introduction of sweeping electoral reform. A vote for the Green party is not only a vote against corruption: it is a vote for a better, more responsive political system. That is why Rupert Read, lead Green candidate here where I live in the eastern region, has been endorsed by Martin Bell, Mark Thomas and Craig Murray – the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan who exposed that government's corruption and use of torture. That is why Joanna Lumley, fresh from her victory over the government on behalf of the Gurkhas, said when endorsing the Green party this week that they were "the obvious choice".
Indeed, the choice facing the electorate next Thursday could not be clearer. On the one hand there is the prospect to register a protest against the abuses of the main Westminster parties by backing either an equally unaccountable eurosceptic, climate change-denying party, or a blatantly racist party. On the other side it will be possible next week to make a positive vote to clean up politics, in support of some of Europe's most transparent and motivated politicians, and starting at last to build a greener, more resilient economy. The political climate has decisively changed and the time is ripe for another electoral breakthrough for the Greens, firmly putting the party on course for gaining more seats in Brussels on 4 June and then at Westminster in the general election.
Originally published by The Guardian.