Yesterday, we talked to Mark who is a Goth and will be voting for UKIP at the General Election on Thursday. The result was by far and away the most visited article we’ve published yet.
We’ve also been running a poll of our visitors, which has proven that politics in England have fractured dramatically. We’ve seen the rise of former fringe parties like UKIP and the Green Party, so we’ll be talking to a Green supporter today.
Below is my e-mail interview with Rand Mann, an audio technician, guitarist with Terminal Gods and Green Party member. Remember you can still vote in our poll to see where the “Velvet Vote” will be cast tomorrow!
TBG: Can you please introduce yourself, and give us some background information?
RM: I’m Rand Mann, an audio technician in my professional life and a renegade amateur guitarist the rest of the time. I studied at the University Of Leeds but have lived and worked in London for the past 4 years.
Before working in my current field I spent a few years pouring pints and waiting tables, which certainly helped inform my view of the current political climate as much as more abstract cultural notions.
TBG: You are public about your support of the Greens. How long have you supported the party? Are you a fee-paying member? Would you stand as a candidate?
RM: I joined the party about 6 months ago, jumping on the “green surge” bandwagon. My feeling was that statistics are often a depressing and dehumanising way of looking at people, but in the case of the swelling green membership it was a chance to add my name to a more positive list of numbers. I’m a long way from opting to stand as a candidate for any political party. I don’t have enough time to get involved even semi-regularly with my local party, let alone full time!
TBG: What attracted you to the Green Party in the first place?
RM: I’m what you might call a watermelon. Green on the outside, deepest red on the inside. What initially caught my attention was their policy on the nationalisation of the railways. Common Ownership is a concept I’ve always passionately believed in and I was baffled how such a mainstream and universal popular idea was no longer represented by any major political party.
I gradually came to see the Green Party not as a bunch of pot-smoking eco-hippies but a legitimate way of expressing left wing and socialist views. In many ways the Green Party are the natural home of people that identify with the pre-Blair era Labour idealism.
TBG: One of the biggest condemnations facing the Green party is their manifesto – some of the policies have been criticized as wildly ambitious, or patently unworkable.
How would you respond to critics? Please do mention any positive policies you think aren’t getting sufficient attention!
RM: Where to start on this one? Firstly I’ve yet to see any “wildly ambitious” ideas in the main core of Green Policy – it’s the vested interest of the right wing media to represent even the most tried and tested leftist policy as “loony”.
The core principles: social housing, removing the profit motive from health, free education and common ownership are not just sound, they’re tried and tested. Their efforts to create policy for more uncertain territory (the phasing out of non-renewable fuels for example) are bound to be in need of review, testing and improving. It’s new ground, but they’re the only party even interested in addressing the subject.
Lastly, the Greens are unique in that their policy is decided democratically by all members that wish to propose and vote – a much wider democratic system then any other party. This means that policy is far more accountable and reviewable, leaving much more room to move past unworkable policy and introduce new progressive ideas. The Green’s bring politics closer to the grass roots of political will – there’s going to be more room for wide reaching opinion, but ultimately there’s more democratic accountability as well.
TBG: How do you perceive the other parties? It seems the Tories will suffer significant seat losses and Labour will gain, but probably neither sufficient to form a government.
RM: Like many other Green Party members I might well have been a natural Labour supporter in times past. I consider their failure throughout the Blair years to re-socialise Britain’s economy to be a betrayal of their own principles. Thatcher destroyed the organised labour that formed the Party, now they exist in a weird vacuum – who do they represent? I think they need to work that out. Until then I think it’s only right to belong to a party that actually reflects my views.
None-the-less I generally support a Labour government while we still exist in a first-past-the-post system and I feel that voting Green puts the pressure on them to move their policy leftwards. It’s a way of expressing democratic will I guess. I’d rather fight a Labour government than be stonewalled by a Tory one.
Unlike the hysterical right wing press I’m actually rather optimistic about a minority Labour government propped up by left leaning smaller parties with a social justice agenda (including the SNP).
I’ve probably told you all you need to know to work out my position on the Tories.
TBG: Realistically, the Green party is unlikely to add any new MPs, at least in England. What do you think will happen to the Green Surge when the party does not succeed at the General Election? Does it resemble Clegg-mania?
RM: We all knew that when we signed up. The aim is to put pressure on mainstream politics and exercise political will. I’m not expecting the Green surge to translate into a government – but I’m expecting it to influence the perceived mood of the nation, with regards to social policy and electoral reform.
This relates back to the accusations of “barmy” policy. The party are obviously not going to be forming a government – what matters to me is whether I can trust my MP to vote on issues in a way that represents me. I don’t care if a potential Green Government in 2090 would make it compulsory to ride to work on a unicycle, I care that my MPs vote against Nuclear weapons renewal today.
TBG: How do you perceive Natalie Bennett as a party leader? I know we aren’t meant to consider it a party leader contest, but everyone always does.
RM: I haven’t got a problem with Natalie in particular – although its obvious that Caroline Lucas is the natural leader of the party. I understand why Lucas stepped down to focus on her local campaign though – it’s tight enough as it is. That said, I don’t think Bennett is really a strong enough public speaker to effectively convey the party’s position.
I’ve met Sharhara Ali, the deputy leader of the party and on first impressions I’d say he’d be a strong candidate for a future leadership position.
TBG: Following on from yesterday’s interview with a UKIP supporter, how do you perceive that party – arguably the other challenger to the old two-party dynamic?
RM: Firstly, I thought Mark raised some valid points about democracy and the EU. Ones which have been echoed by both the right and the left of UK politics. Tony Benn for example was a righteous supporter of the right to recall MPs and campaigned against the joining of the free trade community in Europe.
In his talks and lectures Yanis Varoufakis has more recently voiced strong objections to the free market capitalist technocratic principles on which the EU is governed – the anti-EU argument reaches across the political spectrum.
None-the-less UKIP are a party appealing to the most base and right wing isolationist fears of the population. The founder of the party itself – Dr. Alan Sked – has publicly renounced it as a hijack job by swivel eyed nut jobs and racists.
I recognise Mark’s fundamental objections to EU hegemony as valid, but his willingness to throw his lot in with the regressive right, sacrificing any kind of social justice agenda is something I could never ever sympathise with.
The issue we face in a globalised society is not the free movement of peoples – it’s the free movement of massive, unregulated capital and corporate influence on democracy. Nigel Farage is tackling an important issue, but he’s scapegoating the lowest level symptoms (immigration) while gleefully avoiding the roots of the sickness.
This is a favourite tactic of fascists throughout the twentieth century. UKIP are an ideological breakaway section of the Tory right. Supporting them isn’t just a protest against the EU, its an active endorsement of all that is foul in our society.
TBG: Living in London, do you feel like politics are skewed for the capital?
RM: Naturally. When you live in close proximity to such a huge concentration of people you become inevitably inclined towards the politics of collectivism. You simply don’t have a choice. Spending so much time rubbing shoulders with people of every imaginable background starts to give you a real appreciation of the unity that exists between all people, if it is given half a chance to flourish.
It also gives you clear and direct contact with the forces that stand counter to this unity. Faceless, unaccountable business. Profit motive superseding public interest. Those that seek to enforce divide based on class and economic background. Literally the people that build their homes in great glass towers. All over the world people are at the mercy of economic tides they can’t control, but in London you stand at the epicentre.
When you work for a company that steals your tips – do you blame the Brazilian pot-washer on poverty wages, or do you blame the small group of directors who always seem to be able to finance a new business venture, but claim that paying living wage to their existing ones would bankrupt them? Does a top executive really work ten thousand times harder than his cleaner in order to justify that level of difference in pay?
TBG: Do you feel there’s a link between your musical and cultural choices, and your political affiliations?
RM: Politics and (sub)culture are obviously closely related, but I think any attempt to make sweeping claims about direct links would be unwise. I like to think that any kind of involvement in fringe or alternative culture would give you a natural inclination towards liberal politics, since a conscious decision to step outside the box would give you a natural empathy with others outside of the mainstream.
I’d hope that would naturally lead onto a progressive, left wing type world view, but that’s probably a bridge to far.
Both culture and politics are frames of reference that help us interact with the world. They give us a viewpoint from which to interpret things. As a young person, things like the goth scene provided just that – as I get older I’m maybe starting to develop a wider view, in which politics is increasingly dominant.
There’s also the age old argument that rock and roll in all its forms is synonymous with rebellion. Some people grow out of it, some people don’t – whatever the case, it leaves its mark on you.
TBG: Thanks for your time, Rand. Is there anything you’d like to mention that we haven’t covered?
I think I’ve waffled on quite enough.
To Mark I would say this: I understand your position on Europe, but is throwing your weight behind a party that deliberately appeals to the fears and anti-liberalism of others a sensible long term move?
It’s got a Tory banker leader and a bunch of racist loons for members. These are not the kind of people that struggled for the free and decent society we enjoy today – don’t enable them now.