“Kirsten would be an amazing MEP!
She’s totally committed to Europe and fights hard for what she believes in.”
Magid Magid, Lord Mayor of Sheffield
Parliament has been Brexit-browbeating the people for a thousand days. And so, fed-up we got up, and marched. Bloodied, but unbowed. I kept reminding myself that I am campaigning to become an MEP candidate for London, while at the same time taking to the streets of that very city, alongside over one million other Europeans, passionately trying to rescue the UK from crashing out of the EU.
All pretty unreal, to be sure.
Frankly, I am also ashamed that it had to get to the point where we now find ourselves staring wide-eyed and ashen-faced into the abyss, before I got off my **se and threw my hat into the ring as an MEP candidate.
Ok, so a couple of decades ago, a local party up-country did approach me to stand as an MEP for them, but I was too busy plate-spinning a job and two kids, so I passed on the offer. And anyway, everything seemed to be going just swimmingly down the road in Brussels. But this time it’s ‘now-or-never’ and I am going for broke!
The London Green Party held hustings a few weeks back. I always find it somewhat curious to stand up and loudly plead for the audience to ‘Vote For Me!’ during such events.
I mean, that’s straight from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious. Obviously I want them all to ‘Vote For Me!’, why else are we all there?!
So I prefer to tell a little tale about why everyone should agree with me instead. And here’s my story for the EU elections, which we may – or may not – be about to contest:
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:
Picture one of those fancy colouring books for grown-ups, popular a few years back, with a myriad of teeny-weeny segments to be meticulously coloured in using a pile of multicoloured Sharpies, scattered all over your kitchen table.
Now glance out of the window and picture instead a massive mural, in the process of being completed by armies of graffiti artists with suitcases full of colourful spray cans. The colouring book is complex and beautiful when you have painstakingly coloured it in. A stunningly vibrant mural is the awesome work of many hands.
So if you want to be part of that exciting bigger canvas, how do you make your mark? How will your contribution make a difference?
Here’s how. You locate a bunch of like-minded artists and join in with their particular theme. A beautiful garden, a striking cityscape, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?
And then you pick your unique image, something you are really expert at, and which will make everyone’s work even better. Including yours, of course. That’s a result!
But what on earth does that have to do with Brussels, the EU and MEPs?
Well, it’s like this: Our usual stamping ground here in London is the colouring book. Brussels and the other 27 member states are the mural. Together they are very, very BIG and we are very, very SMALL. Get over it.
So we need to concentrate our limited resources on one small issue, but one that matters a helluva lot! Therefore, the work of our MEPs is vastly different from that of our local or national politicians.
And that is what the majority of our British MEPs never got, but what our Green MEPs Jean Lambert, Molly Scott-Cato and Keith Taylor have become such experts at.
Being an MEP is about being a diplomat, with all their quiet backroom cunning, and it’s about being a wily politician, brazenly pushing for your policies, forging supportive relationships. A complex combination!
The trick is getting the balance between the two just right. Get it wrong and you end up just plastered in paint, while everyone else walks off with the prized rainbow spray can.
The group I would join in Brussels would obviously be the European Greens. My issue of strategic focus, common to all 500 million EU citizens, is CONSUMPTION.
Consumption is the driver of all our ills. It is as simple as that. We need to use less stuff! LESS IS MORE. Let the fossil fuel industry do its thing, it’s just responding to demand. OUR demand. If WE stop demanding stuff, THEY will stop pumping, mining and fracking.
And everyone can do this, everyone NEEDS to do this. We spend 50% of our resources making stuff and the other 50% getting rid of it again; recycling, incinerating or fly tipping on an industrial scale, in the sea or in our countryside. And that is insane.
We throw away two thirds of our food, for goodness sake! We wear our clothes an average of just three times. We each pour away hundreds of litres of clean, expensively treated water every day. It’s just not OK, people.
Growth purely to satisfy shareholders is immoral. We need a completely new set of incentives for workers and owners of capital alike.
Let’s be bold! Let us tax company travel out of existence, and make video conferencing tax deductable instead. Stop flying flowers from Kenya, use flowers from Kent instead and give Kenya the funds saved to invest in stuff for their own utility, so they can stand on their own two feet. Or however many millions of feet there are in Kenya – 100 million?
Let’s eat less meat. Let’s stop making thousands of gallons of almond milk, using up millions of gallons of precious water in the process. Let’s drink less almond milk instead! LESS IS MORE!
Let’s make bling unfashionable. Just like the fur trade became practically extinct when enough trend setters turned their backs – in very graphic terms. Together we can stop the grotesque over-consumption which is killing us and killing our planet. And we must.
As Greens we alone have the means and the morals to get that ball rolling. No other EU group of politicians has the guts to tackle growth. European Labour parties are wedded to the Trades Unions, EU Conservative parties are in hock to corporate funding. Both camps are slaves to growth.
Only the European Greens are clean. We are not dependent on funding from vested interests. That makes life hard, but it also hands us a unique political asset. One we must maximise to the full. Our bigger European Green colleagues will launch plenty of Green policies we can join and support, and if we concentrate on championing reduced consumption, they will join us too.
So let’s start painting that big mural. Today!