Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley
Image credit: Creative Commons, Kelly Hill

Here’s an experiment. Imagine for a few minutes that we don’t have a rigged electoral system. Imagine that most people voted with their hearts at the 2019 general election. And then imagine that we’re now looking at nearly 5 years of Green Party government. You feel better already, don’t you?

This new administration would have faced a huge test just 4 months on from victory in the form of the coronavirus epidemic. So how might things have been different?

Well, first of all, we would be gearing up for a confirmatory referendum on Brexit which, if polls are to be believed, would have seen the Tories’ Brexit deal rejected. Of course, the referendum may well have been postponed due to the pandemic. So too, therefore, would Brexit. The number of gargantuan issues facing us would have been cut in half.

Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been championed by the Green Party for a long time and the 2019 manifesto promised £89 per week UBI for everyone with extra supplements on top of that for people who need it most; retired and disabled people, care workers etc. This would have relieved a huge amount of the financial worries people face and made it far easier for people to have time off work to self-isolate. This is especially pertinent for self-employed workers and people in the so-called ‘gig economy’ who are trapped in a situation where they simply cannot afford to have time off and may go out to work even if they have symptoms of the virus, thus putting vulnerable people at even more risk. I dare say a Green Government would have boosted the UBI amount significantly to make up for loss of income during the pandemic as well.

As well as this, the devolution of power to local authorities would have undoubtedly accelerated the response to the outbreak in local communities. Rather than having to wait for resources and money from a floundering, selfish central government, local councils would be empowered to introduce the most suitable solutions within communities that they know better than anyone, while receiving clear instructions and advice from a Green government alongside various experts.

A local council could, for example, decide to facilitate a local sports team whose games have been postponed to deliver food and supplies to elderly and vulnerable people in the area who are having to self-isolate by providing them with funding, resources, access to vehicles and so on. Communities tend to pull together in a crisis and devolution would serve only to further cultivate and encourage the much-underestimated community spirit that is essential in overcoming any difficult situation.

Perhaps most importantly, a Green government would unequivocally value people’s lives above all else, more specifically above the economy. Now no one wants to see the economy tank of course, but nothing is more valuable than a person’s life. One more time: nothing is more valuable than a person’s life. And everything the Green Party does is with the aim of ultimately improving people’s lives.

Tackling the climate emergency is essential as the consequences affect us all. UBI would improve everyone’s lives by relieving financial worries and allowing people to spend their time doing more fulfilling things. Electoral reform would improve people’s engagement in politics by making them feel more valued and by helping restore trust in politicians. Devolution of power would enable local authorities to make decisions in the best interests of local residents. Participatory budgeting would also make people feel more valued and part of their local community. So I think it’s fairly safe to say that in a global pandemic a Green government would do whatever it could to prevent damage to the economy but never at the expense of people’s lives.

…And you’re back in the room. Unfortunately we don’t have a Green government. We have a selfish, inadequate, capitalist government who seem to be running in the opposite direction to everyone else in the race to defeat coronavirus. It is undoubtedly very worrying that this Tory government has calculated that not following the lead of most other countries is the best bet but are unwilling to show their workings. It is even more harrowing that they are clearly more concerned with preserving shareholders’ interests than they are with preserving the lives of our friends and family members. However, this means that we need to summon our community spirit ourselves. When our own government doesn’t even appear to be on our side it’s more important than ever that we come together and do what we can to overcome our obstacles. So when things seem especially bleak, try to think about how we can work together to improve them – don’t be selfish, try to be positive and help someone if they need it.