You are the new kid on the block. I approach you because we know what to expect from Caroline and Amelia, your co-leader and Deputy: excellent representatives of the Party, but there is one respect mentioned below in which you might take the Party further. As you joined the Green Party without a predetermined ideology, you may more readily accept my narrative than the last two leaders.
At the hustings held at the Chepstow Green Gathering, you will remember a woman questioner saying that you would make an excellent leader, but I was the candidate saying what the Green Party ought to be saying. Perhaps I can set out my message in more detail here than is possible in 5 minutes at a hustings.
The ecosphere is a thin shell round a little ball. It is the only place in the universe where life is known to exist. Climate change is only one of many ways in which human activity is threatening the ability of the ecosphere to cope. James Hansen’s research tells us that controlling this is now urgent.
However, last December in Paris, an agreement was reached which it is hoped will limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees centigrade. But other preoccupations figure more prominently. There are all kinds of understandable reasons for this, but for example in Syria and Nigeria the major problem is an extreme form of rebellion. It is no coincidence that in both areas crop failures have occurred due to changed weather patterns.
That other political parties should pursue other priorities is their business, but for the Green Party this is inexcusable. It was formed 43 years ago in response to the first warnings of Limits to Growth.
In fairness, you do make reference to the need to pay attention to ecological limits, but that is a platitude unless backed by measures which ordinary people can relate to. In the early days of the Green Party, we were engaged on a serious attempt to formulate such a programme, but more recently other priorities have taken over.
In particular, we early members realized that a steady state economy should at least be a policy option for any government. Episodes of sustainable growth will be made possible due to technological advances, but growth as a shibboleth must go. I give three examples:fracking, GM foods, and solar panelled roads. As long as growth is a must, all three are essential. The ecological case against fracking is overwhelming, but, so as things stand, is the economic case for it. I shall discuss the borderline case of GM in a future blog. Solar panelled roads? Probably of limited practicability, but an excellent idea. This change to growth being an option will be a major cultural shift, but I don’t see any discussion of this in current Green Party literature.
Caroline Lucas does question growth occasionally. She even got arrested over fracking, but has she has ever linked the two? Unless there is a credible means of making acceptable what will feel like a recession, whatever we call it, questioning growth will just alienate most, and even frighten many. As you know, my suggestion is the Citizens’ Basic Income. You do mention this, but much as I welcome it as a social justice measure, unless it is firmly tied to the Green context, we are no nearer saving the ’Paris’ agreement.
But I pin my hopes on you for another reason. In 1989, 2.3 million voted Green in the European election, almost twice the 2015 tally. In England our vote was roughly proportional, at between 40% and 45% of whatever the Conservative vote was. Canvass returns in the Sedgefield by-election when Tony Blair resigned in 2007 confirmed that there is a significant pool of voters in conservative areas who will accept the following narrative:
- The Green party is the only Party which is serious about global environmental destruction;
- This may mean reducing economic activity;
- This means redistribution to make sure no one suffers (No mention of the Basic Income on doorsteps, it would take too long);
- But what you (richer than average) might get for your money is a sustainable planet fit for your grandchildren.
There must be many former Conservative or Lib Dem voters, some in frackable areas, worried, if not appalled by the government’s environmental record since 2010. That we should be recruiting, at least as voters, people who are not socialists worries some Green Party members who think that would involve betraying socialist principles. If redistribution makes us socialist, then we are, but the Green Party has drifted so far from its ecological roots that there is a body of opinion within the Party which thinks that any mention of measures to stabilize population growth is ‘fascist’. For me that is a core Green policy, but there is evidence that it can be achieved simply by social justice measures. Also, Caroline, Natalie, and even Amelia all fail my ‘zero hours’ test:
“What is your opinion of Zero hours contracts? Think now, and then with a Basic Income in place.” All three see zero hours as wrong in any circumstances. My answer:
“Backed by benefit sanctions, Zero hours contracts are a form of slavery. Figures show that they were a minor feature prior to October 2012, when Iain Duncan Smith introduced the harsh benefit sanctions regime. Since then they have increased five-fold. The Universal Credit was supposed to make this regime tolerable, but for 90% of its intended recipients not only has it not happened, it is never likely to. Caroline could have been attacking the Universal Credit using ‘Dynamic Benefits’ – the report which proposed it, ever since 2012.
“With a Basic Income, there is no compulsion, but everyone is better off accepting any reasonable offer of a job. The Basic Income makes work pay.”
Better late than never, you must persuade Caroline to use this ammunition now. But Caroline, Natalie and Amelia cannot accept this consequence of a Basic Income due to their still socialist tribal limitations. It is because you came to the Green Party free from ideological limitations that I hope not only that you agree with me on the last two points, but that you can reach out to that untapped reservoir of support in the leafy shires in a way that the leadership up to now has not even considered.
In standing for the leadership, I did not really expect to lead the Green Party back to the looming global crisis it was founded to address. But you can.