The green alternative


The Green Party could benefit from an “anti-Ukip” vote in this Thursday’s elections, its leader, Natalie Bennett says.

The Greens have pushed the Liberal Democrats into fifth place in the polls and could treble their number of MEPs if that is replicated in voting this week. Ms Bennett, speaking after touring seats in the North-west on Friday, said many people were saying they had been compelled to turn out and vote to “stop Ukip” because they did not like Nigel Farage’s hard-line message.

Only a 1.6 per cent swing to the Greens would mean they would increase their tally from two MEPs to six. The party is particularly popular among the young – although turnout is low among this age group.

Ms Bennett claimed that Labour voters in the North-west were switching to Greens, while in the South-west her party was picking up support from Lib Dem voters. In traditional Conservative heartlands, some people were voting Green because of fears about fracking.

She told The Independent on Sunday: “This is a PR election, every vote counts. The three large parties are offering business as usual. Politicians really have to change.

“There is a definite feeling that the Lib Dems have sold out. With Labour voters, a lot of people are feeling that Labour is so wishy-washy and close to the Tories. On Twitter, quite a lot of people say they are voting green because of the green-belt issue.

“There are people who haven’t voted for many years. They are considering voting for us as the anti-Ukip vote. Among the young, we are the only people saying disadvantaged young people should not be paying for the mistakes of the older generation.”

Ms Bennett agreed with criticism of the “zombie Parliament”, which has arisen because the five-year fixed term has left MPs with little to debate or legislate. “It has become very clear that five years is too long.” While the Greens have just one MP in Westminster, Caroline Lucas, they are hoping to pick up support on an anti-politics platform from the opposite side of the mainstream to Ukip. Ms Bennett is pushing to take part in the general election TV debates. She said: “We have to be present in the debates if they are to have any credibility.”

original article by Jane Merrick in the Sunday Independent here

Politicians must embrace the shifting sands of democracy

Ballot-box-jBy Matt Hawkins

“We are witnessing the end of history,” argued Francis Fukuyama. The year was 1989 and, with Western liberal democracy spreading across the globe, the American political scientist claimed that humanity had reached the peak of its socio-political evolution.

The Ballot box For Fukuyama, history’s march had taken us as far as it could; we had reached the summit.

I’m not so sure though. Democracy isn’t like a mountain with a series of navigable peaks – it is more like a beach, the sands of which are constantly shifting. At the time of the Swing Riots and the Great Reform Act in 1832, allowing an extra 0.02 per cent of the population the right to vote in rigged elections was seen as quite a radical step forward for democracy.

Even though we now have universal suffrage in many other ways, the fruits that were promised from democracy have still not been forthcoming.

As George Monbiot has reported, a new transatlantic trade deal could give powerful corporations the right to sue governments who try to defend their citizens.

Iain Duncan Smith’s all-out assault on the welfare state has led to a doubling in the number of malnutrition cases with a record 5.8 million people in Britain struggling to afford everyday basics like food.

And in June of last year Edward Snowden revealed to the world that our government, in collaboration with America’s National Security Agency, has been collecting electronic data on millions of people around the world and tapping the phones of heads of state.

Unless Fukuyama enjoys especially unhappy endings, it is unlikely that this was the triumphant ‘end of history’ that he had envisaged. And whilst politicians are failing to live up to the classical ideals of democracy, the public are finding new ways to engage (or not) with the political system.

Across Western Europe membership of political parties is falling. Whilst the Conservative and Labour Party in Britain once boasted memberships of 3 million and 1 million people respectively, those numbers have collapsed to 134,000 and 193,000 today.

At the same time, turnout at elections has fallen from 84 per cent in 1950 to 65 per cent in 2010 – and that was a particularly good year by modern standards. Like the proverbial tree in the woods, what happens to a political system when there is no one there to invest in it?

The philosopher Barry C. Smith has argued that, as society becomes increasingly more complex and interconnected, so our cultural, political, and economic tastes are stretched and become more diverse. Rather than become a member of a political party and sign-up to all its policies, people are joining campaign groups like UK Uncut and Occupy that offer them a completely new, community-led vision of society.

Thanks to the liberalising effects of the internet, voting is no longer the only way in which people can be politically engaged.

The vexing question for political parties is how to respond. So far the government has thrown its toys out of the pram by introducing the Lobbying Act and trying to stamp out these new political movements instead of meeting them on their own terms. Like a river re-channelled by human interference, however, these defences can only hold for so long.

It’s a question that myself and other members of that intrinsically ‘democratic’ organisation, the Green Party, have often had to grapple with: how to balance fighting for a new political and economic structure whilst working within the confines of the old one. Our policies come from our members who present them and vote on them at conference.

That means that if there is the evidence-base and support for a particular policy, it will be adopted. The party also actively engages with those groups like Occupy who are taking community campaigning into a whole new realm.

Rather than trying to trample on the work of campaigning organisations, I’m proud to actively work with movements which are finding new ways to turn-up the volume of the public’s political voice.

Like the Swing Rioters of 1832, none of us can say what brave new world of political democracy we will have fashioned in 180 years time. What is certain is that the best way to be a part of that future is to move with the shifting sands rather than trying to hold back the tide.

Original article by Matt Hawkins published here

Green party: 10 Point Flood Prevention Plan


The UK’s response to the flooding crisis must centre on a long-term strategy to address climate change the Green Party says today, as it recommends a series of ten measures to improve the country’s flood resilience in future.

It says sustained political action on climate change is crucial to reducing the risk of severe flooding happening again.

The Party is calling for Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to be sacked and for the Prime Minister to remove Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials who refuse to accept the scientific consensus on climate change. The Met Office has said (2) that the evidence points to climate change contributing to these extraordinary floods.

Keith Taylor, the Green Party’s Euro MP for South East England, said:

“These floods, which are now affecting thousands across my constituency, bring into focus the devastating risk of inaction on climate change.

We need to do all we can right now to help those affected by flooding, including applying to the EU for extra financial help. In the longer term we must reverse staff cuts at the environment agency and strengthen planning rules to prevent further development on flood plains.”

The Green Party’s ten point plan on flooding includes:

1. Reverse staff cuts at the Environment Agency, review its budget, and drop plans to impose a duty on the EA to consider economic growth which could get in the way of providing independent expert advice

2. Strengthen planning rules for urban and rural areas to prevent further development on flood plains and ensure developers prioritise flood resilience and prevention – including through incorporation of SUDS in new developments as well as a programme of retrofitting SUDS to existing communities. Ensure better transparency of decisions so public can hold decision makers accountable.

3. Get rid of any cabinet Ministers or senior governmental advisors who refuse to accept the scientific consensus on climate change or who won’t take the risks to the UK seriously

Natalie Bennett, Green Party Leader, said:

“Politicians who ride roughshod over the painstaking findings of climate scientists (3), sometimes motivated by their inappropriately close links to fossil fuel big business, endanger our future and our children’s future”

“It’s a crying shame more of the recommendations made by the The Pitt Review into the 2007 floods haven’t been taken seriously by Labour, the Tories, and their Coalition government lackeys in the Lib Dem Party. But it is not too late for action.”

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:

“Across the country, homes and businesses are being devastated by the floods, and our hearts go out to everyone whose life is being turned upside down. Nature is giving us another wake-up call.

“In addition to making sure everything possible is done to help people affected by the immediate crisis, we need a credible long term strategy to tackle the risk of flooding and extreme weather to people’s homes and liveilihoods in the futrue.”

The call to government urges ministers to adopt the recommendations of a major independent cross sector coalition for a Cabinet-level committee on infrastructure and climate change resilience and a Royal Commission on the long-term impacts of climate change on land.

The Green Party is also calling for all staff cuts at the Environment Agency to be cancelled, planning rules to be strengthened to prevent further development on flood plains, and for increased levels of spending on flood defences to a level in line with expert recommendations from the Environment Agency and the Climate Change Committee.

And it is supporting the call of campaigners for the billions of UK fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks to be used to help the victims of flooding

“This redirection will address the underspend and assist the victims of flooding, as well as putting a halt to public money exacerbating the problem of climate change that is making the floods so much worse”, noted Bennett.

Download The Green Party’s Ten Point Plan here