Changing the Game, One Step at a Time: The Green Party

Over the course of the last couple of years, it has become increasingly clear that a majority of Britons want to see significant political change in their country. Some 52% of the population gave voice to that desire by voting in favour of Brexit in 2016. Many others are giving voice to that desire through their participation in the current General Election campaign.

As certain, however, as many may be about the need for change, the less certain they seem to be about how that change can be effected on a political level. Indeed, many would seem to think that it can’t — that the current electoral system is rigged against them, that it favours a perptually centrist two-party state, and that their vote is either wasted or meaningless. Yet others might wonder what their votes mean in practice when politicians so often seem to go back on their word. Nearly a year has passed since the EU referendum but there are still few who seem to have much of a clue as to what Brexit will eventually come to mean. And although many are hugely disenchanted with the current government, there is still a large group of voters who doubt that the Labour Party can provide a serious alternative to Tory austerity.

So what can we expect in terms of change as a result of the General Election in 2017? 

Well, crassly put, the Conservatives and the Labour Party have both made pretty clear what they want from this General Election. If we disregard the obvious personality differences between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn — personalities which in many ways distract us from concrete political content — and if we simply look at what the two parties are actually saying, we soon find that they’re surprisingly similar.

The Tories? More of the same — protect the status quo, pull your socks up, and things will slowly get better. Hard Brexit.

Labour? Little will change for 95% of the population, but corporations and the richest 5% will have to pay a bit more in order to facilitate greater investment in public services. Somewhat less hard Brexit.

In a way, the Tories are right. There is a choice to be made. The two parties ostensibly represent different economic models and their practical application won’t yield the exact same results. So much is clear.

And yet, in a different way, the Tories are quite wrong. Look a little closer and, sure enough, it’s all rather blurry.

As Jeremy Corbyn pointed out a couple of nights ago, it is hardly revolutionary to raise corporation tax to 26% when it was 28% in 2010. Theresa May obviously doesn’t want to increase corporation tax — she wants to lower it to 17% — but in quite many respects, the two parties appear to see eye to eye. The Tories maintain that immigration ought to go down whereas Labour has effectively promised that it probably won’t be going up. Theresa May wants the best Brexit possible — whatever that actually means — and so does Corbyn. Where the Tories are decidedly weak on the environment, the Labour Party is merely vague. Both parties are in favour of investing a lot money in the building of Hinkley C; both parties will pursue oil interests in the North Sea; and both parties support the renewal of an extremely expensive nuclear weapon supply that must never be used.

Effecting real political change is obviously hard, and it also takes a lot of time. A vote for the Labour Party would be a vote for things to be different, but it’s hard to argue that it would be a vote for change, and there’s something to be said about making that particular distinction. To redistribute wealth but to otherwise do everything more or less the same won’t in any significant way change the face of Britain, nor will it take the country forward. Most likely, it will only take the country to another election, five years from now, where we still debate whether taxes should be one or two per cent higher or lower.

Given the state of the political mainstream, it would appear that those who look for a genuine alternative to the status quo would have to look elsewhere. To locate the voice of real change in 2017, you must go to the periphery. There, we find the Green Party.

Earlier this year, former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett argued a point that I believe many agree with:

“You can’t run a centrist position that says, ‘We won’t change anything much.’ People just don’t believe that now. We’re not producing a society that gives people hope for the future, so people are beginning to understand the need for real change.”

In a few sentences, Bennett here neatly sums up the position of the party that she represents. The Labour Party may present an alternative to the Tories, but it’s not a party that signals a new way of going forward. By comparison, the Greens openly recognise the need for large-scale reforms.

During the current General Election campaign, the Greens have made a bit of a slogan out of the hashtag #ChangeTheGame. That may sound ambitious for a party that only has one MP, and that would consider it a great victory to elect a second one, but it isn’t if you take into consideration that parliamentary representation isn’t the sole goal of the party. A significant aspect of the Greens’ political agenda is to push awareness of many of the issues and problems that often figure on the periphery of the mainstream. Eco-consciousness, LGBTIQA+ rights, gender equality and proportional representation are some of the questions that are central to the Greens, and the fact that these questions increasingly make national headlines is testament to the relative influence of the party.

The most important aspect of the Green Party is not, however, that they, as an opposition party, attempt to bring the periphery into the centre. The most important thing is that they envision a comprehensive economic model in which equality and sustainability is at the heart of every policy. To get an idea of what this means, you don’t need to look much further than the joint leader of the party, Caroline Lucas. Only a month ago, Lucas convincingly argued for a future Britain in which people work a four day week, and where the country is significantly better as a result: healthier, more equal, more productive.

Now, how would that work? Well, it’s actually fairly straight-forward, even if it would take a while to fully implement. Take this as an example: currently, 6 million people in the UK work more than 45 hours a week. (As a point of interest, the International Labour Organisation deems anything above 48 hours a week as excessive.) Redistributing these peoples’ workloads to the 1,5 million who are currently unemployed would, in Lucas’s words, “share prosperity and start to tackle the costs associated with unemployment.” More, reduced working hours effectively reduces stress levels which in turn reduces stress-related illnesses, which in turn puts less pressure on the NHS. Countries in which working hours are fewer also tend to leave smaller environmental footprints, which reduces problems associated with air pollution. Who foots the bill, though? Lucas cites a report published by the New Economic Foundation that suggests that the state and employers would share the costs so that “productivity increases could be matched by increased hourly wages.”

Sounds far-fetched? It doesn’t have to. There’s plenty of evidence that suggests that the four day week, or the three day weekend, has a positive impact on productivity and workers’ happiness. An article in The Atlantic makes the following case:

“Beyond working more efficiently, a four-day workweek appears to improve morale and well-being. The president of the U.K. Faculty of Public Health told the Daily Mail that a four-day workweek could help lower blood pressure and increase mental health among employees. Jay Love of Slingshot SEO saw his employee-retention rate shoot up when he phased in three-day weekends. Following this line of thought, TreeHouse, an online education platform, implemented a four-day week to attract workers, which has contributed to the company’s growth.”

How long it takes before the four day week is implemented on a national level remains to be seen, but it is evident that the Green Party and its representatives have got their eyes firmly fixed on what’s happening in the world. It’s a party that is serious about political innovation. It’s a party that is serious about finding new solutions where the old one’s just aren’t working. That goes for everything from climate change to the gender gap, from health issues to immigration and electoral reform.

When so many people seem to be crying out for change, and when the mainstream appears unable to significantly depart from political lines designed to barely satisfy, it won’t hurt to look more closely at what people like Caroline Lucas, Molly Scott Cato and Jonathan Bartley are saying. As said: political change is difficult and time-consuming, but with a few more Green MPs in the House of Commons, at least we’re on our way. Caroline Lucas has proven that much ever since her election in 2010, and hopefully she’ll be in an even better position to do so after June 8th.

#VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame.

 

 

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Natalie Bennett Has the Guts To Tell the Truth and That’s Why We Need Her

At the Sheffield Student Union hustings on May 19th, Green Party PPC Natalie Bennett was asked what she thought was the most important policy for students.

Bennett, as most will know, represents a party that has pledged not only to scrap university tuition fees, but also to cancel all student loan debt. Now, despite this — despite these rather show stopping policies — Bennett did not answer the question by referencing either of those initiatives. Instead, she said that the most important concern for students must be climate change.

Bennetttweet

Bennett is obviously right. Right in an obvious way. There won’t be many jobs on a dead planet. There won’t be too many people, either.

But what does that statement translate to in real political terms? Does it mean that young people have to recycle more? Does it mean that they should stop buying plastic bags in the supermarket? Should they buy a bike instead of a car?

Well, sure, yes — those are all good things. Every little bit helps. But, of course, it has to mean a lot more than just that. To think that climate change can be reversed by those measures alone is to kid oneself.

To truly tackle climate change, the UK needs to implement major policy reforms. Full responsibility cannot lie at the foot of the individual consumer. Consequently, the world — as most countries agreed in Paris in 2015 — needs to move away from high-carbon energy industries and put greater emphasis on renewable energy sources.

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Animation by Ed Hawkins

So, what Bennett says — in real political terms — is that young people need to be prepared to vote for the climate. They need to be prepared to vote for the kind of change that will ensure that they and their kids will have a planet to live on in the future.

Why now, though? Isn’t climate change getting kind of old? Haven’t eco-conscious policies already been put in motion? The Paris Agreement has been signed, so what’s the problem?

Well, despite the fact that renewable energy sources are deemed our best chance at reversing global warming, and despite the fact that renewables present a cost-efficient, commercially viable alternative to fossil fuels, the Tory Manifesto still promises “unprecedented” support for fossil fuel industries. In 2016, Angus MacNeil MP — then Committee Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee — said that the UK would fail to meet its 2020 renewable energy targets unless major policy reforms were implemented.

Clearly, those major policy reforms don’t seem to be happening any time soon. The Conservatives’ economic model just doesn’t seem to have that much room for the environment. For being a party that purports to represent long-term economic interests and stability over time, the Conservatives seem remarkably uninterested in ensuring a future beyond the next few decades. And rather than tackling the air pollution that is linked to 40,000 premature deaths in the UK annually, as well as numerous other health concerns — not least asthma, which alone costs the NHS an estimated £1bn per annum — the Conservatives prefer to invest in fracking.

Now is as important as ever. The General Election of 2017 isn’t only about the next five years. It isn’t just about Brexit. It’s about deciding what kind of country you want to live in. Green Party candidates like Natalie Bennett represent a slightly different way of doing things. They represent an economic model that respects the limitations of the planet on which we live, and in which people, and the well-being of people, is at the centre of every policy. It’s an economic model that puts people, not business, first.

The truth often hurts. In this case, it certainly does. Scrapping tuition fees – yes! Cancelling debt — yes! But Natalie Bennett still had the guts to say it, she still had the guts to be more than a crowd-pleaser. She said it like she sees it.

It’s about the environment. It was 20 years ago and it still is. The House of Commons need Green MPs. It needs more people like Caroline Lucas. It needs people who believe in alternative ways of doing things, it needs people who insist on putting people first. It needs people like Natalie Bennett, people who are realistic about the world we live in. People who are in politics for more than just power.

#VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame. Vote for Natalie Bennett in Sheffield Central.

Scientists Warn of ‘Societal Collapse’ but I Want To Know More About Corbyn and the IRA

“Fossil fuel combustion and other human activity now overwhelm all of the natural cycles that have driven slow climate changes in the past. According to a new study, we are ‘causing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces.’ If we fail to change course sharply, the study warns we risk ‘abrupt changes in the Earth System that could trigger societal collapse.'” — ThinkProgress, February 14th 2017

Is there a correlation between the number of days to June the 8th and the frequency with which the name ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ is mentioned in the same context as ‘the IRA’?

If ever a proverbial horse has been beaten to death, then it would be the question of whether or not Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has any friends in Ireland.

During last night’s The Andrew Neil Interviews, Andrew Neil spent about a third of half an hour asking Jeremy Corbyn to condemn the IRA. Is there, at this point, anyone in the UK who does not believe that Mr Corbyn is a pacifist and a peace advocate?

Meanwhile, the first six months of 2017 have been littered with bad climate news. In February, a new report on climate change found that human activities cause the climate to change 170 times faster than what is historically (naturally, that is) normal. Importantly, areas which, by all means, should remain cold — areas such as the Arctic — are warming up faster than elsewhere. An article published by ThinkProgress points out that

“[c]limate models have long predicted that if we keep using the atmosphere as an open sewer for carbon pollution, the ice cap would eventually enter into a death spiral because of Arctic amplification — a vicious cycle where higher temperatures melt reflective white ice and snow, which is replaced by the dark land or blue sea, which both absorb more solar energy, leading to more melting. That’s why the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the planet.”

As this blog has discussed previously, a report released in September of 2016 by the Energy and Climate Change Committee stated that the UK, as things were going, would fail to meet its 2020 renewable energy target. Following the publication of the report, Committee Chair Angus MacNeil MP said that “the experts we spoke to were clear: the UK will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets without major policy improvements. Failing to meet these would damage the UK’s reputation for climate change leadership.”

Cause for alarm? Any reason to worry? Climate change, anyone? Renewable energy sources are not only cheaper than fossil fuels, they also constitute our best chance at reversing global warming. Surely, now is the time to get properly invested in this?

Well, maybe not. From a Conservative point of view, it makes total sense to discuss what Jeremy Corbyn did or did not say in the 1990s and exactly what it may have meant if indeed he said it, because the Tory manifesto pledges to give “unprecedented” support to high-carbon energy sources. So much for wanting “to lead international action against climate change“, eh?

Help avoid societal collapse — #VoteGreen2017.

At the very least, don’t vote Tory.

Are You Helping Out On Thursday? Good. Elections Aren’t Won Online.

In 1970, John Bochel and David Denver carried out what may have been the first field experiment in British political science (or so, at least, Denver speculates in his essay “Two tower blocks in Dundee: constituency campaigning“). The point of the experiment was to assess the level of impact of local campaigning on election results. In other words: does canvassing have any effect on the way people vote?

As the site of the experiment, Denver and Bochel selected two tower blocks in a safe Labour ward in Dundee. “With the co-operation of the local Labour Party,” Denver writes, “we canvassed the people in one block thoroughly and ‘knocked up’ supporters on polling day. Residents of the other received only a single leaflet from the candidate.” Studies following the election showed that the impact of canvassing had been signicant. The tower block that had been canvassed had a 10% higher turnout than the other block; Labour’s vote share was also higher in the former than in the latter — 81% compared to 77%.

Since 1970, numerous studies have supported the results found in Bochel and Denver’s experiment. Telephone canvassing, door-to-door canvassing, leafletting — it all makes a difference. And, crucially, it could make all the difference. Denver, in “Two Tower Blocks”, cites a report published in 2010 that suggests that

“an above average Liberal Democrat campaign could boost the party’s vote share by 3.7 percentage points while for Labour the figure [is] 1.7 points and for the Conservatives just 0.8 points. Nonetheless, these are not increases to be sneered at in tight contests. Labour won six seats from the Conservatives by 1.7 points or less in the 2010…”

The Green Party will fight a number of tight contests in the General Election of 2017. On June 8th, armies of Tories and Labour supporters will be out on the streets, knocking on doors and offering to drive voters to the polling stations. The Green Party needs you to be there, too. In Sheffield Central they do, in Brighton Pavilion they do, in Isle of Wight they do, in Holborn and St Pancras they do, in Bristol West they do — and the list is extensive.

So be there on Thursday, and help make sure that the Greens give the Reds and the Blues a real fight in GE2017.

Tactical Voting: Is It Worth the Effort?

There’s been quite a lot of talk amongst left-leaning voters about the possibility of a Progressive Alliance. This Alliance would comprise MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and the SNP, and it would come about through a perfectly synchronised operation of tactical voting.

It does seem a rather unlikely coalition – could it possibly work out in practice? Corbyn, Sturgeon, Farron and Lucas all around the same table? – but at least there would be fewer Conservative MPs in the House of Commons, and any effort to reduce the Conservatives’ majority seems like a good idea to me.

More importantly, though: how significant, how effective, could this project – this perfect storm of tactical voting – turn out to be in practice? Is a Progressive Alliance a realistic expectation in terms of actual, concrete results?

According to an essay by Stephen D. Fisher on the topic of tactical voting, the Conservative Party tends to lose most when many people decide to vote tactically. However, Fisher also suggests that coordinated efforts at tactical voting are difficult to realise in practice.

Essentially, there are three main types of tactical voting: 1) you support a party that is likely to come in third in your constituency, and therefore you vote against the party you’d least want to win; 2) you vote for a small party, such as the Greens, because you’d like to help raise their profile; 3) you vote against your own party because you’d like to see its majority limited.

Less than one in four voters in the UK find themselves in constituencies where their favoured party is likely to come in third. Between 1992 and 2010, roughly one in five voters who favoured a ‘third place party’ voted tactically. During the same period, about as many people – regardless of what party they supported – also voted tactically, but in a way that wasn’t effective. The parties these voters actually favoured had unexpectedly finished in the top two; accordingly, their votes, although intended as ‘tactical’, ended up having the opposite effect.

In other words, tactical voting can go wrong when people misread the political situation in their constituency. Voters may incorrectly conclude that their favoured party can’t win, whereas in reality it has much more support than appearances let on.

Statistically, Fisher says, the Conservative Party tends to gain net votes from tactical voting. This is because of two reasons: 1) few of the people who favour the Tories will have any reason to vote tactically, because the Tories are usually in the top two, and 2) they will gain support from Tory leaning Lib Dems who vote tactically. The Labour Party, on the other hand, won’t gain or lose much in terms of net votes from tactical voting, as there tends to be a fairly even spread between Labour votes to the Lib Dems and Lib Dems votes to Labour.

Crucially, however, the Conservative Party is the party that loses out in terms of seats won and seats lost from tactical voting. This is because Lib Dems tend to favour Labour candidates over Conservatives, and because Labour voters tend to favours Lib Dems over Tories. In other words, tactical voting means that the Tories gain more net votes, but that the Labour Party and the Lib Dems win more seats.

Now, this is, of course, all fine and dandy, but what does it actually mean? We know that tactical voting will make a difference if one’s aim is to damage the Conservatives’ majority. We don’t, however, know how significant that damage might be. What would a perfect storm of synchronised voting amount to in practice?

In the General Election of 2015, 11.3 million people voted for the Tories, and 9.3 million voted for Labour. Put together, the Greens, the SNP and the Lib Dems got around 5 million votes. Had these three parties combined with Labour in order to create a so called Progressive Alliance, then they would easily have beat the Tories in terms of net votes. But in terms of seats?

In this article, published by the Guardian earlier this year, Martin Robbins makes the case that tactical voting — even if perfectly executed — won’t be enough to prevent a Conservative majority in 2017. According to this General Election prediction, the Tories are currently set to win 396 seats on June 8th; Labour 180; Lib Dems 5; Greens 1; and SNP 49. If, based on the election results of 2015, the Labour Party, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats combined their tactical voting efforts to maximise Tory damage, then that would, according to Robbins, result in 47 more Labour seats and 10 more Lib Dems seats. But even under those perfect circumstances, the Tories win more than enough seats (given current predictions) to form a majority government, and the Labour Party only win about 250.

Now, given this data, how much sense does it actually make to coordinate tactical voting efforts? The best possible result would amount to pretty good damage control, but it wouldn’t, in all likelihood, prevent the Tories from improving on their current majority. The best possible outcome would also be contingent on almost impossibly well-coordinated tactical voting efforts, and is unlikely to actually happen.

So what to do?

Well, why not forget about tactical voting? Instead, vote for the party you actually think best represents your political beliefs (and let’s hope that party is the Green Party!). If this means that the Tories win by a few more seats, then so be it. Let them have it. Let the Tories have another five years, and then let’s watch them implode in the election of 2022. The way things are currently going, there isn’t, to paraphrase Slavoj Zizek, light at the end of the tunnel; instead, there’s an oncoming, speeding train, and the best way to effect real change might just be to let the Tories run straight into it. And if nothing else, then at least let your vote be a testament to the need for proportional representation, and make sure that you campaign for electoral change.

Ideally, though: #VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame. The best anti-Tory recipe for change is to elect Caroline Lucas, Molly Scott Cato, Natalie Bennett, Siân Berry, Amelia Womack, Vix Lowthion, Eleanor Field and many more Green MPs to represent your political beliefs in the House of Commons.

It’s the (Green) Economy, Stupid. – Pt. 2

In yesterday’s ITV Leaders’ Debate, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said two things that struck me as particularly important. It also struck me as particularly important that none of the other leaders seemed to want to relate to the fact that she’d said them. One of the statements concerned the NHS, and the other had to do with the energy industry — but really, they both went back to the same thing, and it’s that one thing that the Tories keep saying that they’re so good at. The economy.

The NHS

The five leaders had been at it for what seemed like a rather long time when Lucas, almost as an afterthought, and seemingly surprised that none of the other leaders had yet raised the issue, pointed out that the very air we breathe is a large contributing factor to illness in the UK. Air pollution, said Lucas, not only makes people ill, but it also puts unnecessary pressure on UK health services. In 2016, a report published by The Royal College of Physicians suggested that poor air quality is linked to approximately 40,000 premature deaths annually in the UK. “Polluters,” the report recommended,

“must be required to take responsibility for harming our health. Political leaders at a local, national and EU level must introduce tougher regulations, including reliable emissions testing for cars.” 

Prof Jonathan Grigg, co-author of the report, said to the BBC last year that air pollution is “linked to heart disease and lung problems, including asthma”, and that

“as NHS costs continue to escalate due to poor public health – asthma alone costs the NHS an estimated £1bn a year – it is essential that policy makers consider the effects of long-term exposure on our children and the public purse.”

Interesting, eh? We’ll get back to all of that in a hurry.

Now, the second point made by Lucas concerned the energy industry.

Once again, she was the first and only leader to mention the fact that it is now considerably cheaper to get energy from renewable sources than from fossil fuels. Wouldn’t it, then, be wiser to focus more on solar and wind energy than on high-carbon industries?

In January this year, Michael Drexler — the Head of Long Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development at the World Economic Forum — said that renewable energy now “constitutes the best chance to reverse global warming” and that it “is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns.

Alright, so as we put one and one together we can thus conclude the following:

1) it is cheaper to invest in renewable energy than in dirty energy
2) renewable energy is perhaps our best chance to reverse global warming
3) renewable energy will reduce air pollution
4) air pollution may cause as many as 40,000 premature deaths annually in the UK
5) preventing aforementioned deaths and would not only be a great victory for all human beings, but would potentially save the NHS ahuge amount of money

Now, then, where does all of this take us? I suppose it’s all pretty straightforward, isn’t it? The politicians have got their work cut out for them so it’s all just about getting it done. Let’s invest in a greener economy in order not only to save money, but also to save our health and the environment in which we live! Yay! No?

If it was only that easy, right?

Where Caroline Lucas and her Green Party have plans to focus investments on renewable energy and on creating more jobs in the renewables sector, and where they hope to sort out the NHS by 1) introducing a more progressive tax system, 2) by scrapping Trident in order to free up billions that could be spent on health rather than on weapons of mass destruction, and 3) by stopping the clutter that is privatised health services, the Conservative Party — in other words, the current government — have, unfortunately, absurdly, chosen to set a rather different agenda.

As Caroline Lucas said yesterday in response to the Tory manifesto:

“With the UK’s climate targets slipping further out of reach and biodiversity in free fall, it appears Theresa May has decided to bury her head in the sand.

“There is one paltry mention of the air pollution crisis, and no mention of the jaw-dropping cost reductions in renewable energy. 

“Fracking will be forced on local communities, whilst the dirty and expensive energy of the past will continue to receive lavish public hand-outs. The cheapest and cleanest energy once again loses out.”

Well, it’s no wonder Theresa May didn’t bother to show up to last night’s debate, is it?

The Conservative Party has no long term environmental plan, and it has no plans to tackle air pollution. At this rate, the UK will miss its 2020 renewables targets, and as the country leaves the EU it will potentially no longer deign to hold itself to the EU’s high standards and regulations on the environment. Rather than addressing the environmental problem and attempting to find creative, long term solutions, the Tories have chosen to neglect the advice of the Royal College of Physicians, and their call for tougher regulations on diesel-emitting cars.

Come June 8th, I hope that voters in Bristol, Brighton, Sheffield and in many more cities around the country will gather behind those candidates that will promote the idea of a greener economy to the House of Commons. #VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame and to support a new, greener way of doing things.

As Caroline Lucas has said: the economy will have to be green, or it won’t be at all.

Stop the Bleeding: #VoteGreen2017 in Bristol and Brighton

Photo: GP party election broadcast


According to recent GE2017 predictions — including the one you see below — the Conservative Party is currently set to increase their majority in the House of Commons by a significant margin. Although the exact figures vary, most of these studies indicate that the Tories will take up around 400 seats after June 8th. Recent predictions also suggest that the Green Party may lose its majority in Brighton Pavilion.

pred

Theresa May has repeatedly said that she wants Britons to vote Conservative in 2017 on the basis of two principle ideas: 1) that the Tories offer “strong and stable leadership” in the nation’s best interest, and 2) that a stronger Conservative majority will serve to strengthen her hand as she negotiates the terms of Brexit with the EU27.

I question the validitity of these for several reasons.

Strong and stable leadership? Now, I know that I’ve said this before on this blog, but I’ll say it again: when so many Britons rely on food banks; when so many Britons are homeless; when the economy has grown but real wages have gone down by 10%; 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 when the government fails to design policies that make meeting the targets set out in the Paris Agreement a possibility, then I can’t help but wonder what national interests the Conservative Party purports to serve, and what “strong and stable leadership” means in practice.

A stronger negotiating hand? When PM May argues that a vote for the Conservatives in 2017 is a vote for a stronger negotiating hand in meetings with the EU27, I don’t think that’s what she actually means. The EU, as has recently been suggested, doesn’t care all that much about what the UK government looks like. So what May really seems to be saying, is that she wants to shut down Brexit opposition inside the House of Commons. She knows, as research shows, that a majority of Britons want Brexit negotiations to move ahead. She also knows that many think that the Brexit process is moving forward too slowly. At a time when the Labour Party is historically impopular, a chance to not only shut down opposition to Brexit, but also opposition in general, has thus presented itself.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion) and Molly Scott Cato (Bristol West) represent an ideological direction which, in many ways, is diametrically opposed to that of the Conservative Party. In the General Election of 2015, the more than a million Britons that voted for Green Party candidates proved that this ideological direction enjoys widespread support. In my eyes, it would mean a terrible loss for democracy in the UK if the Green Party failed to achieve representation in the House of Commons after June 8th. If we are to prevent the General Election of 2017 from becoming the election of the diminishing opposition — the opposition: the aspect of Parliament that most directly serves to hold the government to account — then the time to wake up is now.

Green Party candidates such as Caroline Lucas and Molly Scott Cato will not only hold the government to account, but they will bring into Parliament a set of innovative ideas that promote a greener economy and a more equal society. To cite from this excellent article by the Bristol Green Society:

“Greens are pushing a ‘radical’ agenda, which in reality are measures that would simply bring social justice to the heart of British society. We are fiercely pro-refugee and consistently challenge the hateful rhetoric around migrants that dominate the UK’s political agenda. We are fighting for a fair Brexit, with the chance for voters to have their say in the final deal with a ratification referendum. We pledge to scrap nuclear weapons and use the money to better our public services. We believe in a benefit system that works for all, and aim to ultimately establish a universal basic income because, in the 5th richest country in the world, food banks should not be in such high demand. We are proud to have consistently demonstrated unwavering support for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, minority ethnic groups, women and disabled people.”

Many of the Green Party’s ideas are not politics as usual, and they deserve representation in the governing bodies of the UK. Green Party candidate such as Caroline Lucas and Molly Scott Cato critically and constructively address many of the issues that increase levels of inequality in the UK, and they are firmly pro-Europe.

To stop the bleeding and to keep the Tories from gaining a crushing majority — to make sure that the interests of all people are represented in the House of Commons after June 8th, and to make sure that Brexit isn’t a deal for the few — vote Green in #GE2017.


Why Trident Should Be Scrapped

If you do not accept the theory that posits that it is the possession itself of nuclear weapons that prevents countries from ordering nuclear strikes, then you must reject Trident and Britain’s nuclear defense programme as a bogus political category.


When Andrew Marr asked Jeremy Corbyn on April 23rd if “there are any circumstances under which [he] would authorise a nuclear strike”, then he was, in effect, asking the Labour leader if he thinks that nuclear weapons are a good idea.

Mr Corbyn, understandably, came off as rather reluctant to answer the question, since he has previously stated — and he was here seen to state once again — that “nuclear weapons are not the solution to the world’s security issues. They are a disaster if ever used.” This statement prompted newspaper The Sun to describe the Labour leader as “a ‘deluded’ danger to the country” (The Sun, 23 April), as if the absence of Trident would somehow invite mass attacks on British soil.

On April 24th, Labour’s Shadow Minister of Defence, Nia Griffith, went on the BBC to state in no uncertain terms that a Labour government would not hesitate to authorise a nuclear strike if circumstances demanded it, thus revealing a rather glaring inconsistency in Labour’s outward position on the matter of nuclear defense.

To me and, I believe, to most people who support the Green Party, any question pertaining to the potential use of a nuclear deterrent presents itself as veritably bogus.

Nuclear weapons have in the history of their existence been deployed on no more than two occasions; namely, when the United States bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, thus killing more than 129,000 people in two swift strokes. Since then, the only use of nuclear arms have been to serve as a reminder to anyone who possesses them that further deployment would inevitably result in immeasurable and irretractable damage. The logic of the nuclear deterrent is the lunatic logic of MAD — Mutually Assured Destruction — namely, the theory that posits that it is the possession itself of nuclear weapons that prevents countries from ordering nuclear strikes.

In June 2016, after PM Theresa May had stated that she would, if necessary, authorise a nuclear strike that could kill up to 100,000 people, Parliament decided to renew the nuclear arms programme known as Trident. The government estimated that the process of renewing Trident would cost approximately £40bn. However, “The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament puts the overall cost over 30 years at £205bn” (The Guardian, 17 July 2016).

In the debate that preceded the decision to renew Trident, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas raised the following concern with the Prime Minister:

“if keeping and renewing nuclear weapons is so vital to our national security and our safety, then does [the Prime Minister] accept [that] the logic of that position must be that every other single country must seek to acquire nuclear weapons?”

In stating that she did not agree with the Green Party leader, the Prime Minister clearly indicated the following: it is, in her view, more responsible to spend £205bn on weapons of mass destruction — weapons that must never be used — than to invest said amount of money in home building, the NHS, the environment, or cyber security. Indeed, Prime Minister Theresa May has argued that scrapping Trident would constitute “an act of gross irresponsibility” (BBC, 18 July 2016).

It may just be that you agree with Theresa May on Trident. It may be that you, too, believe that it is better to maintain the Cold War status quo that ensures that if anyone ever decides to press the red button, then at least we all go up in smoke together. If, however, you believe that Britain’s national defence is sufficiently equipped to carry on without access to weapons of mass destruction, then you disagree with the Prime Minister.

Instead, you may happen to agree with the Green Party. Green parliamentary candidates believe that financial resources should be directed away from activities where they could potentially cause catastrophic harm, and towards activities where they would benefit the British population.

What do you reckon? And what would you do with £205bn over a period of 30 years?