Where Does The Green Party Stand On Nuclear?

While I know many hard-working activists who are involved in The Green Party Of England And Wales (GPEW) (including my girlfriend – we do not always agree), I have come into conflict with GPEW many times in the last 25 years. Although there have been various campaigns where I feel that GPEW has been dishonest and ineffective, I will mainly concentrate on its supposed ‘stand’ against nuclear power. In particular the response to the proposed new nuclear plant at Sizewell where, except for a few GPEW members, the response has been appalling. They have not had a campaign against what will be one of the largest construction sites in Europe, next to Minsmere nature reserve. The construction of a new nuclear power plant at Sizewell is directly against what they ‘stand’ for in their manifesto. I also believe, very strongly, that building nuclear power stations would severely limit our response to the climate and environmental emergency and would pose a severe threat in the face of increasing climate change1. The local Green Party had not even promoted or encouraged local members to join local groups that are campaigning and rarely advertise their events.

Although this post is an attack on the Green Party, I would like to point out it is because there are some very good points to the Green Party. There would be little point in criticizing the Labour Party or Conservatives in the same way on this issue. These points include:

  • There are many good activists in the Green Party
  • They have seen a massive increase in the number of members – increasing 10-fold in the last 10 years to over 50,000 Many of whom joined because of their increasing concern about the environment and climate.
  • They have had relatively good election results in the local area, even winning a seat in Leiston – the nearest town to Sizewell.

Where Does GPEW ‘Stand’ On Nuclear

“Prohibit the construction of nuclear power stations. We know that nuclear is a distraction from developing renewable energy, carries an unacceptable risk for the communities living close to nuclear energy facilities, creates unmanageable quantities of radioactive waste and is inextricably linked with the production of world-destroying nuclear weapons.”2

While this statement is not as strong as I would like, I cannot complain about it. I am not, and never have been, a member. Personally, I would not be in favour of immediately shutting down existing nuclear plants (although they should be rapidly phased out) except for those that present a substantial immediate risk. However, a couple of those have shut down or are going to be shut down in the near future anyway3.

‘Standing Up’ Against Sizewell

There are several groups opposing Sizewell C, these include Stop Sizewell C and Together Against Sizewell C. They have been working very hard to oppose Sizewell C – responding to consultations, meetings and questions to ONR and taking part in the Development Consent Order meetings.

Worse still is the fact that few of the local Green Parties have advertised demonstrations. For example, the recent demonstration at Sizewell on September 19th 2021 was not advertised on  most local Green Party Facebook pages, no emails were sent to members.

When questioned about this, they said:

However, although some ‘in the know’ may have communicated with each other, the event did not get advertised to the local GPEW members. If they did know, it would have been through Friends of the Earth, Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament, Greenpeace, Chris Packham’s tweets or local XR groups who did promote the event.

Taking Credit Where Credit Is Not Due

The Green Party in Suffolk is very strong with a Green Councillor, Tom Daly, recently being elected in Leiston (the nearest town to Sizewell) with a “campaign centred on opposition to new nuclear power at Sizewell and the siting of electricity substations at a greenfield site in Friston.”4

While I must congratulate the Green Party for campaigning on this issue, with little involvement of the local Green Party in the opposition to Sizewell C and the lack of response from the Green Party nationally to the growing calls for nuclear power, was the electorate’s faith in the Green Party misplaced?

This is not the first time that I have had similar feelings about the Green Party. At the beginning of the Iraq War, I was quite involved in the anti-war movement, particularly in Norwich. Although the Green Party nationally had done some good work around the issue, the local Green Party had little active involvement in organizing in Norwich – one GPEW councillor did turn up for part of one meeting. Despite this, it put out local election campaign material that said it was ‘at the forefront’ of the anti-war movement.

Do They Know The Issues?

There are many issues around Sizewell C, and it is important that they are discussed at local government level. Again, it is great that the Green Party are there to argue the case. However, if they are not actively responding to consultations or attending the DCO meetings or in contact with local campaigning groups that are, how deep is their understanding of the issues?

Many years ago, the BBC Politics Show did a feature on Sizewell. However, the Councillor who was speaking against the power plant, although he had a reasonable basic understanding of the issues, was unable to respond to inaccuracies and flaws in the pro-nuclear arguments.

Don’t Scare The Voters

Diverging slightly for the moment to climate change, this is another area where GPEW falls short. GPEW does not have a campaign about climate change, seeing it as ‘death on the doorstep’ to talk about it5.

Locally, GPEW had refrained from talking about any issues except uncontroversial ‘local issues’. They kept their focus on local ‘green’ success – e.g. Beccles Lido and Public Hall. Although this is excellent work and has slowly built up support for the Green Party in the area over the last ten years, we do not have another ten years to oppose Sizewell C or to start tackling climate change.

However, with growing local disquiet over Sizewell, GPEW have had some success in claiming their opposition to Sizewell in local towns – Leiston4 and Halesworth6. With the lack of interest of the local Green Party on this issue, it could be argued that they were pushed into adopting a more radical opposition to Sizewell by growing local opposition.

Is There A Way Forward?

As I stated at the beginning of the post, I would not be writing this if I thought there was not.

  • GPEW should have a campaign against climate change. I know this is not really the subject of this post but, come on, not having one is ridiculous.
  • There should be better coordination between the local Green Party and Sizewell C campaign groups. Whilst I feel that this is not just the Green Parties fault – perhaps local campaigns against Sizewell could have reached out to the Green Party better, I feel that given my history with the Green Party I am not the person to do this. Neither is my girlfriend, who although is a member has her own disputes with GPEW7
  • Involve The Membership. If the local Green Party was more involved in the local campaigns against Sizewell C, then it might be more likely to support local events and protests. They promote many events and causes that are not directly controlled by the Green Party – why not anti-nuclear groups and events.

1 Nuclear Power: Systemic Risk And Climate Change, This Blog, (https://www.plux.co.uk/nuclear-power-systemic-risk-and-climate-change/)

2 If Not Now, When, Green Party Manifesto 2019 (https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/Elections/Green%20Party%20Manifesto%202019.pdf)

3 Nuclear Power: Keeping The Lights On??, This Blog, 2021 (https://www.plux.co.uk/nuclear-power-keeping-the-lights-on/)

4 Greens take East Suffolk seat in Leiston as voters have say on Sizewell, East Anglain Daily Times, 9 July 2021 (https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/local-council/greens-win-leiston-council-seat-8131396)

5 The Green Party and campaigning against climate change, Caro New, 17 August 2020 (https://actionnetwork.org/user_files/user_files/000/047/164/original/The_Green_Party_and_Climate_Change_Campaigning_by_Caro_New.pdf)

6 Local elections 2021: Green gains and Conservative majority in east Suffolk, Lowestoft Journal, May 2021 (https://www.lowestoftjournal.co.uk/news/local-council/local-election-results-2021-east-suffolk-7956912)

7 The Green party’s gender intolerance problem, The Spectator, March 2021 (https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-green-party-s-gender-intolerance-problem)

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