This time five years ago, on the eve of the last General Election, my friends and I were joining a crowd gathering in Sheffield city centre at a Liberal Democrat rally to hear Nick Clegg speak. We were postgraduate students, learning how to be librarians, worried about graduating into a recession and trying to get jobs in a squeezed sector. We knew that Labour had made a mess of things, but we couldn't contemplate life under a Conservative government. Clegg, the leader of the Lib Dems and local MP for Sheffield Hallam, a constituency full of students, stood there and promised us a rosier future if we gave him our votes. There was a buzz in the air, a sense of the real possibility for change, as we cheered our approval.
You don't need me to tell you how this story ends.
Feeling deeply betrayed by the party I had supported since turning eighteen and becoming eligible to vote, I had to look elsewhere to find someone who could genuinely represent me and the things I care about. Someone who I could trust not to let me down in a pursuit of power at whatever the cost. The Green Party seemed the most obvious choice, so I looked up their policies, and began to follow their actions...and I realised that I had found the candidates for my next vote.
The Green tagline is "for the common good", and this sums up why I believe in them. The other parties try to categorise us and I find this immensely alienating. I don't see "British people" and "immigrants"... why should you matter more because you just happened to be born in a certain area of this ball of rock and water that we all share? I don't see "hard-working families" and everyone else... why should you be less important if you're single, child-free or unable to work? I see people - human beings - who are all residents of this planet (which we need to look after because without it, where will we be?). We have a duty to each other, and to help out those less fortunate than ourselves; it’s called compassion, and it has been tragically lacking in the coalition government, who seem more concerned with pitting one section of the population against another.
The Greens believe in trying to make the world a safer place rather than ploughing money into horrific and dangerous weapons that we'd never bring ourselves to use. They believe in looking after the earth, making sure it will continue to support future life, not just taking what resources we want right now. They believe in ensuring that everyone has somewhere to sleep, enough to eat, and opportunities to make their way in life, without treading on others along the way. To me this all sounds simple and obvious. But the other parties don't seem to want these things.
The Green Party are actually representative of our country. I look at the other parties and I don't see myself, or my friends, or the people I encounter at work. Amongst the Green candidates I see women, I see faces which aren't white, and I hear regional accents coming from people who weren't educated at Eton and Oxbridge. These are not people who have selected politics as a career choice; they are people like you and me, who have experienced the challenges, trials, highlights and milestones of everyday life, and who want to make a positive difference.
You can call me an idealist, or a nutter (you won’t be the first), or tell me that I’m wasting my vote and should give it to Labour to keep the Tories out, but I know that I am voting for what I believe in, trying to make the world a better place. And imagine - just imagine - what could happen tomorrow if everyone else did the same…