Green leader calls for vote protest

Published: Monday 2nd February 2015 by The News Editor

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Voters should scribble a rude word on their ballot paper if there is no candidate who represents their views, the Green Party’s leader has suggested.

Natalie Bennett said people should register to vote and cast their ballot rather than stay at home, even if they do not intend to back someone standing in their constituency.

Calling for a major increase in turnout building on the level of political engagement seen in the Scottish independence referendum, she predicted: ” If people did that, people went out and voted, voted for what they believe in – whatever that is – we could actually have a peaceful political revolution.”

Answering questions from young people as part of Sky News’ and Facebook’s Ask The Leaders event she said people should not vote tactically but should back the party that best represents their views,

She said: “I would like you to vote Green, I would like you to vote for someone you believe in. But If there is no one on the ballot paper who you think represents your views, still go to the polling station and if you want to write a rude word on the ballot paper.

“Because if you don’t vote, if you don’t turn up, if you don’t register, you are counted with the ‘I’m happy enough with how things are’ part of the group, and I don’t think most people actually are.”

The first-past-the-post system used in Westminster elections had trained people to ” vote very often for the person or party we dislike the second most to stop the people we really hate getting in”, she said.

“That’s actually given us the kind of politics we have now. What we have done is we have seen, particularly the two largest parties, focus all their policies on the swing voters in the swing seats. They have ignored their core vote, they have ignored the whole issue of what’s best for the country, but thought ‘what do we say to get those swing voters?’.

“If voters keep voting the same way, you will keep getting the same politics.”

The Greens have received a boost in the polls over recent months, and Ms Bennett has been invited to appear in televised leaders’ debates ahead of the general election.

But that has led to increased scrutiny about some of the party’s policies – including whether a ban on people joining terrorist groups including al Qaida and Islamic State should be lifted.

Green Party policy states ”it should not be a crime simply to belong to an organisation or have sympathy with its aims, though it should be a crime to aid and abet criminal acts or deliberately fund such acts”.

On BBC One’s Sunday Politics earlier this month, asked if that meant it would be allowed to be a member of al Qaida or IS, she said: ”Exactly. What we want to do is make sure we are not punishing people for what they think or what they believe.”

Challenged about her views during the question and answer session on Sky News she appeared to indicated that membership of IS or al Qaida would be illegal because of their support for violence.

She said: “Obviously IS and al Qaida are hideous terrorist organisations that advocate and support violence. If you are involved in them, support them in any way, then you are participating in inciting violence, that’s a crime, rightly, and should be pursued to the full extent of the law.”

Ms Bennett said she does not support compulsory voting, because “it suggests that voters are the problem”.

“I think, actually, politics is the problem,” she said. “It’s up to politicians to make politics exciting and involving and make people think it’s worth voting.”

The Green leader said she traced her political philosophy back to her early childhood.

“I became a feminist at age five,” she said. “I didn’t know the word then, but at age five I was told ‘Because you’re a girl, you are not allowed to have a bicycle’ and I thought ‘That’s not fair or reasonable’.

“That sense of fairness and the sense that so many people are stopped from realising their potential and doing what they want to do because of unfair rules and society imposing restrictions on them – that’s what drives me.”

Ms Bennett won some applause from her young audience when she said that people need to “stop blaming immigrants” for problems with low wages, housing and pressure on public services, which she said were down to Government failures.

She called for a higher minimum wage, devolution of political power to local regions, the scrapping of the planned HS2 rail link, a cap on private rents, the end of the right to buy council houses and the renationalisation of the railways.

And she said that the unpaid internships offered to many young workers were “unfair and unreasonable and shouldn’t happen”.

“We have a minimum wage that is not enforced,” said Ms Bennett. “If you have a contract with a company that says you are going to turn up nine-to-five for six months, that is a job and it should be covered by the minimum wage.”

Published: Monday 2nd February 2015 by The News Editor

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