5 reasons to vote... Green

As part of our election coverage, we'll be asking each party the top five reasons why students should vote for them. Here's what Sam Murray from the Young Greens had to say...

5 Reasons to Vote Green

Green Party Logo The Green Party have grown in this past year to become the third largest UK party in terms of membership, and the ground swell of membership has been from the student population. Many students have felt betrayed by the Liberal Democrats reneging on a pledge to scrap tuition fees, as well as rolling over on core principles in the pursuit of power, or have been disappointed by Labour's lurch to the right over benefits and immigration - and have instead taken a look at the Green Party's policies.

The Green Party is a party that sticks by its core principles seeking to combine social justice and equality with a recognition that we need to protect the planet we live on.

The Greens are a highly democratic party, with policies made and voted on entirely by members. This was highlighted at our Spring Conference this year in Liverpool, where Young Greens had a number of progressive proposals accepted for policy reform. One example is when a Young Green, supported by others, proposed an emergency motion to condemn the abhorrent treatment of Aderonke Apata, an asylum seeker fearing imprisonment due to her sexuality, by the Home Office. The motion was passed unanimously.

Here are 5 policies key to our vision of a more equal and sustainable society - and how they'd be paid for.

1. £10 Minumum Wage

The minimum wage is simply not good enough at the current level. Millions if people in Britain are struggling to make ends meet, and relying on food banks to feed themselves and their families. The Green Party would make the minimum wage a living wage, raising it each year to reach a £10 minimum wage by 2020. We would also abolish age based differentials so that this level would be for those aged 16+. According to the Living Wage Commission, approximately 5.2 million people - 17% of the working population - would benefit.

To help this process we would reduce tax for small business and would scrap national insurance payments by employers to help with the shortfall created by having to pay employees more.

2. Scrap Tuition Fees

So this one may sound familiar and be treated with suspicion, which is fair enough considering what happened when another party made this pledge. The Green Party believes that education is a public good, not a commodity to be bought and sold. The current system isn’t working: £9,000 a year fees and the debt incurred is putting people from less privileged backgrounds off university, and the debts not paid off will be at the taxpayers’ loss.

Free university tuition is part of a wider comprehensive plan to reform education so that it centres on individual learning. Currently, the education system is obsessed with league tables, built around competition, and fragmented by the introduction of academies and free schools. We believe education is a fundamental human right and should not be subject to privatisation and profiteering, and we would bring academies and free schools back under local authority control.

To fund in part a policy such as this the Green Party supports a move to scrap trident nuclear weapons saving £100 billion. These are expensive weapons that do not make us anymore safer as a nation. Other European nations have prospered and remained defended without nuclear weapons and so can the UK.

3. Investment in Renewable Energy

The Green Party sees economic justice and environmental sustainability as inextricably linked; our current capitalist system not only perpetuates inequality but is also fundamentally unsustainable on a planet of finite resources. Renewable energy allows for us not only to keep carbon in the ground but will also, after an initial investment, bring down energy costs. We also want to invest in a nationwide home insulation programme to make homes more energy efficient, ending fuel poverty, and we see insulation as an essential part of building new homes. The investment in renewable energy would also boost our manufacturing industry, creating skilled jobs.

To help fund this investment we would seek to introduce the financial transaction tax (also known as the Robin Hood Tax) whereby every financial transaction is taxed by a tiny amount, and would also levy a tax on bankers' bonuses.

4. Renationalising the Railways

The privatisation of railways in the United Kingdom has failed the people of the UK. Ticket prices have increased to the point where it is now cheaper to fly to Germany than get a train from Leeds to Cardiff. To rub proverbial salt in the wounds, customers are not seeing where the money raised from ticket price increases are going, as trains aren't being improved and customers aren’t getting seats on their morning commute. There are many times when even just one extra carriage would make a difference - and promises are made, but they never materialise. In truth, this increase in profit is going to shareholders. A national service needs to be for people not profit.

The Green Party would immediately drop fares by 10% then seek over the next parliament to bring the railways back under national control, where fares can be regulated to be affordable and all profits are put directly back into the transport. We believe it's important to do everything we can to encourage people to use public transport.

Renationalisation can be a self-sustaining policy whereby rail fare revenues will be directly re-invested into rail infrastructure and a better, affordable service for the public.

5. Retaining the Independent Living Fund & Introducing 24/7 Crisis Care for those with Mental Health Issues

The coalition government has been merciless in their attacks on the most vulnerable of society, for example cutting welfare assistance and introducing the deeply unfair 'bedroom tax.'

One of the most disgraceful legacies of this coalition will be the scrapping of the independent living fund for people with disabilities. This fund allows people with disabilities to live independently within their communities, as opposed to living in residential care. It supports them in the work place and supports students with disabilities. The Independent Living Fund would be reinstated by a Green Party government to ensure we can assist those with disabilities in ensuring finance is not a barrier to achieving one’s potential.

We would also place an emphasis on improving mental health care. As we progress in society in overturning the stigmas surrounding mental health, we need to see more practical becoming available. This is why at Green Party conference we voted to support policy by Pudsey Candidate Claire Allen to offer 24/7 crisis care to those with mental health issues.

These important areas of welfare would be supported through a progressive income tax which would see those with broadest shoulders bear the greater burden. There would also be the introduction of a wealth tax on the top 1% of earners, those with assets worth more than £3 million. This richest 1% would pay a 1-2% on assets.

We've been speaking to other political parties over the past few weeks as part of our election coverage.

For more in the series check out:

and stay tuned (if you can do that on a webpage) for more from the other parties.

For more on the election, see our student voting survey to see how students intend to vote...