Elections to the European Parliament take place next month, on 10 June and I'm voting Green. Don't let people tell you the elections don't matter - they do! Since they take place under proportional representation, they are a brilliant opportunity to vote for what you really believe in, because every vote counts. And if you believe in peace, justice, fair trade, and the environment, then vote Green!
I'll be voting Green in the European Elections, because only the Green Party offers a radical and coherent alternative to the politics of war and big business.
The Green Party is the only party in England with European representation which has consistently opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq. The party bases its policies on a recognition that true security is not achieved through military means, but through the elimination of poverty, inequality and injustice.
That means it also champions radical reform of our international trading system, since unfair rules of world trade are one of the key reasons why people in poor countries are getting poorer. Last year's annual report from the United Nations Development Programme reported the shocking statistic that over 50 countries are poorer today than they were 10 years ago - a damning indictment of the policies of ever increasing economic globalisation, promoted by all three of the other main parties.
Not only do the Greens have a rigorous analysis of the negative social and environmental impacts of economic globalisation, however. Crucially, they also have coherent proposals for an alternative economic model, based on a relocalisation of our economies. This not only makes economic and environmental sense: It makes democratic sense too, since it gives people back control over key aspects of their lives.
Take the global trade in food, for example. The ingredients for an average Christmas dinner could easily have travelled 24,000 miles, or once around the world, before reaching your plate! At the same time, we are often simultaneously both importing and exporting the same product between the same countries. It sounds crazy, and yet that's where the "logic" of today's economics leads. Green Party MEPs are proposing the replacement of the widely discredited Common Agricultural Policy with policies to rebuild local food economies, via changes to European procurement rules, environmental taxation, and a fair price for farmers. They have also been in the forefront of opposition to GMOs, and have amended European legislation to reduce the threat they pose.
Ever-increasing international trade also accelerates climate change, since transport is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Greens uniquely recognise climate change as a threat to world stability equal to that of any weapon of mass destruction, and are alone in having far-reaching policies for dramatic shifts towards renewable energy and energy conservation in order to mitigate its worst effects. Greens base their energy policy on the principle of "contraction and convergence": contraction identifies how much CO2 can be emitted globally each year up to safe atmospheric conditions, and convergence sets each country's CO2 emission allowance fairly by dividing global annual emissions on a per capita basis - the only way to recognise both the historic responsibility of the rich countries in generating climate change, and the right of poorer countries to an equitable share of the earth's resources.
There are many other reasons to vote Green. Animal protection, for example, is a central part of Green politics, and the Greens are by far the most active political group on this issue. Green MEPs have taken the lead on initiatives to try to end the live export of animals, to end the factory farming of pigs and broiler chickens, to try to ensure that any new chemicals policy does not involve animal testing, to ensure the survival of the endangered Iberian Lynx and - successfully - to ban the marketing of cosmetics which have been tested on animals.
Green MEPs have also consistently opposed the privatisation of public services. They have been at the forefront of campaigns against the GATS - the General Agreement on Trade in Services - which, by enforcing liberalisation, would allow transnational corporations to take over the service sectors of developing countries, leading to reduced access to those services by the poor.
Finally, these are European Elections, and Greens have a new and different vision of Europe - a people's Europe based on high standards of environmental protection and social protection rather than a Europe for big business. Greens oppose the single currency, on the grounds that it is fundamentally undemocratic, taking power away from national and local communities and investing it in an unaccountable central bank, and Greens support a referendum on the EU constitution.
The European Elections will be held under a system of proportional representation, which means that every vote will count. There are already two British Green MEPs (Caroline Lucas, who you see in the photo with me on the home page, and Jean Lambert) who have worked with their Green colleagues in Europe to put the environment and social justice at the top of the political agenda. At a time when people are increasingly disillusioned with party politics, I believe it is essential that we have politicians of commitment and principle who can restore faith in the political system. That's why I'm voting Green, and why I would urge you to do the same.
Visit the Green Party website now!