Saturday, March 5, 2016
Event: EU In or Out
Why I'm IN by Ben Samuel - writing in a personal capacity! The story starts when I joined the Green Party a long time ago. I remember watching Caroline Lucas' speech at Glastonbury talking about what a difference Green MEPs make. Derek Wall came up and told me to join the Green Party and I said I've already joined. I made some compromises and followed the party line much of the time. I later found out I didn't have to be so cautious of having my own opinion. I first put my name on a motion to conference about 5 years in (against implementing local government cuts, it was amended by Darren Johnson and Green Councillors) and it took me a while to really throw my weight around. Now I am on policy committee and very high up in JfJfP so it's come full circle. On most things I try and adhere to the party line because it's just a lot easier to make changes by convincing people in the party to come around to my view. In turn I listen to others and are moved by what they come up with. It's my job on policy committee to make sure members have an equal say, including on this issue. When I first stood as a general election candidate I was asked all sorts of questions including about the EU referendum which had not been announced yet. Rather than state my party's opinion, and then my own, I responded that yes we want a referendum but unlike David Cameron the reforms we want from Europe are very different. That was my 10 seconds of fame, at Mill Hill residents association, but the truth can not be summed up in 10 seconds. My favorite hustings was actually MMK school, where the kids politely got a lot out of me and who could lie to or betray those sweet kids. But my favorite thing about all this is feeling I am making a difference, that my work is key to the democracy of the party. In some way my endless trawling through positions the Greens have taken on Europe means that whatever position we take collectively is the preferred one based on evidence from millions of conversations. In 2014, the year before the General election, I helped hold London Green Party's seat in the European Parliament. We also gained a seat in the South West of England. As far as I was concerned I did not really care who the candidate was or what they did in Europe. For Barnet Green Party it was a chance to do something and we actually ended up getting more votes accross Barnet for the Council, than in Barnet for re-electing our Euro seat. At the time you could call me Euroskeptic, not really in the "out" camp, I despise Nigel Farage's UKIP, as an anti-facist, but undecided or not taking a position. I do not think the EU is a top concern to voters like the NHS, affordable housing, or migration. What swung it for me was my trip to help elect German Green Party MEPs in 2014. I spent every day for the week that I toured with the German Green Youth and a French Green Youth, and spent every night campaigning. We had a few campaigns which we interchanged in the different towns we toured: -Asylum and Frontex -TTIP and GMO's -Democracy, Solidarity, Europe! -For people to vote for Terri for all these reasons and more (many had already voted) -Anti-facism opposing the extreme right wing parties. and finally -Same-sex hand-holding and the International Day Against Homophobia, followed by a trip to a gay bar Having a gorgeous dinner which I cooked myself from local ingredients at Effi's home, Effi asked how we could counteract UKIP in the UK and why the UK want to leave Europe. We talked about other things and German state politics, which the Greens were involved in a Green-Black coalition in the area. I learned so much during that trip about our shared European identity. I saw how our allies the pirate party campaigned to legalise weed (a personal stance more liberal than Barnet Green Party's) I have spoken to old members who remember the many years the Green Party opposed EU membership, and new members inspired by the "seeing green" and "young greens" leadership. In summary I like my new European identity much better than my old undemocratic British citizenship, if you could even call it citizenship. I would not go as far as to say I love it. But a vote to stay in Europe can make another Europe Possible; -one with an alternative trade mandate that learns from the mistakes of the Common Agricultural Policy and provides better environmental regs than being the 51st state of America would. -Solidarity. A union where I (we) could be part of something with my (our) peers from the Federation of Young European Greens after last year's climate mobilisation, we'll be mobilising at the COP22 in Marakesh next year. -Living in a democracy with free and fair elections, working with other democracies on citizens' initiatives such as re-thinking the prohibition of Cannabis. David Cameron says giving prisoners the vote makes him physically sick. Physically sick. -A so-called Brexit is what the rightwing newspapers have been campaigning for for all my life. Dictators such as Murdoch, Putin, and their far-right allies would be very happy with a "leave" vote. Even a narrow majority would give them a chance to further destabilise our institutions, our democracy, and return to nationalism and their very scary views on race and identity. The real scare tactics are coming from the far-right and always have been, to sow distrust with our neighbours, to make make neighbours hate each other, with stories about muslims and disabled people. I don't associate myself with everyone on this side of the debate, and I respect my 20% of Green friends who take the other position, but if there's one thing we learned from the Scottish Indy referendum, it's that if we play this right it can unite us as a party and lead to a surge in interest amongst a population turned-off politics before. Ben Samuel - Proud campaigner, Former General Election 2015 candidate for Hendon ________________________________ P.S. We've got a debate scheduled at Middlesex University, organised by Poppy 7pm March 21st. On the panel we have representatives from both sides of the debate. For more info contact Poppy or look on Barnet Green Party facebook. I won't be there because I have an other meeting, with London Green Party. However here are my views on the EU and the real reason I will be voting in the #EUref.