Green MEP candidate Gina Dowding with a Labour supporter

To my absolute horror, a racist came to Burnley yesterday. I don’t want to name him – but think of thuggish violence and far-right extremism, and you’ll have a pretty good idea who I’m talking about.

As a Green Party candidate hoping to become MEP for the North West of England, I’m not prepared to stand by while fascists march in my part the world. So yesterday afternoon, I joined fellow Greens in the area to collect signatures from people who reject these messages of hatred and division.

As more and more people came to sign our letter, it became clear that the North West is desperate for political change. But it’s not a clamour for isolationism – it’s screaming out for a new, inclusive, hopeful and positive brand of politics.

“I’m just so excited to see the Green Party here,” Noxi, a staunch Labour Party supporter, told me.

And Noxi isn’t the only traditional Labour voter who is pleased to see us in Burnley. People are hungry for leadership that doesn’t try to pander to the populist and far-right and lean in their direction, but to stand against them loudly and proudly.

Austerity and poverty

When you stop to look around, it’s no wonder that people in the North West want to see politics done differently.

A decade of crippling austerity has hit this region hard. In some parts of the North West, people are earning £100 a week less than they were in 2008. Thousands of people here are living on the breadline, forced to make impossible choices between paying their bills or buying food.

At the same time, child poverty is becoming the norm here. In some parts of Blackburn, Manchester and Pendle, nearly 50% of children are living in poverty after you take housing costs into account.

In any functioning, humane political system, this would be declared a national crisis. Money would be funnelled into righting these wrongs. But, rather than addressing these deep-rooted structural problems, poverty is rising fastest in the places where it is already highest.

Let’s be frank – this is absolutely abysmal. A complete and utter failure of traditional politics.

Vote for something different

That’s where the Greens come in. Speaking to people in Burnley, it was quite clear that Green politics is becoming seen as the only viable alternative – a breath of fresh air in a region that has been stagnating for far too long.

This was reflected in the Green Party’s barnstorming results at the local elections last month, when we doubled our number of councillors in the North West from 17 to 34 (mirroring the success of Greens across the rest of the country!).

Every day more people are understanding that a vote for the Greens is a vote against closed-minded nationalism, and a celebration of diversity, multiculturalism and free movement.

It’s a vote for working closely with our closest neighbours in Europe to fix problems like climate change which don’t stop at our borders, and never will.

And it’s a vote to ditch our outdated, broken political system and replace it with one that can genuinely create a prosperous future for people and for the planet – promising new green jobs, safety nets to protect the most vulnerable in our society, and a safer and cleaner planet for future generations.

As I spoke to disillusioned voters yesterday, there was no escaping the fact that the Greens’ way of doing politics offers a new way forward for the North West and the rest of the country.

A vote for the Greens on Thursday sends a clear message of hope not hate, and unity not division. If I win a seat at the European Parliament, I can’t wait to bring this strong Green message from the North West to Brussels and make the changes this region and the rest of the UK so sorely needs.

Gina Dowding is the Green Party’s lead candidate for the North West region in the European elections.