The Green Party – further thoughts #2

How are the bees in my bonnet doing?

I’ve previously given the reasons I (re)joined the green party – basically:

“The mere presence of a Green party in boring old mainstream politics – having councillors, MPs, MEPs MSPs, Assembly Members, Lords – has the effect of making it feel legitimate to take the environmental context seriously. It gives salience to the wider physical context in which all the fun of finance and politics and business and trade and art and shopping and human life in general takes place. Green ideas will sound louder because some of their proponents are willing to play the game of mainstream politics.”

Tom Chance recently said something similar, and with the authority of actually having worked for elected green politicians in the London Assembly:

“It’s widely assumed that the Green Party isn’t needed now that other parties take ‘green’ issues seriously. It’s also often argued within the Green Party that we shouldn’t focus too much on ecological issues for fear of reinforcing the impression that we’re a single issue party.

But in my experience, it was all too often necessary to have a Green politician in the room to get ecological issues raised, and all too important for them to take those opportunities.”

It is because that particular bee is still buzzing that I chose to renew my membership.

The other “bee” is that, as I said in one of last years posts, the Green Party is not “left-wing”. Party luminary (I suspect he’d be amused by that description) Rupert Read seems to agree with me, though with rather more philosophical depth. Unfortunately we seem to be in a diminishing minority on that one.

The Clive Lord tendency

The Green Party had a leadership election recently. I gave my first preference vote to Clive Lord. He’s an elder of the party, almost a founder member, and I voted for him because he has rather similar bees in his bonnet. He stood for election, not with any serious hope of winning (he’s now in his eighties), but as an opportunity to send those bees out to forage.

His blog is worth reading and I have been gratefully enlightened by his arguments in favour of the Citizen’s Income (or something which amounts to it) as a means of creating the fairness which would be necessary for a steady-state economy to be acceptable. Here is his pitch to voters in a by-election (which he claims did actually work on well-off ‘natural’ conservative voters):

“The Green Party was formed to deal with things like climate change, but there are powerful vested interests delaying this. There will have to be a much fairer society if we live within the Earth’s limits, so the only thing we can be sure of is that people like you will pay more tax. But what you will get for your money is a planet fit for your grandchildren.”

He is also quite clear that the Green Party has “lost it’s way”, losing it’s specific environmental-limits-to-growth focus by opening its doors to any and every worthy liberal cause. It’s a toughie that one – worthy causes are of course worthy and who could refuse them a home? Except that … well, one thing that has become clear to me recently is that I am an anti-utopian and that “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. In a practical Green Party context this means that it is important that the social justice tail does not wag the ecological dog. I do genuinely find this a difficult conclusion, and I have havered over it, but what decided me is the following thought.

Accepting quite how deep in the soup we are is difficult, painful really. A good life is still possible for everyone on earth, but it cannot be the same kind of good life that is now enjoyed by most in the developed countries. There is therefore, even in some people committed enough to go and join a political party which titles itself “green”, an unconscious tendency to shy away from how bad things really are, and a welcoming of displacement activity. And what better displacement activity than social justice causes? Particularly as, (see earlier) a sustainable society, to be even tolerable, let alone pleasurable, has to be above all fair and reasonably equal.


Last word to Clive:

“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.”

Oh dear.

The Green Party – further thoughts #1

How much has it changed?

I’ve now been a member of the Green Party for a little over a year. My original intention was to be a fairly passive supporter – most members of most political parties are just that, joining to lend a little financial and moral support to something they consider worthwhile. My earlier post explaining why I considered the green party to be worth supporting was based on my brief membership of the party at the start of the century, (I’d known about the its existence since it was called the Ecology Party and Jonathon Porritt was active in it, but I’m not a “joiner”. I philosophically disapprove of my reluctance to get stuck in to things, so I’m trying to work on this). Since I re-joined I’ve been pootling around the party’s online forums, reading the personal blogs of random party luminaries and footsoldiers, have attended the national conference and one meeting of my local party. I’m still rather undecided how much proper involvement I want to have.

The Green Party has changed in several ways. The most unexpected thing is the size. At the start of the century the membership was around 5,000 and now it is around ten times that, with a proportionate rise in the number of active members. So the conference now looks superficially exactly like all the other party conferences (though there is still a one-minute silent “atunement” before the opening of voting sessions). Structurally, there are now enough members to support a whole bunch of sub-groups. Back in the 70’s, the tiny Liberal party had a notoriously hot-headed youth section, the Young Liberals, who always seemed to be getting themselves into trouble. The Young Greens seem lively enough to be capable of occupying the same cultural space (though so far no headlines) – or perhaps they’re really fulfilling the same function as the Young Conservatives famously used to (i.e. finding partners).

One thing that has not changed, but which has arguably become unworkable in the enlarged GP is the policy process. This is famous for being entirely run by members and voted on, live, at each conference – in principle anyone can submit a policy motion. Motions which pass get added to something called the Policies for a Sustainable Society (PfSS to its friends), which is not the same thing as the manifesto. I did read a big chunk of PfSS prior to my previous short-lived membership, to check if it was sufficiently aligned with my opinions on science and whatnot, but a brief glance at the 2016 version was enough to put me off repeating the exercise. It seemed bigger and vaguer than I remember, though it could just as well be me who has changed. At any event the PfSS is a large sprawling mess and if I were an elected Green politician of some sort (I’ve absolutely no ambitions there, but if I were), I reckon I would pretty much ignore it. I was therefore interested to see, from this post on Tom Chance’s blog that it was indeed largely irrelevant to the Green Group in the London Assembly. I do wonder if the unacknowledged point of the policy process has become to give people something to do in a party with relatively little real power. I could certainly see a sort of think-tank function as a useful aspect of the GP, but it looks less like that than a mere energy-sink.

The Green Party had a leadership election recently and that will form the starting point of my next post.

Lifelog: veg box failure

My aim is to eat everything that appears in the box (apart from the occasional caterpillar) – give everything a fair tasting and attempt to overcome existing vegetable prejudice (veg-prej). I have sucessfully made my peace with red cabbage, brussel sprouts and chillie peppers (a rather unstable peace that last one, but still …).

I admit defeat with the fennel bulbs they keep sending me this year (must have been a good year for fennel, I suppose). I have tried several times, over the years, to like, or at least tolerate, aniseed-liquorish flavour (I once bought a bottle of pernod because I thought it would be cool stuff to drink) but there seems to be no softening in my tastebuds. It’s just yuk.