They just don’t get it do they?
The Green Party, once the repository for the hopes and dreams of UK environmentalists, continues to do everything it can to make itself unelectable.
The party conference currently being held somewhere in the UK just announced they re-elected the existing leader to be leader again. In a tacit recognition that nobody had noticed, the press release reminds us that the Invisible Woman is named Natalie Bennet and she has two other equally invisible deputies.
Ms Bennet has the added feature of speaking in an Australian accent – which most voters find incredibly confusing. To lead a British political party is to apply to lead the British nation. On the Today programme this morning listeners were asking – “why is some Ozzie lecturing us about the environment? – They can’t even keep their own country clean.”
Corporate bunny Amelia Womack, 29, has had a mixed career since sudeenly leaving her job as a recruitment executive.She was a European Parliament and Borough Council candidate earlier this year.
Amelia commented: “I am delighted to have been elected as Deputy Leader of the Green Party to give an even stronger voice for young people at a time when so many of us are feeling that the main parties are happy to sell our futures down the line to protect the interests of big business and the rich. Polling last week found that a record 18% of young people would vote Green, and Green Party membership of young people has grown phenomenally by over 70% since the start of the year. The Green Party is the only party that takes our future seriously, with policies to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, tackle spiralling inequality, and offer free higher education so that every young person can get a strong start in life
Deputy Leader Dr Shahrar Ali trained as a biochemical engineer then as a philosopher. He entered green politics after working as a researcher in the European Parliament on the risk of GM foods. He is author of Why Vote Green, and impassioned call for environmental action in the 21st century
Here is a quote from the release:
Deputy Leader Shahrar Ali said, “I am honoured and thrilled at being given the opportunity to play a leading role in advancing Green politics nationally. Ours is the only politics worthy of the cause. We must take active responsibility for our stewardship of the planet for the sake of our children, our children’s children and nonhuman animals, too. We must look after the most vulnerable and impoverished in society first, instead of protecting big bank crooks. Greens are on a mission to improve quality of life without costing the earth, coming to a ballot box near you!”
in the recent European elections, when they received more than 1.2m votes. Leaders are seeking to reposition the party as a leftwing alternative to Labour, with far more than just their stalwart environmental policies: a higher minimum wage than Labour is advocating; a halt to the “creeping privatisation” of the NHS; and the scrapping of tuition fees, including retrospectively on fees already paid.
“We are the real opposition,” Caroline Lucas, the party’s only MP, will tell delegates on Saturday. She will barely mention the governing coalition, focusing instead on a fight against Labour.
Anthony Pearce of the Stafford and Stone branch agrees. “I was a lifelong Labour supporter, over 30 years. But it became very difficult to see any difference between their policies and the Conservatives. Eventually I left and came to the Greens.”
Terry White made a similar journey from the Liberal Democrats. “It was tuition fees,” says White, 21. “The Lib Dems were not in tune with young people.” The Greens are currently polling at 6.6%, which is neck-and-neck with the Lib Dems.
In hoping to challenge the UK’s three-party hegemony at next year’s general election, the Greens are strikingly similar to another small party on the other end of the political spectrum. But while Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party leader, is a familiar fixture on TV and front pages, the Greens have struggled to gain recognition.
One of the key problems is the party’s struggle – like Ukip’s – to break beyond the perception of it as single-issue. “We are called the Green party, and we have a lot of environmental policies,” says Ankaret Harmer, a member in Birmingham. “But actually it is a lot broader than that, though some people don’t realise. We have policies on everything.”
“There isn’t enough awareness [among voters at large] of the range of policies we have, our social justice policies,” says Rosie Pearce, aged 19, who studied all of the UK’s political parties before deciding that Green policies most matched her outlook. “We need to raise awareness of that.” Pointedly, Lucas will spend only a few minutes on green issues – fracking, nuclear power and weapons – with the rest on the social justice policies.
Money comes into it, too. Whereas the major party conferences are a boon for big business, with multinationals and lobbying groups, the Green party stalls include the Stop the War Coalition, Dignity in Dying, Friends of the Earth, the Quakers and a handful of others. Several trade unions are present, including the RMT, NUT and TUC.
For years, the Greens also suffered from internal disorganisation. “We were not nearly as organised as we should have been,” says one delegate, who did not wish to be named. “I’ve been told it was quite chaotic before. It’s not like that now,” says another new member.
But the complaint that comes up most frequently from delegates is that the media ignores the Greens while lavishing attention on Ukip. “If you look at the political parties that get the most coverage, they speak for business and the establishment. Media organisations are businesses and they follow that,” says Terry White.
Vicky Duckworth adds: “There should be more coverage of us, we have done as well [electorally] as Ukip.”
“It’s because Ukip are the establishment, not challenging the establishment,” says Rosie Pearce. “We are scaring them.” Penny Kemp, from London, says: “It’s not even just about Ukip – they [the media] should be giving us as much attention as they do the Lib Dems – we are polling the same as the Lib Dems, so why aren’t we getting recognition for that?”
Ukip’s policies and the Greens’ could scarcely be more different. The Greens are pro-Europe and sympathetic to immigration, attacking policies they say hurt people on benefits such as the bedroom tax, strongly in favour of renewable energy. (One of Farage’s favourite topics, after immigration and the economy, is wind farms. He doesn’t like them.) In style, too, they are poles apart. The party’s democratic structure would never permit the kind of brutal tactics employed by Farage, when he ousted Roger Lord as candidate for Clacton, in favour of the Tory defector, Douglas Carswell. (The disgruntled Lord warned in the Guardian: “Can anyone really trust him? Would you really sign a treaty with this man?”)
Demographically, Ukip’s core support lies among older voters while the Greens appeal strongly to the young. “Young people have suffered a real kicking from austerity,” says Pearce. “Our policies are very popular with the young,” adds Vicky Duckworth.
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