As we start the build up to the Welsh Assembly elections next year, I find myself in the political wilderness, and pleased to be so.
Wildernesses are generally beautiful places, populated by few people, but those you come across there are invariably fascinating characters with tremendous survival instincts. There is peace and time to think clearly. Survival is built upon respect for your surroundings and your companions.
I am defining the political wilderness as that space on the political landscape outside of the political conurbations of the political parties, inhabited by self-sufficient political activists working to their own political agenda. I have stumbled across more truly impressive, comradely people here than in any party I have ever been associated with.
For the sake of clarity, I recently completely cancelled my membership of the Green Party of England & Wales. I am no longer attached to any political party, and it feels great.
Many have long suspected that I might be tempted to join Plaid Cymru. I have indeed been tempted, I will admit. But on close inspection, I saw nothing significantly different to the Green Party that I had become so disillusioned with. The differences are there, but they are are largely subtle.
Neither party is an ecosocialist panacea, although both are much nearer to it than anything else on offer. For example, both have (contrasting) problems with nuclear policy. Both have integrity issues brought about by casting aside avowed policy for political expediency at the merest whiff of (short-term) electoral success – making longer-term progress nigh on impossible. Both allow sectarianism to go unchallenged and thereby destroy any prospect of pulling together, to mutual and wider benefit. In other words, they are both pretty much like any other political party, when push comes to shove.
Politics does, however, have too much influence on our lives to be ignored completely. But I increasingly find that focussed single-issue apolitical campaigns can have more success in influencing policy and outcomes than direct involvement in politics. It achieves tangible results for people and is thereby a much more satisfying use of my time and money. For example, I will continue to focus energy on the anti-fracking and bedroom tax campaigns until these issues are successfully resolved.
I will also vote in elections – but not out of blind party loyalty. I will look at who is placed before me and make strategic decisions as to how best to vote to get an outcome that represents at least some sort of step in the right direction. In the absence of a credible electoral system and the lack of any tactical nous by parties, in terms of managing to work together to counter the democratic deficit, it is incumbent on voters to vote tactically as best they can. In our current sham democracy tactical voting is the only option left to us. It should not be frowned upon, but encouraged – and you can’t do that easily when you are in a political party (although I tried!).
In most cases, the choice in Wales ought to be between a Green candidate and Plaid Cymru candidate. But there are individuals (very few, but some) in other parties that I would happily endorse if they were on the ballot paper in front of me (one Labour candidate, two Lib Dems and a Pirate come to mind straight away). There are also a small number of individuals in both the Green Party and Plaid Cymru that I find objectionable enough to not be able to vote for or endorse.
For those interested enough, I may well share my views on who I would vote for around Wales nearer the time. In the meantime, I am going to relax and enjoy the tranquility of the wilderness for a while.