Beyond the Big three
Parties such as the Green Party, the
Socialists and UKIP claim they can offer a viable alternative to the big
names of politics. ANDY TATE looks at their chances of success in next
week's local poll and examines what they stand for
Rather than being fed up with politics
altogether, perhaps British voters are simply fed up with what the three
main parties have to offer.
Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats.
Blue, red, yellow. Different bottles, same wine all as bad as
each other, say some.
While this conclusion leads many people
to stay at home on election day, increasing numbers are embracing the
smaller parties instead.
For those who want Britain to withdraw
from the European Union, there is the UK Independence Party.
And for those who wish to reject parties
backed by and serving the interests of business, there are the Greens
and the Socialists.
In recent years, particularly since the
introduction of more proportional voting systems for some elections,
smaller parties have seen the share of their vote rise steadily.
Of course, the mainstream parties would
consider the minor parties an irritation, siphoning important votes away
to the margins of political debate.
And the downside is a handful of
successes for the British National Party but not in Swindon
with its race-driven agenda of voluntary repatriation.
But most democrats would have a hard
time arguing that giving people a wider choice at the polls is anything
but a good thing.
Conventional wisdom has socialists down as
high taxers and big spenders.
But Andy Newman, leader of Swindon
Socialist Alliance, is calling for council tax increases to be limited
to the rate of inflation.
"Council tax is an unfair tax on the
poor, which hits pensioners and those on low incomes hardest," says the
43-year-old telecoms engineer from Old Town.
Instead, a socialist-led council would
demand extra funding for Swindon from central government to pay for
extra investment in schools, transport and affordable housing.
And if the money was not forthcoming?
"We would take a stand," says Mr Newman.
"Swindon is under-funded and needs to fight for more money."
The socialists say the town has been badly
let down by councillors too afraid to stand up to the government when it
"We would take a different approach
because socialist-run councils are prepared to break the law," he says.
Running a deficit budget by going into the
red and leaving central government to pick up the bill is one possible
tactic. Bussing council workers up to central London to picket the House
of Commons is another.
It is not, as Mr Newman admits, a recipe
for stability or the quiet life.
"We could make things very uncomfortable
for the government," he says.
"But all we're demanding is as much money
as Slough. It's not a socialist revolution."
Ultimately, the socialists who
include two Socialist Alliance candidates (Central, Gorse Hill &
Pinehurst) and one Socialist Alternative (Moredon) want the
Government to tax the rich to pay for services for the whole community.
"A millionaire currently pays the same
amount of tax as someone earning £35,000," says Mr Newman.
"We believe people earning over £60,000
should be paying 60 per cent tax."
In between battling with the government,
the socialists say they would introduce bus conductors to reduce fear of
crime, and invest more money in schools, while imposing a moratorium on
If elected, the socialists have pledged
to spend their £5,000 annual expenses on community campaigns.
"The socialists are standing in the
tradition of what the Labour Party used to stand for," says Mr Newman.
"We are real Labour."
Jim Withey is standing as an independent
candidate in Shaw and Nine Elms, in protest at proposals to build Town's
new football stadium on the site of the Shaw Community Forest, which is
near his house.
The 61-year-old engineer from Sparcells,
a former member of the Conservative Party, says: "People are so angry
they are prepared to stand in front of the diggers.
"If elected I would do everything in my
power to stop this stadium from being built. I don't want a football
stadium staring me in the eye."