Can East England clean up the UK?

This article was first publish in Open Democracy.

As an MEP Candidate campaigning around the East Region in the last few weeks, I’ve frequently asked and been asked the question: what can June’s European Union Elections really do for Britain? And aren’t Euro-politicians all a load of sleazeballs, anyway? The results of a recent EU Public Opinion Monitoring Unit poll show these questions to be central to the perception of the EU across the country. It found that a mere 38% of UK respondents claimed interest in the upcoming elections.

How can politicians revive interest in these elections?

Perhaps, paradoxically, an opportunity has been created by this low level of interest by the public, and it is the one I want to focus on here: As each party makes preparations for a possible general election, the full crush of corporate money, spin, and slime that have come to characterize national elections has yet to fully infiltrate the Euro campaign, which is a slightly lower-key affair. So: Here perhaps is where we as candidates and elected politicians can stake our claim to make this election campaign a process that will improve the image of politics in this country.

In this vein, in a case of life imitating art (fans of The West Wing will know to what I refer), the 7 Greens standing for the East of England in the EU elections have published the following ‘Clean Campaign Pledge’:

We, the undersigned, pledge in this European election campaign:

  • To show by our actions that politics need not be a dirty game, but can be a clean and positive activity, engaged in genuinely for the good of all
  • To tell the truth about what we stand for and have achieved, and about what others stand for and have achieved
  • To give credit to other Parties where credit is due
  • When asked, to tell the truth to the best of our ability about who is doing well and about who is likely to win in these elections
  • To promise only what we can deliver
  • To fight a clean, positive and honest campaign around the issues that concern the people of this region
  • To take money only from organisations and individuals whose motives in giving us money we do not have reason to suspect.

Any Party member / candidate found to be evading or breaking this pledge will be subject to our Party's disciplinary procedures.

Finally, we encourage voters:

  • To expect from us the very highest standards of behaviour, as candidates and as their elected representatives
  • To ask Parties operating in this region whether they have signed up to the Pledge or not, and, if not, to encourage them to do so
  • And to help us enforce this Pledge, by reporting truthfully to us and to the media any apparent breaches of it.

We hope by this pledge to serve as a positive example for this region and for this nation.

This pledge has already been circulated to current Lib-Dem, Labour, and Conservative MEPs as well as UKIP’s national office, and has been read out by Green candidates at recent hustings meetings, with an open invitation to candidates from other Parties to sign up. As of yet, we’ve heard nothing in response, but we intend to frequently report on the pledge’s status. The movement to clean up British politics requires politicians taking an ethical lead, and requires participation, if it is to be successful: another possibility of this Euro election is reviving the power of the grass-roots. So: If you welcome this ‘clean campaign’ initiative, then I encourage you to get involved: write to the MEPs and lead candidates of Labour, the Lib Dems, the Conservatives and UKIP in Eastern England (you can find most of them here), and let them know that there is a standard you will demand from those pursuing the public trust. And write to us in the Green Party (and to the media), if you think we are falling short in any particular respect of the standards we have set for ourselves.

In the meantime, it would be interested to get some comments, and see what OurKingdom readers make of this initiative of ours.