Amidst their recent popularity, the United Kingdom Independence Party has tried to encourage the perception that they stand outside the established political consensus, offering arguments and perspectives neglected by mainstream political debate. This of course, is at odds with the fact that support for most UKIP policies can be found in the mainstream rightwing press every week. There is nothing daring about talking about exiting the EU, or transgressive about plotting to reduce immigration. UKIP might have other radical concerns or proposals, but they certainly haven’t told anybody yet: Nigel Farage disowned his 2010 General Election manifesto, and has failed to disclose any updated domestic policies. It’s only with his recent comments on Romanians that Farage has said anything genuinely controversial, and he has expressed ambivalence since.
By contrast to UKIP’s flimsy policy platform, it is the Green Party, the other lot outside the mainstream party system, who have genuinely consensus shaking ideas. To take a few examples:
- On Migration (note that it is ‘migration’, rather than immigration; not just an issue of coming, but leaving), the Greens turn the standard debate on its head, challenging the assumption that rich countries have a right to exclude foreigners, and framing the debate around global inequality, rather than the economic self-interest of the UK
- On Economic Inequality, the Greens argue for a Citizens’ Income, an unconditional sum of money for all citizens to prevent destitution and allow them a degree of freedom from the pressing imperative for a job and income, allowing them to develop their education, family life etc. This is a radical policy with prominent historic advocates on the left and the right, yet one which is unknown to most Britons today
- On International Trade, the Greens express a degree of scepticism about free trade uncommon among major parties or the mainstream media. There is a general acceptance in the UK that the free movement of goods and services (though not labour) is an unmitigated boon. Even UKIP, for all their mistrust of the European common market, want to set up a Commonwealth Free Trade Area. By contrast, the Greens oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, seeing it as undemocratic, and emphasise ‘fair trade’ over ‘free trade’
The position of the Greens highlights the benefits and dangers of genuinely defying consensus. On some issues, like nationalisation, you are likely to hit a position that has widespread appeal, and find yourself speaking for the ordinary man against an out of tough elite. On other issues, like, immigration, you’ll be voicing a fringe viewpoint that will likely get you written off as lunatic. And in some cases, as with the basic income, the idea will be so untested that you just won’t know how people will respond until you test it.
However they are received, greater acknowledgement of Green positions would stimulate and enhance what are often stale political debate.