Magid Magid: I shook up Sheffield’s politics - now I want to do the same in Brussels

Magid Magid, Sheffield's outgoing Lord Mayor, is contesting this week's European elections.
Magid Magid, Sheffield's outgoing Lord Mayor, is contesting this week's European elections.
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BACK in 2014 in the European elections in Yorkshire, before the 2016 Brexit referendum was more than a twinkle in Nigel Farage’s eye, the Green Party finished fourth in Yorkshire and Humber, narrowly missing out on a seat and beating the Liberal Democrats by 20,000 votes.

This year, when it comes to politics, lots of things are different. That’s something no one can dispute.

Magid Magid is standing in the European elections for the Green Party.

Magid Magid is standing in the European elections for the Green Party.

There’s a lot of talk that Farage’s hard Brexit mob will “win” this election. That’s the talk of a country that’s stuck – for Westminster and council elections – in the Victorian tradition of first-past-the-post elections, where most of us lose (68 per cent of votes didn’t count in the 2017 general election).

In fact, Yorkshire has six seats in Brussels to be shared out in this proportional, relatively fair election. And, not to be too blunt, I’m delighted that I’m in with a strong chance of winning one (that’s what the bookmakers also say)! I’m winning support from many voters who can see that the best possible deal we can have with our neighbours is the one we have now, membership of the EU and a full democratic say over its running.

The democratic route to that has to be the People’s Vote. The Green Party is the real voice for that, having been the first to call for one. We acknowledge the rightful concerns of people in Yorkshire and Humber – about poverty, inequality, the powerlessness of local communities in the face of the power of Westminster, and multinational companies that exploit their workers and don’t pay their taxes.

The Greens aren’t just tough on Brexit; we’re tough on the causes of Brexit too. We believe in remaining in the European Union, because we want to transform it – and Britain – into an entity that works for everyone; a powerful force capable of taking on the pressing issues of our time.

The Green Party has long been the consistent voice against austerity. We recognise that the status quo has failed millions of Britons, particularly in Yorkshire and Humber. Many of our communities have been left in desperate straits – their services slashed, their finances radically depleted, and their people without hope.

We are on the right side of history on social issues – just look at how many of our long-term policies from renationalising the railways to universal basic income have been adopted or at least flirted with by other parties.

And of course that’s also true of environmental issues. We were calling for transformatory action on our climate and biodiversity crisis long before other parties started hugging huskies or showing solar panels on their leaflets. We’re out on the streets backing the youth climate strikes and Extinction Rebellion. Green MP Caroline Lucas was a champion of the Green New Deal long before the term caught on in America.

Politics needs to change and it’s going to change. That doesn’t mean everyone has to wear great hats and slogan T-shirts – although it would certainly help shake things up.

I’ve been proud to achieve that kind of shake-up in Sheffield in my year as Lord Mayor. The hats and T-shirts were only a symbol. I highlighted a different important issue every month (banning Donald Trump from the city in July!), I brought artists into the council meetings to showcase local talent, and I took the message that politics is for everyone to house parties and music events, football fields and youth groups.

I took the “Sheffield is Super” message across the country and the continent!

Maybe you’re desperately looking for a home for your vote. Maybe you are a disgruntled long-time single-party voter who’s just fed up with your traditional voice. Maybe you are a first-time voter having just turned 18 – and if that’s the case this is a particularly crucial vote. The Green Party will campaign tirelessly for a People’s Vote and to remain in the EU – to ensure you keep the wonderful opportunities of freedom of movement, to roam the continent, working, living and loving where you want.

However you’re thinking, you can be sure that by voting Green, you’re making a safe choice. You know what you are getting: consistent, reliable politics for people and planet. But not boring. I’ve been accused of many things, but never that. We can’t afford boring politics – we have to excite everyone, particularly the young, with the opportunities to rebuild our societies so that they work for the common good, not just the few.

And by voting for me, you’re using your vote in the European elections to directly counter Farage’s Brexit Party and their hateful xenophobia.

I Magid, a black, Muslim citizen of Yorkshire, who arrived in Britain as a refugee, is wholeheartedly ready to represent you. And to fight for a United Kingdom and Europe that welcomes other refugees, that cares and respects all the people and creatures on this fragile planet, and that acknowledges there’s enough resources for everyone to have a decent life, if we share them out fairly.

Magid Magid is the former Lord Mayor of Sheffield. He is contesting this week’s European elections for the Green Party in the Yorkshire and Humber region.