DAVID BENNETT

With the general election fast approaching, and what appears to be a large chunk of the eligible public feeling disenfranchised by, discombobulated with or just plain old disinterested in the two major centralised parties, scrutiny of the alternatives is in full effect.

To the left of centre resides the Green Party: once predominantly concerned with planting trees, the Greens have expanded into a party for social justice and equality.  To the right, we find the United Kingdom Independence Party (or UKIP for short): this party has its foundations in being the outspoken anti-European member of the European Parliament, now, at a national level, concentrating their agenda on ‘Britishness’ and immigration.

So what, if anything, do these non-centrist parties have to offer the voting public of Britain? Do either have what it takes to run an entire nation? And how do they fare against each other? Using the official policy websites of both parties, we shall peruse these matters in search of enlightenment.

Neither of these outside runners have been without their fair share of controversy in recent times, which is perhaps not too much of a surprise when considering they both hold relatively definitive positions, opposed to the malleable, whatever-it-takes-to-please-everyone type politics of the centre, and these instances, if regular, may be the defining factor for an undecided voter.

For example, Caroline Lucas – former leader of the Greens, and their first elected MP – was arrested in 2013 at an anti-fracking protest in west Sussex for linking arms with four other defendants outside of a Cuadrilla exploration site. More recently, the current Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, suffered an embarrassing “mind blank” on Nick Ferrari’s LBC radio show, failing to answer simple question about Green policy.

And then there is UKIP. Perhaps the most apologetic party in the history of politics, UKIP are a media dream. Not a week seems to pass without some local councillor, or crazed supporter, or even the leader himself saying something deemed – by the party themselves - as worthy of an apology. The instances are too numerous to mention them all here, but the tip of the massive iceberg of stupidity is as follows: blaming Britain’s floods on gay marriage, mistaking Westminster Cathedral – the country’s most important church – for a mosque, “bongo bongo land”, blaming traffic jams on immigrants; to the latest idiocy of Nigel Farage stating immigrant children should be deprived of education until they have been in Britain for five years – which would mean any eleven year old would miss the entirety of secondary school.

However, this article is not about the stupidity and/or misfortune of the two parties in question, but about their policies. It is best to judge a party on their policies; it is irresponsible to focus on the stupidity of the people who run, or are involved with, any given party, because a party is not a person… derrr.

Credit: Energy Live News
Credit: Energy Live News

So, there isn’t usually a more pressing matter around general election time, than that of the economy. An interesting aspect of the Greens’ policy on economics is their favourable approach to economic stability instead of the perpetual growth stating in popular discourse. On the Greens’ official policy website, the mantra seems to be aiming towards everyone having enough, and that a successful economy should be managed in accordance to the environment surrounding society. How they plan to implement this is yet to be seen, but they put forth the notion that “to conserve natural planetary resources and to maintain the integrity of natural life-sustaining cycles” is the way forward. Perhaps unsurprisingly, UKIP do not toe the same line, or even a remotely similar line, instead viewing Britain’s position within the EU as the most significant factor in the realm of the economy. They suggest leaving the EU and the European Free Trade Area (Britain’s largest trade market), and instead negotiating with Europe and the rest of the world on an independent basis.

Another exceedingly hot potato in the build-up to the election is the National Health Service. Perhaps one of the few hastily dwindling number of things which goes someway to justifying the word ‘Great’ in Britain’s title, the NHS represents the battle between an egalitarian mind-set towards medical care and the ever-spreading monetisation of all things sacred. Despite Farage being quoted in 2012 as saying “I think we are going to have to move to an insurance based system of healthcare”, UKIP’s ‘official’ policy website suggests quite the opposite, stating “UKIP will ensure the NHS is free at the point of delivery …” it is not my place to draw conclusion from such contradictory stances between the party’s ‘official’ line, and their own leader. The Greens take a more utopian stance (as they do with most of their other policies), stating any healthy health service must be part of healthier society in order to function at full potential. Their aims include securing “a healthy urban and rural environment, healthy work, healthy food and agriculture, healthy education, a healthy transport system and healthy local economic developments” – I am not sure what a lot of that means, but it sounds really nice.

Perhaps the most significant issue facing the entire planet, let alone the tiny island of Britain, is the climate. “UKIP will repeal the Climate Change Act 2008” so says UKIP’s website, continuing, “We will scrap the Large Combustion Plant Directive and encourage the redevelopment of British power stations.” This is particularly irresponsible when taken in the context of the overall climate picture; this policy is essentially the proposal to take Britain back to the day of the industrial revolution – the period in which man-made climate change was initiated. UKIP also whole-heartedly support fracking.

As you might imagine, the Greens are in diametric opposition, laying out a long list of targets and strategies to tackle the very real issue of man-made climate change: “We should aim steadily to reduce all UK greenhouse gas emitions to 10% by of their 1990 levels by 2030.” Needless to say, even though the Greens have widened their scope to cover the spectrum of issues facing national governance, their ultimate focus is firmly on environmental issues.

Though it is impossible to analyse all policies of both parties within the confines of this article’s word limit, these are the tips of very large icebergs. If you are thinking about voting outside of the norm; outside of the two dominant parties, both the Green Party and UKIP have readily available literature for you perusal, and it is advisable to look at it all before making any rash decisions.