OK, the 40th Birthday celebrations were nice, but I came away from this GP conference more than usually pensive. Last week I expressed concern at the leftward drift of the party, as evidenced by the treatment of the pressure group ‘Population Matters’. It transpires that the trend has gone much farther than I thought. The new wording of the Philosophical Basis does not look like a major shift from the previous text. It places social and environmental justice as the Party’s foremost principle. But social justice always was one of twin basic principles. I have throughout stressed that neither social justice nor sustainability can be achieved without the other. The Party’s activist base has consistently been oriented towards social justice throughout the party’s existence. The change was not necessary. Its only effect will be to minimize the importance of the Party’s ecological raison d’ être. Why?
There is a widespread myth that the public still thinks that the Green Party is a single issue party – the environment. I can understand opponents who wish to hinder the Green Party’s progress putting this notion about, but publicity from Caroline and Natalie to the grass roots has consistently stressed both our range of policies and our left of centre ethos. I have pointed out in previous blog posts that when we were perceived as a single issue party, Conservatives voted for us in droves. That ceased abruptly in 1989, when we were given the opportunity to explain ourselves. It is of course true that the economic downturn has led to the general opinion that the economy is more important than the environment, even including climate change. There is a standard answer: the economy depends on the environment.
Last week I suggested that the large intake of disaffected Labour activists had inevitably led to the shift which concerns me. But I was especially heartened by what one lady said in the Workshop session on the Philosophical Basis motion (for those unfamiliar with conference procedures, all motions are discussed by a smaller, interested group before the formal plenary voting session). She said: “I left Labour and joined the Greens because of Tony Blair. At first I had no idea about, or interest in the Party’s environmental policies, but I have come to realize how important they are”
But my impression is that such people are in a minority. As I say, the party activists have always been recognizably ‘left wing’, and in many cases deliberately and proudly so. But the difference prior to the ‘Tony Blair’ intake was that there was a consensus on the fundamental importance of the Party’s ecological aspect. It seems that this is no longer the case. I am still shaky on my use of Twitter etc, so I cannot cut and paste material I would like to, but Adam Ramsay, a prominent Young Green (though not an office holder I understand) has been quoted to me as saying “We are stronger than them now. They will just have to accept that”. He has also been quoted to me as regarding any mention of population as being fascist. I will gladly apologise if Adam or anyone can tell me that these reports are inaccurate. But one of the more depressing aspects of this trend is that the Young Greens generally appear to be in the vanguard of a shift away from ecology, with an apparent reluctance to enter into dialogue.
To recap, my aims are:
1 Ecological – to achieve a sustainable world economy.
2 To unite those on the now redundant ‘left’ and ’right’ who want 1.
3 To prevent, or repeal the present government’s ‘workfare’ schemes.
I argue that the Citizens’ Income will facilitate all three. The first and second aims appear to be slipping away, but as my recent blogs stress, they can be ignored for the time being. The immediate task is to bring pressure to bear on Iain Duncan Smith’s hateful reforms. If the Green Party’s new emphasis on social justice is to mean anything, it should lead to wholehearted support for a measure that will do this. But if the new push for social justice is inspired primarily by an Old Labour agenda, then that would explain the otherwise strange fact that the same people who passed the Social Justice change overwhelmingly did not grasp the importance of my motion which began:
“Using the government’s own background briefing against it in support of the opposition to the misguided welfare reform plans.”
Dare I hope that two and two will be put together soon?