The Green Party has lost its way

It certainly isn’t fit for its original purpose of forestalling an economic collapse due to over-exploitation. The Basic, Citizens’ Income would be keystone , with  ‘recession’ as a policy option.

I joined when the Party was no more than a response to the MIT study Limits to Growth. At the outset, I envisaged  a Party purporting to be a political party, so that it could  contest elections with an uncompromising but coherent set of policies designed to combine social justice with  the challenge posed by Limits. Doorstepping  revealed that 1% thought the same as I did, but another 20% had heard about Limits and in a safe (Conservative ) seat were disturbed enough to buy the argument that publicity for our unprepossessing set of policies was worth while. It was unprepossessing because I was telling well-off people that  they would probably pay more in taxes, but in return they might save a planet fit for their grandchildren. The Party would become a ‘real’ party when publicity enabled the message to be widely understood.

In retrospect, such a ‘strategy’ was always going to be too difficult. The Tragedy of the Commons was never going to be any easier than the Basic Income to explain on doorsteps, which was for several years our only means of communication. By the time we did achieve publicity, the Party had found easier, but less fundamental objectives – mainly bums on council seats.

I am not knocking the good the Green Party has achieved. Much solid work has been done on large local authorities such as Leeds and Kirklees (apologies to others I am less familiar with). Caroline Lucas needs no introduction, but this is as good an opportunity as any to ask everyone to urge their MPs to sign Caroline Lucas’s parliamentary Early Day motion 974 on the Basic, Citizens’ Income. An agreement was reached in Paris in December 2015, which embodies what the Green Party was originally about.

The pattern which emerged became sharply clear in the European Election in 1989. A passionately socialist band of activists sallied forth, and gained a result that was in England directly proportional at 42% to whatever the Conservative vote was in that area. We polled 2.29 million votes. In May 2015 we polled 1.15 million.

All those 1989 voters knew was that the Green Party took Limits seriously. Nobody had told them about the drastic redistribution bit, so we lost nearly all of them at the next election. Starting in 1994, Blair  thatcherized  the Labour party. Although he made it electable, a large minority found that the Green Party had a raft of policies closer to their ideals. The Green Party grew, but moved farther from my strategy, even though I felt it had been vindicated by the 1989 Euro result.

Worse was to come. A group I call the ‘Pirates’, quite a small contingent of the ex-Labour intake, quietly took key posts. Any mention of the Limits to Growth raison d’ être disappeared from the Party’s literature, unless you read the Philosophical Basic very thoroughly, and even that was got rid of in due course. Green Left contains many innocent of my allegations, but the ‘pirates’ are by and large members. The attitude of many of them to population issues shows that either they have no understanding of ecological limits, or worse still, do not care.

By the time of the 2015 election, the Green Party had morphed naturally into the Anti-austerity Party. That would have been fine, if linked to Limits, and to the Basic Income .We had after all been preparing for an economic downturn caused by over-exploitation.

The Green Party has always been seen as more welcoming to minority groups than any other party, and I hope that always remains so. But the latest proposal , to be discussed at  the Green Party Spring  Conference, 26th – 28th February [2016], is to give a whole range of special interest groups voting rights on the Party’s governing bodies. The Party was founded in response to Limits to Growth. That threat has now materialized in the form of climate change, though there are many other concerns, such as habitat loss and marine pollution. If extreme weather events intensify unchecked, the prospects for any minority groups are minimal. Humanitarian responses will become increasingly unrealistic . Yesterday’s (Saturday’s) Independent leads with the terrorizing of the Calais ‘Jungle’ by far right militias. Already hostels for migrants are intermittently torched in Germany. As problems, whatever the cause, get worse, political ‘solutions’ will shift towards UKIP, or NAZI methods, and will increasingly be by extremists taking the law into their own hands. I am pleading for a removal of root causes before it is too late. Only when we have made progress on essentials can we turn to less pressing matters. (For those going to Harrogate in two weeks’ time, what worries me despite its good intentions is Governance Option D.)

The Paris ‘agreement’ made no mention of limiting economic activity to the carrying capacity of the biosphere. It will fail unless that notion does emerge. The Basic Income is a step towards it. Meanwhile the Green Party agonizes over how to overcome the conservatives. The wisdom is that everyone who is not conservative will have to unite. My strategy is to recruit those missing conservatives, or at least Lib Dems who will never identify as socialist, but who do recognize fair play, and who will pay to preserve a planet fit for their grandchildren. But how to get anywhere near that aim, from where the Green Party is now?

I have often said I cannot leave the Green Party, I have nowhere else to go. That remains true, but it does need putting back on the rails.

Zac Goldsmith used to be a Green, along with his uncle Edward Goldsmith. In view of the government’s slim majority, he could have a tremendous influence. Zac, I see you haven’t yet signed Caroline’s Early Day Motion 974.

Post Script.

Katherine Meyles replied to this post  on Facebook with understandable criticisms. I answered her concerns in my post the following week, on 21st February. I hoped for dialogue, and I am disappointed that Katherine  has not replied, but I hear views like hers frequently. In a nutshell,  Katherine’s horror – not too strong a word – would be justified if one assumes no change in attitudes. But one of the more far-reaching effects which I claim for the Basic income is to begin a shift in the political culture. Recruits from our former enemies will become converts, not invaders. Please read my follow-up post. Clue: think Aesop – Persuasion is better than Force.


2 responses to “The Green Party has lost its way

  1. Clive I may have to un-subscribe from your blog if you keep on with posts maligning the party for not focusing enough on your pet policy of CBI. I agree its an important and useful policy, but its not a magic bullet that will fix everything.
    Also, though I would agree party literature hasn’t explicitly focused on limits to growth in recent years, throughout the last election campaign Natalie and other Green spokesperson continually used the refrain of restructuring the economy so that it works ‘within the limits of our one planet’. For a party to be relevant it needs to keep updating its message and references. It would look a bit ridiculous if our overtures to living within the resource base of Earth were couched in the terms of a 43 year old report.

    • The CBI is not a panacea. For example it cannot help with the zika epidemic or child sex exploitation. But it does facilitate a whole raft of possibilities which are impossible without something with its effects. The general election campaign was seriously deficient on the ‘Limits’ aspect. Without direct references to limiting economic growth to the carrying capacity of the biosphere – and something as a step towards that, ‘restructuring the economy’ is a platitude. ‘Limits to Growth’ was an ignored early warning. Paris was supposed to be the up to date response to realities. Do you really think it is adequate? Are you aware that Caroline has suddenly switched from wishing I would shut up, to putting down EDM 974?

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