Why Conservatives should vote Green (Stephen Hawking)

The Green Party was founded by a former Conservative councillor, and three close friends. They were shocked and disbelieving when I told them they had just started a Socialist party. All they thought they were doing was saving the Planet for future generations.

I admit, the disappointment at the complete failure of the Green Party leadership even to admit, let alone address the 2017 Parliamentary vote collapse still looms larger for me than this week’s major news stories: not only poisoned Russians, but we lost both Ken Dodd and Stephen Hawking. Mind you, Hawking not only gave warnings – and hope – about humans’ future in thelight of ecological destruction, but

Stephen Hawking was also a Basic Income supporter!

I quite agree that this is a terrible government, but there are just enough people who think otherwise to foil the strategy of persuading everyone who isn’t Tory to join forces. We have to persuade former Tory voters not to.

There are two simple reasons why some Cons, and especially ex-Lib Dems might vote Green, if only the Green Party could stop positioning itself as socialist.

But we are Socialist I hear many readers say. We have to be in favour of drastic redistribution, but instead of presenting this as a victory over class enemies, we explain, more in sorrow than in anger, that we only want to take enough to make everyone feel secure in an ecologically, permanently sustainable economy.

On the doorstep – in Conservative heartlands – consider the person who has a bright idea, but not much else. You point out that an adequate basic income would give her or him the wherewithal to try it out. Many such experiments will come to nothing, but nobody suffers. A few will do well, but will find that they have to pay tax – to fund the Basic income!

The other reason is that, as was shown in the 1989 Euro election result, it is the leafy shires where people are more likely to think about ‘long term’ worries such as climate change, plastics in the oceans, habitat  and farmland loss, and coral bleaching. Those in deprived former hives of industry have more immediate worriers, such as benefit sanctions.

The few constituencies which escaped the general Green vote collapse were in seats as safe for the Conservatives as Brighton once seemed for Labour. Foremost was the Isle of Wight, but Hertforshire North East, and Herefordshire North also clearly bucked the trend with no other obviously relevant factors. I should have thought the Green Party would be interested in examining why. Were the (safe) Conservatives climate sceptics? How (differently) did the Green candidates present themselves?

I considered this topic in some detail at the time of the ‘green surge’ three years ago (25th January 2015). So I was not taken by surprise by what happened in 2017. Too many in the Green Party are still limited by old tribal ties. But we can attract many who are put off by the label socialism without sacrificing social justice.

The Universal Basic Income is seen as a practical measure. It is, but it is also capable of facilitating a complete reorientation of politics. Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics reiterates what the original Green Party was about, but then lost sight of: Humankind is at a pivotal point where growth must give way to a recognition of ecological limits. In the end, this is in the interests of capitalists as much as everyone else.

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