The Green Party (UK)

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Twenty years ago I was a member of the Green Party in Coventry (where its Ecology Party predecessor had originated) and I still have all the literature that was sent to me. At the time the Green Party was opposed to:
  • European Monetary Union, favouring a monetary system which restored the movements of capital to national governments, requiring the retention of national currencies.
  • a European Army and the EU becoming the European pillar of NATO, which is what subsequently happened when both organisations expanded into the former Soviet Bloc.
  • the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), to the point of advocating British withdrawl from the EU if the CAP were not phased out, which of course it hasn't been and it is highly unlikely that it ever will be.
So what has gone wrong? Why has the Green Party gone from being sceptical of, or at most ambivalent towards, the European Union to becoming hardcore pro-EU? I think that there are a few reasons in that the political establishment have bought the 'Greens' off with committee places; also that the 'Greens' enjoy riding the gravy train between Brussels and Strasbourg. Then, post-2010, the Green Party targeted Lib Dem voters who were angry with the latter's coalition with the Tories and subsequent betrayal over student fees. Attracting these Lib Dem voters meant the Green Party softening its stance on the above issues.

Following on from that, cashing in on the student fee issue, the Green Party's principal targeted focus group has been the under 30's, those who are strongly in favour of the environmentally unsustainable Single European Market, for the free movement of labour and goods across the continent, as they do or aspire to travel a lot around Europe taking advantage of the potential work opportunities and the ease of commuting that goes with jet-setting by budget airline.

To look at the Green Party's record in the two most recent UK General Elections:
  • in 2015, the number of votes it achieved peaked at 1,157,630
  • in 2017, this number dropped by more than a half to 525,665
Note that these figures are from adding the England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland votes together.

As the Lib Dem support also slightly dropped in 2017 then those lost Green Party votes must have gone to the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Between the two general elections was the EU membership referendum, where the Green Party's hardcore pro-EU stance alienated its long-term supporters - the genuine environmentalists - those who hadn't already fallen away from supporting the Green Party before 2015. And yet those running the Green Party still don't get the message, they think that it is 'progressive' to be identical to the Lib Dems. I despair.
 
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Indian Summer

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As an aside: This is how the parties along the political spectrum in my home country Norway also stand on the EU membership issue: The parties on the left oppose membership whereas those on the right endorse it. The Labour party (which is the most centrist left party) is somewhat split, but the leadership is mostly in favour of membership. Many of their voters are opposed, though. And on the right wing, the so-called Progress party has a large percentage of voters opposed to membership, whereas the leadership does want membership.

I wonder if maybe this is approximately how political parties across Europe traditionally used to position themselves in the question of EU membership?

However, some things have changed in politics across Western Europe and beyond: Issues such as LBGTQ etc. rights, abortion, racism, immigration, #metoo as well as climate change and other environmental issues are now highly relevant, whereas issues that have more traditionally been left party concerns such as distribution of wealth seem to have been moved more to the background.

Regarding UK membership of the EU, you also have to consider what sort of country the UK will realistically become outside of the EU, especially when you consider who are pushing for Brexit, and the politicians who are at the steering wheel at the moment. Is the UK going to have a bilateral trade deal with the USA? With Donald Trump's USA? What will that do to environmental standards, consumer rights, the NHS and so forth? Will the UK become even more politically aligned with the USA? I don't think this would be a good thing.

It's also clear that climate change, pollution and related problems are obviously issues that can only be addressed properly within international or supernational frameworks, and the EU is one such framework / organisation that allows us to actually do something about these problems.

In summary, I don't think the Green party's change of heart on EU membership is necessarily contrary to their goals.
 
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Celibataire

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Unless Zac Goldsmith, who used to edit The Ecologist magazine, becomes Environment Secretary, then environmental issues are likely to be way down the political agenda. In no small measure this is due to the Green Party nailing its colours so firmly to the EU mast, that it has lost all respect among a huge swathe of Leave voters including its own former supporters; Caroline Lucas in particular is widely loathed due to her continual condescension. You may remember that after Goldsmith resigned his seat in protest at the expansion of Heathrow Airport, to re-stand as an Independent, Lucas advised Green Party supporters to back the Lib Dems against him. Even John Rentoul in the normally pro-EU Independent thought that this was an incredible stance for any 'Green' Party to take. To put it bluntly the Green Party has lost all credibility.

Environmental issues do need to be tackled on an international basis and this should be carried out by agreement at intergovernmental level, not by the top-down dictatorial approach of the EU, which the Green Party now loves so much due to its own electoral failure to get more than one parliamentary seat in UK general elections. Environmentalists in the UK need to look at re-forming a genuine Ecology Party committed to organising society and decision making from the bottom-up, not the top-down. How the country fares independent from the EU largely depends on whether the EU seeks to punish us for leaving, as many who reluctantly voted 'Remain' (including some of my immediate work colleagues) think that it will. If that does happen then by default it may push us politically closer to the USA.

Personally I think that we need to use 'Brexit' to start importing foods directly from third countries that are currently transited via mainland Europe, fair trade coffee for example which is imported to Britain via Rotterdam; also to insource manufacturing of vegan products that are currently made on the continent but for which the raw goods come from outside the EU (i.e. most products made from soya). There are broader issues concerning whether or not we remain within the Single European Market, but please bear in mind that being part of that market has allowed employers to outsource manufacturing from Britain - usually with a large financial bung from the EU - to other countries in southern and eastern Europe. If the Green Party genuinely cared about localisation then it would have opposed that outsourcing.

Finally is the thorny of immigration, with net inward migration having been running at the level of a city roughly the size of Coventry every year. This is putting a large strain, not just on infrastructure, but on housing, water resources etc. Everywhere you go now in this country you will see urban expansion into what was arable farmland. Even if net inward migration were zero, it is hardly environmentally sustainable to encourage people to migrate hundreds of miles across several countries in order to obtain employment; it is former Tory MP Norman Tebbit's 'on your bike' on a bigger scale and not by bicycle obviously. Having said that, I don't believe for one minute that post-'Brexit' immigration will reduce, cheap disposable migrant labour will just be imported from outside the EU instead.
 
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