As the day of the election draws ever closer and knowing I have already voted by post, I was reflecting on what I would look for in an MP if I had not already made up my mind – for the record I voted for someone who has been an excellent constituency MP for the last 5 years, who has spoken out boldly on many issues (including some I disagree with) even when her words might have been uncomfortable for some other party members, or at odds with party policy. She has achieved far more with her words in Parliament in five years than some MPs manage in 25. The only area where her effectiveness has been challenged by local competitors in a manner that has led to their views resonating is when they have suggested that as a lone voice she has not been able to introduce legislation and get it through Parliament. However this is ultimately not a failing of Caroline Lucas, but rather of a Parliament that all too often ignores solitary voices even when they reflect issues that are clearly on the side of right and sometimes also capture public opinion in a way that the policy of the dominant party policy does not. However this is the first time I have voted Green in a Parliamentary election.
Two examples of the absence of political honesty that I have been disturbed by in both of the main parties relate to themes I have covered in recent blogs.
The first followed criticism of Brighton & Hove Council on street homelessness by a senior Labour MP. This was in my view and the view of others who work extensively with homeless people completely inappropriate. However our local Labour party has either remained silent or defended the MP and her views despite my questions. When I challenged the MP who speaks on education for Labour and is an MP in Merseyside to challenge her local directly elected Mayor for taking a School to Court because they had stopped paying him 2 years after he had ended his role as mentor for pupils, silence reigned. Clearly she would have spoken out had he been a member of any other party or an Independent Mayor.
The second follows the rather tawdry publication by the Daily Telegraph of the letter signed by what we were told were 5000 small businesses that support the Conservative Party. It was understandable that local Conservative candidates would promote this letter as it appeared to provide a good level of support for the party that they believe in. However when the letter turned out to be a put up job involving many duplicate entries, individuals with no businesses to run and even volunteers from charities one might have expected local candidates to withdraw their support for the letter. However I have been disappointed that this level of honesty has been missing.
As we approach a new Parliament we can only hope that a large number of the next cohort of MPs are prepared to speak up even when they begin the speech as lone voices. For those with all of the benefits and resources provided by political parties, speaking out against this prevailing power with all of the internal spin takes the same sort of courage that Independent candidates require simply to stand and fight a campaign, essentially on their own. For this reason I would always favour an Independent candidate, assuming that they can articulate views with which I can identify at least as much as I can with that of a party I would vote for. One such person is Chris Davis who is standing in Southampton Test next week. Any Parliament that includes Caroline Lucas and Chris Davis would be a much better Parliament than if their voices were lost.