New Year is a time for looking forward, not doomsaying. All that is needed is a new mind-set. For that we need a narrative. Please help us to write this.
But I must start with the bad news – what might happen on the current trajectory. If the climate crisis the Green Party was formed to avert doesn’t happen (due to abrupt climate change?), and there is a General Election during 2018, the Party risks another 2017-style disaster.
I have the impression that those presenting the Party’s publicity seem to be avoiding the obvious lesson. Coming second in 2015 in several constituencies where Labour was certain to win was not for Green reasons. It was a message to the Labour Party that our socialism was preferable to Ed Miliband’s. Perhaps we Greens are unintentionally responsible for Corbyn’s surprise emergence, but that made the 2017 result for Greens all too predictable. I campaigned in the IoW, not Bristol.
It always seemed obvious to me that as long as the Green Party presents itself as more Labour than Labour, far from seeing us as ‘progressive’ allies, they must regard us as potential vampires.
Alan Borgars’ examination of the election results is even more telling than mine. It is only available on the Green Party Members’ Website, page 4 of ‘Recent discussions’, as an attachment to the motion to the next conference on changing the Party’s strategy. Alan sets out, in the form of a league table, the percentage drop in the Green vote from 2015 to 2017 in 117 seats where Greens saved our deposit in 2015. All except 8 of the 50 with the steepest drop (from 33% to 15% of the 2015 poll) were Labour, whilst all but 10 of the 50 with the smallest loss (38% or better) were in Conservative seats (and the 10 include Brighton, Bristol and Sheffield). There were 4 seats which unmistakably escaped the general Green collapse regardless of special factors, all in Conservative heartlands.
What is really saddening is how counterproductive the Green Party approach is. We all (in the Green Party) wish to ensure social justice within ecological limits, so we cannot help looking (being?) ‘left-wing’ because redistribution will be unavoidable. Fine, but if there is to be any hope of achieving that, the worst way to go about it is to tell our former enemies that we shall confiscate their wealth in anger. There will have to be redistribution, but if the climate crunch is allowed to happen, it will deprive even the better off of considerably more.
We are all now preoccupied with (leaving) Europe. Objectively, threats to the environment ought to worry people far more than staying in Europe, so why should the Green narrative be any more difficult to sell? There is unfortunately, one good reason: humans are hard wired against loss, which is presented as anything other than continued economic growth.
Leaving Europe could always be presented as ‘taking back control’, even if that was false. But threats to the global environment certainly resonated – in the leafier shires – in 1989, some time before Europe was thought of as a problem.
We must appeal to those who do worry about ecological threats, but who understandably perceive Greens as hostile. A keystone of the Green narrative must be something which guarantees security for anyone who would otherwise be frightened of any slackening of economic activity. I shall abandon the Universal Basic (Citizens’) income as the means to this end as soon as someone comes up with a brighter idea.
But redistribution need be no more than sufficient to guarantee everyone considering a sustainable economy. And in return for redistribution, the Basic Income will help entrepereneurial start-ups. Kate Raworth is only the latest of many writers to outline how preferable a society could be freed from the demands imposed by the growth imperative, quite apart from the imperative of not destroying the ecosphere.
We must develop a Green narrative and bring the Green Party centre stage, preferably in 2018 .