Seeing through the hot air: Farage vs Clegg, and Lucas on trial

| 23rd March 2014
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion. Photo: via
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion. Photo: via
Two unusual political events will take place next week. The Green MP Caroline Lucas goes on trial for protesting against fracking. And Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage go head to head on TV. Rupert Read contrasts the underlying political agendas ...
Where Nick and Nigel agree is on the supremacy of business interests, and their desire to increase corporate power at the expense of ordinary citizens.

A heads-up. There are two big and highly-unusual events on the political calendar this week.

Tomorrow (Monday 24th March) but continuing for the whole week, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party's MP for Brighton Pavilion, goes on trial for her non-violent direct action to stop fracking at Balcombe.

Then on Wednesday 26th March, it is the first round of the broadcast debate between the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of UKIP.

There is something very telling about the fact that, while Clegg and Farage will trade just words next week, Lucas has put her body and freedom on the line, for the sake of a greater good.

Nick and Nigel - brothers under the skin

The Clegg-Farage encounter will surely generate considerably more heat than light. On the one side the Leader of a crypto-federalist Party who seems nowadays to enjoy nothing more than fawning at the feet of big business.

And opposing him the Leader of a Party of tragi-comically outdated little-Englanders and xenophobes whose policies embody a similarly pro-big business and pro-the super-rich agenda.

Yes, they have strong diferences over Europe. But both are driven by essentially economic agendas. The LibDems represent the more outward looking international corporate sphere - for whom the European market is immensely important.

Business rules supreme - for UKIP and LibDems

UKIP represents the more 'home-grown' multi-millionaires - like its key backer Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Express and Channel 5, who made his money from his sleazy pornography empire.

And Desmond and his ilk hugely resent any regulation of business - especially all the European Directives that define a common base of social, environmental, financial and labour standards, underpinning the Single Market.

Where Nick and Nigel agree is on the supremacy of business interests, and their desire to increase corporate power at the expense of ordinary citizens. In other words their differences are tactical, not strategic.

Real, serious issues are at stake

But while Nick and Nigel will next week trade hot air, Caroline has actually put herself on the line for the sake of a better future.

If we take a step back, and think of the bigger political picture, then surely the key points is that the floods this winter have changed everything. February 2014 was the month when Britain finally woke up to the threat of climate chaos, which is not something distant: it is here.

Where Nick and Nigel agree is on the supremacy of business interests, and their desire to increase corporate power at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Debating over the future of Europe is all very well, but there are more profound issues now at stake, and Caroline's trial is about these:

  • preservation of our land - is it really worth destroying large swathes of our countryside, as the north Americans are doing, for the sake of a few years of gas?
  • and preservation of our very climate: our conditions of existence. We cannot survive, let along flourish, as a civilisation and as a species, unless we leave most fossil fuels in the ground. Fracking is far more than a dangerous distraction - it is a dagger pointed at our children's throats.

Once her trial is over, Caroline - and the Greens more generally - will be pressing forward with the wider debate that needs to happen before it is too late. How together we can stop our future from bring fracked. How we can keep fossil fuels in the ground, and preserve a liveable climate.

It's really an audition for 2015

It is that debate that our children will remember, not the Clegg-Farage sideshow. Clegg and Farage are in effect auditioning merely for whose Party will make the most attractive shag for the Tories after the next General Election. Whereas Caroline Lucas's Party is taking the long view.

In the Green Party, we have always believed that non-violent direct action too is part of the life-blood of democracy. That is why support for it is embedded in our very constitution.

Whereas it is now, tellingly, almost impossible to imagine anyone from the three old parties engaging in direct action. As for UKIP: they seem to have a lot of anger coursing through their veins, but the idea of them engaging in peaceful direct action for their beliefs is hard to imagine.

Though come to think of it their support base may have been well-represented at the Countryside March in September 2002 - whose main aim was to oppose anti-foxhunting legislation.

But when UKIP elected representatives do something, that something turns out to be: quitting, defecting to another Party, or engaging in criminal activity - take for example Tom Wise of UKIP, recently jailed for expenses fraud. Even voting in the European Parliament seems to be too much for many of their MEPs.

Deeds not words

It's time for Parliamentarians who do something - right. As the Suffragettes famously had it: "Deeds not words!"

There are moments in history, there are issues - profound violation of civil and political rights, illegal war, crimes against the future - that demand more than just debate. They demand deeds.

When Caroline Lucas goes on trial next week, it is really fracking, and the chronic and deadly short-termism of our political and economic class, that will be put on trial.

And that chronic and deadly short-termism is present aplenty in Farage, and present just as much, in an only slightly less virulent form, in Clegg.



Rupert Read is the Green Party's lead candidate in the East of England in the European Elections.


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