This Thursday we go to polls in one of the closest-fought, and important, European election campaigns in years.
With the European Parliament about 300 miles away from us here in East Midlands, it can seem a little distant – but the laws it passes and the rules it adopts affect all of us, every single day: and usually for the better.
Whether it’s setting air quality rules for the benefit of our health, international climate change policy, business regulations to create a level playing field, job creation priorities, or energy generation methods, the European Parliament has a say. Who we vote to represent us in the EU’s only democratically-elected institution will makes a real difference. Will the parties of business as usual form the majority and hand power to the multinational corporations, caving in to their 30,000 lobbyists? Or will the Green voice be strengthened, the voice of ordinary people, the voice that will speak up for the common good?
This is why the vote on Thursday matters – it’s a chance for us all to choose the kind of future we want for our communities, and the people we want sitting around the table when the rules are made.
For the last decade-and-a-half, we in the UK have had a Green representative at this table, speaking up for the interests of people, not big corporations and big money interests. Our Green MEP’s sit as part of the Greens/European Free Alliance group in Brussels – the fourth largest in the European Parliament – and they have been able to deliver positive changes for us all. They have capped bankers’ bonuses and called for reforms of the banking system to ensure it works for all of us – not just a few bankers at the top.
They have delivered a ‘youth guarantee’ – a promise of a job or training place for every unemployed young person that wants one – and won support for a new ‘carers leave’ to ensure that those of us caring for older or disabled relatives aren’t penalised at work.
Green MEPs have shaped the EU’s farming and fisheries policies – banning the cruel and wasteful practise of ‘dumping’ dead fish at sea, and won key votes on climate change policy to ensure that the UK adopts a target on delivering new renewable energy projects – and the jobs that go with them.
But crucially, EU policy is about a long-term vision: and ours is a vision of local economies that puts people first, a more equal society – one where discrimination is never tolerated – and one in which our environment is protected.
Encouragingly, when people hear this vision, and examine our policies and legislative priorities for achieving it, they like what they hear. For example, recent polling shows that three in five people support our policy of capping bankers’ bonuses. Two-thirds support our policy to increase the minimum wage to a living wage. Support for ending privatisation in the NHS is growing as is support for the renationalisation of the railways. Green Policies are growing in popularity as an alternative to the failed business as usual policies that protect the rich and penalise the less well off, the very people who make the economy and society work.
There is every reason to vote in the European Election on Thursday, there is every reason to Vote Green.
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