As we polish off the last of the Christmas cake, and contemplate our resolutions on fitness regimes, now’s also a great time to look to the year ahead.
For politics, it promises to be an exciting one – a year with the possibility of real change.
We’re approaching a general election like no other – a five- or six-party election that promises to be the most unpredictable in generations.
We saw in 2014 what’s being called – and not just by us – a green surge: Green Party membership is now 120% higher, more than double, than it was just one year ago.
If you collect the numbers of members of my party, the Green Party of England and Wales, and those of the Northern Ireland Greens, then we’re above 38,000 – closing in fast on the numbers of Ukip and the Liberal Democrats.
And just before Christmas we reached another milestone: hitting 10% for the first time in a general election poll. One in 10 voters said they’d vote Green if there was a general election tomorrow. Not only that but we know, thanks to YouGov, that if they believe we can win, 26% of voters would choose us.
That represents a huge opportunity and challenge for the Green Party in 2015 – a chance to reshape British politics, towards a politics that acknowledges the joint economic, social and environmental crises that we face – the interlinked reality of our failed system of run-away capitalism fuelled by the Thatcherite ideology that greed is good, profit is all that matters, and the planet’s resources are infinite.
It’s time for a new approach. We want to build a new society - one in which everyone has certain access to the resources for a decent quality of life, in which no one fears hunger, or losing the roof over their head. And a society in which we collectively all live within the resources of the one planet that we have.
Making the bold changes to our economy and society that requires – introducing a living wage for all workers, decent benefits for all who need them, every home being warm, comfortable and affordable-to-heat, the profit motive having no place in our NHS, our railways run for the benefit of passengers not shareholders, no university tuition fees – calls for committed, courageous action.
And that’s something only the Green Party is offering.
The “traditional” parties have taken us too far in the wrong directions for tinkering with our system to be enough.
But it’s not just our economic priorities that need changing. Politics has to change – and that is the other great possibility of 2015: constitutional reform, a reform that will make other changes so much easier.
First-past-the-post Westminster elections are clearly past their sell-by date - indeed all of Westminster, the unelected House of Lords, the special privileges of the financial sector. It’s 100 years since the last significant reform when women’s struggle to gain the vote finally succeeded. It’s too late for minor changes, which is why the Green Party is calling for a people’s constitutional convention, starting from scratch to draw-up a constitutional settlement fit for the 21st-century written for the public by the public.
With our politics, our economics, our society, our environment in its current state, one thing is clear. The status quo is not an option: we are in a profoundly unstable condition – with our financial sector debt at 1,700% of annual GDP, with 22% of workers on less than a living wage, with our seas a plastic soup and our global wildlife numbers halved.
But this year, the possibility of change is in the hands of voters. The Scots showed us the possibilities in the referendum vote – 97% of eligible people registered to vote, 85% voting, strangers at bus stops talking politics.
We can create a peaceful revolution in 2015. If the same proportion of under-25s vote as the over 60s, if voters chose to vote for the person, party or policies they most believe in, then this can be a transformatory election.
So that’s my ask of you, as a voter in 2015: please make sure you’re registered to vote, please DO vote – and for vote for what you believe in, for the kind of Britain you want to see.