Election Debate – Is There A Green Alternative

While this is a criticism of the Green Party I am not singling it out because it is worse than other parties but because it is one of the best. I have (or did have) many friends who are in the Green Party including local councillors and people standing for election. They are all hard working, genuine people and unlike many other councillors are there to get things done rather than their own personal interest (there are people in the Green Party who are not hard working, genuine people but they are not my friends).

Neither am I saying that the Green Party are naive idealists – many of them are well aware of some of the things that I am going to say and could possibly articulate them much better.

The Problems They Face

They are interviewed by people such as John Humphrys, the Dimblebys, Jeremy Paxman who not only get a massive pay packet from their TV/Radio work also have various other income from books, talks etc. This probably amounts to over £1million a year.

While I am not necessarily knocking their professionalism at trying to be a neutral interviewer (something that I think, as human beings, is impossible) or that they may not necessarily think “I don’t like those Greens because they are going to increase my taxes” it is still a problem. They quite naturally think “I get paid this amount because I’m worth it” – if I was being paid that amount it is probably what I would think. Therefore people can get paid these massive amounts because they are ‘worth’ hundreds of times more than someone on minimum wage.

It is not only the interviewers – the whole of the media from the BBC to private TV/Radio and newspapers are owned and run by people in a similar position. It is not just a problem on how topics are debated but on what topics are discussed and how they are framed.

Ed Miliband got severely criticised by the media for not mentioning the deficit and immigration in a speech1 – which he later explained ‘he forgot’. Why are these issues so essential? The deficit is a symptom not a cause – why not talk about the decline in productivity per worker in the UK compared to other countries or the ongoing banking crisis that mainly caused the recession in the first place. Why not talk about how EU expansion and even Windrush was planned to attack workers pay and working conditions.

It is difficult to re-frame the way that the people think of things with the few minutes you get to give a sound-bite on Question Time.

Doing a bit of name dropping here – I had a rather heated discussion with Tony Benn just before the 1997 election. His argument was that we should forget individual policies of the Labour Party since what they will do when in power is to start to ‘re-frame’ the discussion. I feel that there is no need for further comment on this.

Don’t Scare The Public

Recent interviews with the Green Party leader Natalie Bennett as far as I can see have not gone well. Partly because of the problems discussed above. The Citizens Wage is now a long term project (as it was for the Liberal Party), the policy of membership of terrorist organisations is not what we said, the armed forces policy well…

Will this mean a change in Green Party policy to ‘make them electable’ the same way that actually appointing a leader was or will they just have to try to skip over these questions because they will not have time to explain them properly?

Sharing Power

I could go on to discuss Green Parties in other countries – Germany, Ireland – since these have often been discussed elsewhere2 apart to point out that it is not because the wrong people were elected or wrong decisions were made – it is because it operates within the wrong system.

In the UK the Green Party is involved in implementing cuts and other policies which are against their manifesto promises because they often have very little choice. They can only act within a framework that has already been set. Of course they can claim (as the Lib-Dems do) that they can soften these policies or make their affect less harmful – an argument which I think has some merit. They could of course ignore this framework causing the council to face sanction from central government or possible court proceedings which would probably eventually lead to their constituents suffering. Alternatively they could refuse to take part in the decision making processes as Sinn Féin do in the Westminster parliament.

 ‘In Power’

We can build an economy that gives everyone their fair share of the world’s sixth richest economy…Sadly, our current politics – dominated by a small social group and the power of vested interests – are failing this potential. 3

Let us say that the Green Party did get past the first hurdle of the media (dominated by a small social group and vested interests) making them ‘unelectable’ – at least with their current stated aims. What then?

Well the small social group and vested interests have quietly (in the mainstream media anyway- surprise, surprise) been securing their power through such things as TTIP4. However, they have many more ways of ‘Deterring Democracy’ ranging from disinvestment and sanctions to terrorism and invasion5. If you think that I am one of those people who believe in conspiracy theories then you are correct since, sometimes, they do exist. There are numerous examples from Central and South America to Palestine and post war Europe.

If you think that it could not happen here then think again6,7,8.

Is It All Pointless

It may seem that I am being rather negative. However, my main point is that JUST voting for someone because they are a ‘good person’ and say good things in their manifesto is pointless. Some people say that we need a Hugo Chavez type leader for the left in the UK. We don’t – we need the sort of movement that was responsible for Chavez to get elected but must not stop at getting ‘our person’ in power.

We have won many reforms – the NHS, 40 hour week, workplace safety, welfare benefits etc. However, these were not won simply through just voting for the correct person. As Tory MP Quintin Hogg said in 1943 – “We must give them reforms or they will give us revolution?.

Neither am I saying don’t vote or don’t campaign for the Green Party. However, there is a real danger that key points will be skipped over, or even policies changed to ‘make the Green Party more electable’. We need to change the balance of wealth and power, not just for a better society but to create a system that is sustainable. Often these are very difficult topics to argue – even many Green Party members will recoil when I criticise private car ownership or the consumerism. We do need to take OUR wealth and OUR power back from the small social group and vested interests that have stolen it from us.

1 Ed Miliband forgets deficit and immigration in speech, BBC, 24 September 2014 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29339581)

2 Can the Greens keep their principles and wield power?, Channel 4 News, 21 May 2014 (http://www.channel4.com/news/uk-green-partys-principles-falling-behind-europe)

3 For The Common Good, Green Party Manifesto 2015, Green Party 2015 (Green_Party_2015_General_Election_Manifesto_Searchable.pdf)

4 This transatlantic trade deal is a full-frontal assault on democracy, George Monbiot, The Guardian 4 November 2013 (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/04/us-trade-deal-full-frontal-assault-on-democracy)

5 Deterring Democracy, Noam Chomsky, 1992 – video lecture with same title – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoPToL_lYRY

6 The Plot Against Harold Wilson, BBC 2006 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6v1VxB5Lss),

7 Spycatcher, Peter Wright,1987

8 Who Framed Colin Wallace?, Paul Foot,1990



2 Responses to “Election Debate – Is There A Green Alternative”

  • Liam Carroll says:

    a familiar analysis – I went to a People’s assembly the other day to hear a representative of Syriza – she spoke well and emphasised the importance of pragmatism and compromise in getting Syriza elected. Various people from the assembly then criticised Syriza for aligning with fascists, staying in the EU, sidelining union power, working with racists, capitalists etc Later there was a go-round in which 7 different left groups stood up and articulated their political platforms, each with its distinctive emphasis on some part of the struggle, but all in various states of antagonism toward each other. I liked the woman from Syriza, I thought she spoke the truth – a compromised left is better than leaving governance to a relentless right wing mainstream, but most others seemed to prefer their idealistic silos. I think the Greeks have shown political wisdom, but I was terribly put off the PA by the puritanical moralising of the other attendees. I’d love to see the left and the greens come up with a consensus platform, but it seems such a terribly remote prospect.

  • emma says:

    very true, I was frustrated to hear Natelie Bennet in a radio interview make excuses about the policy of not banning terrorist organisations etc. There were good reasons why these policies were decided upon, and suggesting that they are outdated or need revisiting reinforces the idea that the green party don’t really have firm thought through rational reasons for the policies we have decided. I want the green party to remain radical – even though, as Pete says, we will struggle to get elected. People want a radical alternative and the green party leaderswill alienate their supporters if they dont champion our radicalism rather than make excuses for it.

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