It’s not easy being Green


There is a general election in 15 days. That’s just over a fortnight. Assuming you registered, there are only two ways to vote: with your wallet, or with your heart. (Actually, three: tactically, which feels like beating the system but might equally be a case of being beaten by it – then again, I’ve never lived anywhere marginal, so it’s not been an option for me personally.) Now that all the manifestos are in, and we’ve all read them – right? – we can make an informed decision where to put our cross. I will be putting mine next to my local Green Party candidate. Why? Because the Green party stands for most of the things I stand for. Or vice versa.

They are, it has to be said, a utopian party. And yet, they have had one sitting member of Parliament since 2010; also, one peer, three MEPs and two members of the London Assembly (I live in London). They finished fourth at last year’s European elections, beating the Lib Dems. Realistically, the Spock-like Darren Hall could win Bristol West in 15 days’ time, but the Greens are standing in around 90% of seats in England and Wales, compared to 50% five years ago (search for your local candidate here), and the recent “surge” in membership, which doubled last year, has been something to behold. (The party has more members than the Lib Dems and UKIP.)

Many consider a vote for the Greens, or any of the other “smaller” parties, as a protest vote against the Westminster cabal. In many ways, my own preference for the Greens is a two-fingers to the disgusting Tories and the ruined Labour party (the Lib Dems were a spent force the day they formed the Coalition). In my fevered dreams, the Labour party would make these manifesto promises. In reality, the Green party does.

  • End austerity
  • Introduce a new wealth tax on the 1%, a “Robin Hood” tax on the banks and close tax loopholes
  • Increase the minimum wage to reach a living wage of £10 an hour by 2020
  • A publicly-funded health service, free at the point of use (remember when it was actually like this?)
  • Ban fracking
  • Invest in renewable energy, flood defences and building insulation
  • Scrap tuition fees
  • Bring Academies and Free Schools under local authority control
  • Re-nationalise the railways (frankly, if they just promised this, I’d vote for them)

You can read the Green manifesto in full here. If you’re one of those people who likes to tear things apart, I’m sure there’s plenty here that doesn’t quite add up to the last penny. (I expect you also lapped it up when Natalie Bennett had a “brain freeze” on LBC, or was railroaded by Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics – a privatised railroad, of course – as it’s easy sport to debunk what is still thought of as a single-issue party and whose ideas go beyond bean-counting and deckchair rearrangement.) But since when did sums that don’t add up stop the bigger parties in their race to the bottom line, parties who are funded by corporations, while the Greens are not. You can guarantee that no party funded by big business and lobby groups will tackle climate change, or re-nationalise anything, or tax the super-rich because the super-rich are their donors. And although two MPs (pleeeeeeease!) doesn’t quite add up to a Parliamentary majority, I’m thinking with my heart here, and inside my ribcage, I can feel the steady beat of progressive thinking.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, and I’ll be proud to swell the figures for a party that speaks directly to me. And if we didn’t labour under the yoke of First Past The Post in this particular democracy, some of the smaller parties would have a louder voice, without all the blackmail and manouvering that’s afoot as we speak. I would happily consider a vote for Plaid Cymru or the SNP if they’d bothered to stand a candidate in my area – and I certainly welcome female leaders, who have already, between the three of them in the TV debates, made Ed Miliband’s “Hell, yeah” posturing seem pretty pathetic. So the Green Party it is.

I have gone back to my constituency to prepared for not having voted in the government. And although it’s not easy to be Green – they’re always begging for a fiver, for a start! – it feels right. If the majority of the comments under John Harris’s latest election film for the Guardian prove anything, it’s that the Green party has a target painted on its back and a sign saying, “Mock me.” I remember when I was a member of the Labour party back in the idealistic 80s and was accused by a firebrand from the SWP of supporting “a racist party” (I never did inquire why) for my audacity to sport a “Vote Labour” sticker on my coat. To make a choice is to draw fire. But an election is all about making a choice. Unless you follow Russell Brand, whose first-past-the-postmodernism refusenik stance has found traction since he put his head above a parapet it would be much easier to hide behind, and I feel the pain of any young voter disinclined to vote for the yes-minister dinosaurs. But no vote at all is a negative form of protest, like atheism: it is an absence, not a stance. Polly Toynbee insists disaffected Labour votes put a peg on their nose and vote for them anyway. A vote for the Greens requires no such protection. The air’s cleaner over here.

Oh, and by the way, to save your typing fingers, I know the bin collection has gone awry in Brighton Pavilion.

Bristol Hippo Drome

We had a lot of fun at the Bristol Old Vic Studio last night, our first ever gig in the round, which is both a theatrical and geometric term, and made us feel like we were in the monkey court on Planet Of The Apes. The photos are now in. Thanks to TheEyeCollector for the lead pic. Any additions gratefully received. The venue staff were very strict about no photographs, and our new friend LondonIrish, easily identifiable in the first audience pic below, was among those ticked off for whipping his phone out during the show. This actually made it feel more like a theatre show, rather than just two blokes talking bollocks to each other.) Thanks, Bristol. Just have one railway station next time, right? You don’t need two.

These pics just in, from Aramando:

Jam in

Bristol Old Vic is throwing a festival of improv, with theatre and music and comedy and … me and Richard Herring. It is called Bristol Jam, and we encourage you to have a look at what else is on. In the meantime, we were in the Studio, not the main theatre. Although we think we could have sold enough for the theatre, the Studio was at least totally sold out, and a really cool space. We did our first ever live podcast in the round. I saw Neil Diamond in the round at Birmingham NEC, as it was, in about 1989, and it was a blast. But it’s weird to perform this way, conscious, as you are, about the people behind you. We made the most of it, especially during the now-traditional second half, when we record the actual podcast, during which we opted to move around, a quarter at a time, every 15 minute, so as to spread ourselves out over the full circle of the audience.

It was a lovely audience, by the way. Even though, during my solo stand-up 20 mins in the first half, a gentleman literally stole the punchline to my Edinburgh-honed Britain’s Worst Serial Killers routine! It’s not the most difficult punchline in the world, but he was certainly precise in his preempting of it. I wished him no ill-will; instead, I simply gave him my mic. It wasn’t meant as an aggressive gesture, and the gentleman in question very magnanimously came up to get merchandise signed at the table after the show in the bar. This is why stand-up is so appealing to me, this highwire act between pontificating and dealing with the vagaries of what might happen in the the relationship between you and the audience, and ultimately, why I am relinquishing the responsibility by giving up stand-up.

We had a terrific gig. The audience – all around us! – were patient and charming. And the staff at the Old Vic were professionalism personified. Particular props to Jay, and to Barny, and to Chris, who organised the whole thing. We had a lovely time. And I must namecheck John, who, after the podcast recording was over and we launched into an unrecorded Q&A, actually explained the cryptic crossword clue I had thrown out earlier, and explained the answer: TUNGSTEN is also known as WOLFSRAM, which will make sense when you’ve listened to the podcast.

So, I say hats off to Bristol Old Vic, for looking after us so well and treating our ridiculous load of old nonsense as if it were improvised theatre, which it wasn’t. And to keeping the bar open after we’d finished, which is something the otherwise exemplary Bloomsbury in London doesn’t do. It was nice, as ever, to commune with the excellent nerds afterwards, many of whom had become part of the show, and some of whom will feature on the podcast, which will be available here when Orange Mark decides it will be so.