The Long Term Plan Is Green is an independent blog produced in support of the Green Party in the UK. The point of the blog is to help elect as many Green Party parliamentary candidates as possible in the General Election of 2017.
My name is Ted and I’m a former Tory. By “former Tory”, I mean to say that I actively campaigned for the Conservative Party in advance of the General Election of 2015 (online as well as in north London constituencies) and that I also initially supported Zac Goldsmith’s London mayoral campaign of 2016.
Why the Green Party?
- The Green Party won’t win the election. In all likelihood, the Tories will. But helping to elect Green Party candidates to Parliament will add critical, progressive, eco-conscious voices to what is currently a fairly predictable and uniform House of Commons. Theresa May will continue to doggedly defend the Tory government’s record against all criticism and Jeremy Corbyn will continue to re-shuffle his cabinet until he realises that there aren’t that many people who agree with him on everything. In this House, Green Party candidates will serve to address some of the questions that many voters feel deserve attention, but which aren’t adequately represented in the mainstream narratives of the main parties.
- What are some of those questions? The environment is one, and it is certainly one of the most important. In January this year, “air pollution in London passed levels in Beijing”, which prompted Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to describe London’s air quality as constituting a veritable “health crisis” (The Telegraph, 25 Jan). The environmental problem is, however, far from local (as if anyone needed reminding). Over the course of the last thirty odd years, the “area of sea ice in the Arctic has fallen by more than half and its volume has plummeted by three-quarters[…] SWIPA estimates that the Arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer by 2040. Scientists previously suggested this would not occur until 2070” (The Economist, April 29-May 5). The Conservative Party has long talked about creating a plan for Britain that is “long-term”, and Theresa May has repeatedly described Brexit as an opportunity to create a “truly global Britain”. Yet, the Prime Minister seldom, if ever, talks about the environment. It seems that the long-term plan for a truly global Britain has to, at some point, be painted in green, or Britain won’t, in the long-term, be anything at all. Additional Green Party MPs will serve to remind the government, and the world, that an increasingly eco-conscious approach to policy is imperative for human survival. As the Green Party’s Environment Manifesto states: “[We are] the only party that puts the environment at the heart of all our policies – because, quite simply, a prosperous, thriving future will be green – or not at all.” During a time when the U.S. President is looking to dismantle just about every bit of environmental progress made in the U.S. in the last decade, Britain needs to step forward as a global leader of environmental politics.
“If you can’t understand what economists are saying, it’s because they are lying.” – Axel Kicillof, Minister of Finance in Argentina
- It’s the economy, stupid. In advance of the General Election of 2015, the Conservatives’ campaign director, Lynton Crosby, is known to have said that “voters only need to know two things about the economy: it was broken five years ago by the other lot and it’s OK again now under us” (The Guardian, 20 Jan 2016). As much as that statement seems perfectly in line with the Conservatives’ strategy of reducing political reality to a bare minimum of intelligibility, it sadly fails to reflect any version of truth that could be described as even remotely objective, or as serving the interests of anyone but the Conservative Party itself. According to Tories, it is imperative that the UK continue to be governed by the fiscally responsible economic principles of the Conservative Party. Yet, few people seem to understand what good these economic principles amount to when so many Britons rely on food banks; when so many Britons are homeless; when the government’s deficit reduction targets demand severe cuts to disability benefits; when poverty affects one in four British children; when the NHS is doing worse and worse for each passing year; and so on, and so on. Additional Green Party MPs in the House of Commons would provide increased strength to those parliamentary currents that believe in an economic model that continues to reduce the deficit whilst ensuring that resources are focussed on policies that improve the lives of all UK residents. Green Party MPs would also work to show how the UK can, and must, lead the world in building a green economy, and they would begin doing so by lobbying against further cuts to renewable energy projects. When the economy is failing substantial portions of the British people, and when austerity seems to be a moving five year plan, then there are in fact more than two things that people need to know about the economy. Britain deserves that the composition of the House of Commons adequately reflects the varying needs and ambitions of the British — especially so in times of urgent need.
There are numerous important reasons (such as rent control, women’s rights, scrapping tuition fees, LGBTIQA+ rights and protecting public services from private greed) as to why British voters ought to consider giving their vote to the Green Party in the General Election of 2017, and from May 15th and up until June 8th, I’ll be writing about some of those reasons here on this blog. Britain needs greater representation from politicians who take political progress and innovation seriously; politicians who put people, and not business, first; and who bring intellectual and ideological diversity to the House of Commons. To give Theresa May the increased mandate that she seeks is effectively to disempower large portions of the British public. It is to give away our right to be complex political beings that are capable of holding different as well as conflicting points of view, and our right and privilege to be served by a Parliament that reflects that complexity.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
In 2015, more than a million people voted for the Greens, and yet this only translated into one win and four second places. I hope that with the help of its large community of volunteers and activists, the Green Party may win those four seats in 2017, so that, in the near future, a small minority of Green MPs may slowly lead British politics towards the green revolution that it desperately needs.
Why bother campaigning for a small party against the odds as well as the logic of the current electoral system?
In 2017, I find that British political campaigning seems to function in the same way that advertising does. Rather than focussing on concrete, significant details and policies, politicians will seek to associate themselves and their parties with catch phrases and one-size-fits-all slogans. Sooner or later, we all learn that the Labour Party purports to serve “the many, not the few”, and that Labour MPs “give a toss about stuff“. We are, however, less likely to learn what this means in actual practice and how it may translate into a concrete political alternative (although the leaked manifesto suggests this may change). Similarly, we all get that the Conservative Party support “hard-working families”, that Theresa May wants “a strong negotiating hand”, and that Tory MPs believe that the “choice is clear”. Unfortunately, many of us still wonder where the £350 million a week for the NHS went; many hard-working families seem to get supper from food banks; and, hey, does “no increase in National Insurance rates” actually mean “no increase in National Insurance rates”?
I do believe that the respective political dispositions of both Labour and the Tories adequately reflect certain mainstream narratives of “Britishness”. I also believe that these narratives can be useful, and that they constitute important aspects of what, broadly speaking, amounts to a British national identity. However, as these two parties do more and more to win the the confidence of as many voters as possible, they simultaneously appear to do less and less to exhibit signs of credibility or to develop new and innovative policies that effectively tackle the problems faced by the UK today.
To give smaller parties, like the Greens, an increased mandate is effectively to shake up a political discussion that’s going stale, and to broaden political dialogue. Small parties that serve and protect the interests of those who feel forgotten force mainstream parties, and Parliament as a whole, to consider questions that they may otherwise have put on the back burner. The environment, crucially, appears to be one such question.