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Where will the Greens go from here?

8:59 am - July 22nd 2008

by Douglas Johnson    

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For years, the Green Party operated on a system of collective leadership. Up until 1991 it had 6 co-principal speakers. Since then it’s had two. That’s led to certain groups labelling the Greens as political amateurs – with good hearts, but no idea of what to do.

But last summer the party voted by a margin of 73% to elect a single leader. The Yes campaign argued that a leader was necessary for the party to ever achieve its full potential. The bulk of the party agreed – and so this September the Greens will have their first leadership elections.

The story so far
The first nomination came in last Monday. Caroline Lucas (pictured), at present an MEP and a principal speaker, launched a campaign focused on radical politics delivered with a professional punch. Her website summed up the message:

On climate change, scientists tell us that the next 10 years will be critical in terms of whether we have any chance of avoiding the worst of climate chaos. It is still the case that only the Green Party has both the radical policies, and the political commitment, that are so desperately needed to ensure that we do.

And on social justice, we face a country more unequal than it has been for decades. Only the Green Party has coherent alternatives to government policies that are privatising public services, increasing inequalities, and leading to greater violence and exclusion.

Lucas wants the party to provide discontented liberals and lefties with a credible home. Recent events and policies clearly show the party to be of that liberal-left; where else could a party that challenged David Davis as too authoritarian sit? The energy is clearly there, and Caroline Lucas says she’ll provide the professional quality to bring that vision to the voter.

And that received mixed reactions within the party. Caroline is often considered a favourite for leadership – but she’s not completely unopposed. Male Principal speaker Derek Wall, who played a prominent part in the campaign against a single leader, fuelled speculation that he might run on an anti-leader ticket with remarks such as:

I am not posting this to say how wonderful my own political party is, in fact I am quite anxious about how the new leader/deputy leader structure will play out…my fear is it will take us down the European Green Party route of ‘nu green’.

He further voiced these fears on the Green Left mailing list:

Caroline can spend £2,700 and employ an army of phone canvassers to win and will get a Guardian editorial, no doubt singing her praises…the new election rules are very very damaging for internal democracy in our party. Likewise while Caroline is a superb Principal Speaker, my opinion is that she will be a very poor leader, if this latest episode is anything to go on..I fear that we face a very difficult couple of years

Derek hasn’t yet declared an interest in the leadership. But members want a contest, and he’s clashed with Caroline in the past over the very issue of leadership. He might also run for the deputy-leadership – where he’d come up against Adrian Ramsay, leader of the Green Group on Norwich Council. Other party figures might well run; of those previously tipped as possibly candidates, only Siân Berry, Darren Johnson and Peter Cranie have definitively ruled themselves out.

Why does this matter to the liberal-left?
Any contest will result in a debate about the direction of the Greens. The party potentially stands on the cusp of a significant shift in direction with the election of its first ever leader. If an anti-leadership candidate such as Derek Wall stands and wins, then we might expect a return to the old emphasis on collective action.

Or if, as seems increasingly likely, the party chooses Caroline Lucas’ call for radical policies communicated credibly, then expect to see a renewed emphasis on competing seriously in elections and practical solutions.

And that’s what interests most readers of Liberal Conspiracy, I suspect. The liberal-left looks increasingly homeless in Westminster. The discontent with Labour could hardly be more pronounced. The last few months alone have put enough people off; the assault on the poor with the abolition of the 10p tax rate and the passage of the 42 Days bill show just how far removed the leadership can be from activists. And the Liberal Democrats might go the same way.

Clegg’s Orange Book economics rest somewhere to the right of many activists – will they be willing to dance on his monetarist pinhead? These people want a new political home. They could do worse than watch the Green Party leadership elections – and see if there’s anything the like.

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About the author
Douglas Johnson is an angry London student, socialist and member of the Green Party. The bulk of his anguished ravings can be found at Scribo Ergo Sum, which he edits.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Debates ,Environment ,Equality ,Green party ,Lib-left future ,Realpolitik ,Westminster

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Reader comments

So Lucas is the right-wing establishment choice – I wonder what the activists will make of becoming a party like all the others?

Interesting Doug.

Do I see the Greens as a home for this disaffected Liberal? I’m not sure.

Some Green objectives (such as energy independence, environmental conservation, and efficient recycling) sit very well with me. The Greens’ stance on foreign entanglements and the weapon industry, also appeal. But I’m not sold of the imperative for us to radically change our ways or be engulfed in the apocalypse.

If climate change is going to kill millions, I think this is now irreversible, and the political promises at the recent G8 meeting are hollow and pointless. If the Climate Change scientists *are* right, the thawing of the Siberian tundra has already begun and we’re screwed.

I hang on to the idea that, like many scientific predictions made recently (thousands were apparently going to perish from CJD, and what happened to Bird Flu?), climate change will be much-less catastrophic and I believe that we’re only partly responsible for what is a natural adjustment in the planet’s atmosphere (must man always be so arrogant as to claim responsibility for everything?). Remember, the Romans planted fine vineyards in England over a thousand years ago. It must have hot then, too!

Call me a crank.

Back to the Greens. I can get behind many of their policies, but I can’t accept some of their more radical interpretations of CC theory, and abhor the greenie view that avoiding a climatological disaster justifies illiberal controls on behaviour. Things do need to change if we want to be energy independent, but families and businesses need help and time to adjust.

Thomas says ‘a party like all the others’. However, take a look at the powers of the new leader post and you’ll see that the party is till light years away from having the top-down hierarchical structure of the grey parties. Conference is still the ultimate decision-maker on policy matters; the leader will be a glorified spokesperson.

Of course having a leader even only in name does risk that they acquire de facto power, especially through media attention and media simplification – we’ll see how that pans out. Equally there’s a risk in having a ‘leader’ with little power (and few resources) as they could look impotent. Both of these are gambles, but the party took this decision because of the compelling sense of urgency about climate change and the very short time we have left to take radical action. The old structure was not reaping electoral rewards quick enough to respond to that non-negotiable deadline, so this is a last throw of the dice. Many of those who voted for a leadership structure believe deeply in the non-hierarchical character of the party, just as the no-voters do, and that fact makes me optimistic that the heart of the party will not be ripped out by this constitutional change.

1, The greens are by no means liberal in economic terms, no matter how socially liberal they might be.
2, Anyone who asserts that the Orange Book is right wing has not read it and is believing the lies of lazy journalists who haven’t read it either.

Jennie, the Greens wouldn’t claim to be economically liberal and wouldn’t wish to be seen so. Laissez-faire economics and light regulation of big business have been huge contributors to the mess we’re in and our current impotence in doing anything about it.

But it’s a huge hole in Douglas’s argument that they will be a home for disaffected Liberals, G.

Unless Douglas is using the crazy American definition of Liberal that so many seem to be using these days, in which case saying “liberals AND lefties” is a tautology.

Fair point.

But I have a feeling that there is a substantial chunk of Lib Dem voters (rather than activists) who don’t vote for them necessarily for their economic liberalism, and these have the potential to be tempted to give the Greens their vote. A long shot, of course, at this stage, as they also want their vote to result in representation, and until the Greens can show that a Green vote can elect a Green MP it’s going to be a fundamental struggle to persuade them of that. However, roll on 2010 and keep a close eye on Norwich South and Brighton Pavilion.

Anyone know if Sian Berry is going to throw her hat into the ring?

Pretty sure she’s ruled herself out.

Siân now works in the press office at the Green Party, and I’m delighted to report that she has ruled herself out so I don’t believe I’m in any immediate danger of losing my newest staff member to high office.

Siân’s return to frontline politics is more or less inevitable – she’s one of the best political communicators of her generation in my view – but it won’t be quite yet.

Gary Dunion
Chief Press Officer
Green Party

Hi Gary,

Cheers for the confirmation, was very impressed with her in the recent GLA elections (met her once and saw her at Tufnell Park leafleting another time, how many high flying Labour or Tory people would do that?!).


“Laissez-faire economics and light regulation of big business have been huge contributors to the mess we’re in and our current impotence in doing anything about it.”

Laissez-faire economics ended in the 1890’s with the recession that occured then.

Either under-regulation of business or ineffective enforcement of that regulation may be contributors to any current predicament we find ourselves in – it’s a perverse contradiction to claim both are to blame – so your argument dissolves into meaninglessness as one predicates against the other.

And the sweeping generalisation about ‘big business’ is an assumption on the scale of a messiah being born to a virgin 2000 years ago. If anything it is bad business which is at fault.

Anyway from what I know of my local Green party I don’t think they’re credible critics of any ‘mess’ that you may or may not wish to describe.

Honestly, the best thing that could happen to the Greens is for the Lib Dems to get a share of power at Westminster. We saw it here in Scotland, and Lib Dem Ministers pushed through urban motorway projects, GM crops, tuition fees etc, and abstained on ID cards.

Hence the fact that we’re hoovering up votes from the Lib Dems at a rate of two to one over any other party.

Also, economically liberal policies are what lead to inequality and climate change. You’re welcome to them. We’ll go for socially liberal but economically progressive instead. A unique pitch, currently particularly well-tuned for former Lib Dem voters

“Also, economically liberal policies are what lead to inequality and climate change. ”

No, economic protectionism and over-regulation lead to inequality. A truly liberalised economy would not place the taxation and regulatory interests of big business over small business – that’s effectively what the system of the last twenty years does, makes it easier for big business to survive and crush small and better-run businesses, hence the current concern over monopolies. Anyone who tells you it’s a “free” market we’re operating in now is talking out of their fundament.

Are the Greens proposing any sort of shift in the burden of taxation from income onto capital wealth? That’s the long term Lib Dem aim and that *would* be genuinely progressive. Otherwise I fear you’re using “progressive” as code for state-sponsored day-by-day redistribution, in the spirit of feeding the world by giving everyone a good square meal.

Douglas, I fear that like Jennie I think an otherwise interesting article suffers from the same old LibCon assumption, that liberal means “nice to animals and generally a right-on sort of person”. Sorry about repeating this, but it does mean something quite specific and different to that.

that’s effectively what the system of the last twenty years does, makes it easier for big business to survive and crush small and better-run businesses

Economies of scale does that anyway. We see that when Tesco squeezes its suppliers in a way that other retailers can’t. The idea that the market always rewards good behaviour is also a fallacy.

Are the Greens proposing any sort of shift in the burden of taxation from income onto capital wealth?

Actually, we are. In Scotland, the Liberal Democrats are pushing a local income tax to shift the burden onto income, while we’re promoting Land Value Tax, which does exactly what you’re suggesting (and which I understand was Liberal Party policy back in the day).

Sunny, I think you’re arguing in favour of Alix’s point and against your example.

Your statement that it is a fallacy that markets reward good behaviour based upon the contemporary example of Tesco assumes that the current model of market regulation is the only method of formulating the market, although it is unclear whether you think the current playing field is formulated as fairly as possible.

In which case how do you respond to the accusation that ‘free’ market conditions don’t exist?

Don’t you think conditions can be improved? Or have we reached the summit of evolution?

I’d like to make a pitch for the greens being the natural home of the liberal left voter: that’s what I am, for a start, and I’m on the Green Party executive. Greens are radical, we are extremely critical of globalised capital, but we are also natural pragmatists. We seek achievable solutions for big problems.

But also, look at Green voters, in Britain and in abroad. At home, we do well in Brighton, Norwich, Lancaster, Camden, Islington, Hackney. Their residents are generally liberal, educated people.

Abroad, look at what has happened to Liberal parties once Greens start doing well. They generally dissolve or move to the right. That’s because the greens are the natural home for people with principle and commitment, whereas liberalism is an uncomfortable mixture of rightwing ‘neo-liberal’ economics and social libertarianism.

It’s clear what green politics is for: why not join us?

“That’s because the greens are the natural home for people with principle and commitment, whereas liberalism is an uncomfortable mixture of rightwing ‘neo-liberal’ economics and social libertarianism.”

Uhh… hold on, why couldn’t they just be holding to a different principle and commitment, one of individual liberty in the social and economic sphere while standing against the corporate interests that tend to infest the Tories at the expense of the free market. You might argue against these principles, but you shouldn’t slander them by claiming they aren’t principles.

Before joining the Greens, liberals should take a look at some of their rather shocking policy prescriptions and their dangerous similarities to another form of collectivism: http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/2008/02/vote_green_go_b.html

Wow, Nick, that link takes me to a list of ten policies that the Greens supposedly support, and only one of them is even vaguely confirmed in the document it links to.

For clarification, here’s what the blog link claims is Green policy.

Require State approval for national sports teams to compete overseas.

And here’s what the English and Welsh party actually agreed:

If a team is representing the nation then the Government should take a role in deciding whether it is appropriate for the team to take part in competition against a country with whom normal friendly, respectful, or diplomatic relations are not possible. The Government should not try to avoid taking action by treating the sport as if it was a private business venture.

Does anyone not know what this is about? The UK Government washed its hands of the poor of Zimbabwe, being brutalised by their government, and ignored the apartheid-era precedents for sporting boycotts. I mean, maybe it could be better worded, but that’s what it’s trying to tackle.

As for the rest, my guess is that some similar distortion process has gone on by “Sol Terra”. There may be some kernel of truth in some of them, but seriously, is it helpful?

In particular, the use by the Greens of the phrase “new order” is also used to imply fascism. Here’s some other examples just from recent news which show what nonsense this is.
1. Democracy in Pakistan.
2. Russian cooperation with the EU and the US. (yes, I do know how flawed Russian democracy is, thanks)
3. Rafael Nadal wins Wimbledon. Clear fascism!

Would it be productive to do a similar misrepresentation job back?

“Here’s ten Lib Dem Policies you may not know about:
1. Total submission to a all-powerful Euro-cracy.
2. Cut taxes for the rich, cut services for the poor..”


Nick, that’s poor to answer an accuse us of slander and then link to a genuine slander. Perhaps I was loose in my phraseology, but I do think the Lib Dems and other Euorpean centrist parties find it difficult to reconcile the need for social action with liberal market ideologies.

It was a poor and inaccurate use of the word “slander”, my apologies. The article I link to, however, remains a substantiated opinion.

The article I link to, however, remains a substantiated opinion.

Oh give us a break. I can’t remember the last time I read anything intelligent on Samizdata, and that piece of crap just shows how ignorant they actually are about Green policies and ideas.

Have a forthright discussion, sure. But linking to that as some sort of article just highlights your own ignorance.

Reaching for the ad hominems again, Sunny!

All it does is make the simple point that if, as seems to be the current belief within the political establishment (see thread below), policies are racist even if they are only racist as an indirect consequence of what they implement rather than explicit discrimination, then the Green party platform is racist.

This is really quite odorously low, Nick. And either stupefyingly disingenuous or worryingly stupid.

Nick, I happen to think the logic of your opinion is good, but you are undone by the weakness of your example.

I think the partisan Greens above would struggle to sit in a room together unless they were chained to their chairs and entranced by the mystic vision of their idols – whether it is shiva, their yoga instructor or Caroline Lucas. If you’ve ever been to a meeting of Greens you’ll know what I mean.

They claim to attract disaffected liberals, and claim to be hoovering up votes from liberals at a rate of two-to-one over other parties. Excuse me while I suppress a laugh, even though I’m not a LibDem I can still see that they are growing the total number of votes thay’ve recieved and growing the number of seats they’ve gained, so somewhere along the line these greens are deluding themselves.

It strikes me as a particularly odd strategy to appeal to only 20% of votes when they’re trying to stake their claim to moral justification – it’s almost as if only those 20% are good enough and they couldn’t accept the ‘wrong kind’ of votes! It also strikes me as odd that the Greens only wish to appeal to those untainted by conservatism or socialism by standing against LibDem core ideas like economic liberty and European integration!

The truth is that the Greens are an incoherent bunch of numpties who only agree that they don’t like anyone else – if you got them talking amongst themselves you’d find they also don’t like each other.

Reaching for the ad hominems again, Sunny!

Hold on – you post some rubbish informed by ignorance, try and pass it off as intelligent discussion, and then accuse me of ad hominems?

It would be good if you actually asked questions or had a serious discussion about an issue, and we could move past stereotypes like ‘Labour is Stalinist’, ‘Libertarians are selfish bastards’, ‘Tories eat babies’ and ‘Liberals are wishy washy’ etc on to something a bit more substantive. Otherwise, like thomas above, its just ad hominems dressed up in nice words.

Sorry Sunny, there’s nothing wrong with ad hominems under the right conditions, provided of course that you don’t get mixed up over what they are.

The point being that ad hominems are a shorthand debating tool and implied logic rather than logic itself, so while they are generally effective in communicating basic attitudes they cannot be assumed in and of themselves to convey any basic truths – they provide for uncertainty, they don’t infer correctness one way or the other.

So I’ll happily defend the right to use them and in so doing can easily agree with your defense against accusations of their use against you by Nick, but I am equally capable of pointing out your own clear problems when accusing others of their use.

In my own defence the ‘nice words’ you refer to (thanks very much for that, I usually get bogged down by impreciseness and over-qualifications) summate the reasoning behind their usage, which taken in combination denies the ad hominem attack – so you result in exposing your own weakness (in this case favoritism towards Greens over LibDems) rather than trying to avoid any impartiality by staying on the sidelines.

So regarding ad hominems if you are uncertain of their proper usage I suggest you steer clear of them altogether, but you can remember the rule of thumb that if you can’t defend yourself without attacking others then you have no defence.

Returning to the topic, I’ll reiterate, the Green party represents a negativist sentiment and will increasingly pick up protest votes until they find they must move mainstream and promote some positive policies, at which stage they will begin alienating the serial protesters who comprise their current activist base. The internal tension between the strands represented by each of their most charismatic fugureheads must not prove too fractious to prevent them from reaching that stage of development, yet they must also not neglect the necessity of debate between them.

The Green party is in an interesting position currently, as they could form a ‘real break’ with political ineptitude and corruption (if that’s how you choose to describe it), or they could represent a ‘culmination’ of historical processes by which humanity reaches it’s full potential (if that’s your perspective). One should remember that the former sloganised phrasiology is a virtually exact transliteration of extreme right-wing thinking, the latter extreme of left-wing thinking, whose intolerance brought about the most destructive, degrading and ultimately dangerous period in human memory. But most Greens are too green to see that.

I think the public naturally prefer Greens to LibDems. Sorry to bring this back to brass tacks – you know what the Greens are ‘for’ and what they are likely to believe in. That is not true for the LibDems, which makes them ultimately a weaker political ‘brand’. I remember a discussion with voters some of us had in Camden:

“What do the Labour Party stand for?”

“Well they used to be for the working man but now they’re more like the Tories”

“How about the Tories?”

“They’re more like Labour these days.”

“What about the LibDems?”

”On I don”t know really … they’re somewhere in between.”

“This is really quite odorously low, Nick. And either stupefyingly disingenuous or worryingly stupid.”

Well, I am not trying to persuade everyone here all at once 🙂

“I think the public naturally prefer Greens to LibDems.”

Says a man speaking for the whole of the public, obviously. Forgive me, am I reading the polls wrong?

I don’t know what the Greens stand for and I don’t think any of the membership actually knows what they stand for collectively as a party either.

Talking about brass tacks, try to nail any two Greens down on specifics and they’ll take opposite views to each other – to whit, Derek Wall and Caroline Lucas.

So why don’t you tell us?

Hi Thomas

Votes and success are about on the ground work, in politics. Building a party takes time, it is not purely the product of existing voter habits. But our experience is that we are easier to understand and people like us. Our votes grow quickly where we are established.

Caroline and Derek are hardly ever at odds about actual policies. Derek and Caroline took a very different view about internal party structure, for reasons that are beyond me.

The party clearly stands for social and environmental justice. That’s the bedrock of our beliefs.

Thanks Jim, how about a policy now… or are you afraid of scaring all the variously nice liberals here?

I’ll step in on Jim’s behalf and give some policies that may demonstrate clearly what the Green party stands for. It’snot exhaustive obviously, and gives just one example for each heading which combined I think show clearly where the party stands. I’ve assumed you know where we stand on issue like transport and energy

Reverse the sale of NHS services and
hospitals to private companies

Public services:
Mandatory youth services with extra

The voting age should be reduced to 16

We would abolish the system of SATs
and league tables

Where appropriate, bring offenders
together with victims so that they are
made aware of their impact on people’s
lives, and, where possible, can make
reparation for their crimes.

encourage Local Community Pensions
Schemes that would invest in the local
community and in public services, not
the stock market, so offering stable
returns, not dependent on speculation
or vulnerable to mis-management.

that’ll do for now I think

is that all you’ve got? A greater collection of ineffectual and irrelevant nonsense I’ve never heard! I imagine they are well-intentioned, but

Health – you promise to reverse something which isn’t happening.
Public services – you promise something that already exists, or an extension of current policies by additional coercion.
Democracy – you support the LibDems
Education – a sweeping policy which avoids the issues surrounding standards.
Crime – I recall the Home Sec recently said something similar and then reversed/denied the initiative.
Pensions – unworkable and unaffordable under private investment models, hints at coercion, nationalisation, taxation – or all three.

I’d therefore like to hear your transport and energy policies before I call the Green party an empty authoritarian vessel.


i think mattf quite clearly stated that that was _not_ all that he had, but was, rather, an illustrative list.

you can find a more comprehensive record of green policy on the website if it interests you.


Dear thomas, your response perhaps says more about your approach to online discussion than it does green party policy, but you are entitled to express yourself how you like in my view. As a green I’m socially liberal enough to say that. 😉

I think that those particular examples of polices clearly demonstrate where the green party stands on several key issues. I will, for the sake of accuracy, remind you that the education policy is something David Laws has called for this month! To be fair to you, it may be that both green and lib dems are skirting the issue around standards.

It’s clear, to me at least, that the many from the social democratic wing would find a happier home in the green party than in the current liberal democrats. Those of an economic neo-liberal persuasion will clearly not. If you are the latter, fair enough.

I think the public recognises the distinction within the lib dems of these two disparate stands and is therefore confused by it, quite rightly. Essentially they vote liberal democrat because they are not the either labour or conservative unpopular incumbents. They vote Green because they’ve either found out what the greens say or have had it demonstrated by existing green representatives .

Let me give you two examples which might help. If you believe in greater profit orientated sector control over health services you’ve already got labour and conservatives to vote for, but if you don’t the Green Party is very clear on it’s position. If you believe in greater busniess control over curriculum in schools, you’ve already got labour and conservatives to vote for, but if you don’t the Green party is very clear on it’s position

So perhaps the real question for lib democrats are how are their policies actually distinct from the other two parties? They aren’t really, and that is ultimately what Jim means by a weak political brand. If I was a free market liberal i’d vote new labour or the conservatives. If I was left liberal I’d vote for the greens.

I think it’s interesting here that the Greens tend to be able to conduct this discussion with a civil tongue in their heads, while the LDs seem unable to rein in a compulsion to be snide and sarcastic. It’s a surprise, frankly, and rather ugly.


I don’t think I was snide or sarcastic. A little terse perhaps… Still, YAY for flinging poo, G!

“I think it’s interesting here that the Greens tend to be able to conduct this discussion with a civil tongue in their heads, while the LDs seem unable to rein in a compulsion to be snide and sarcastic. It’s a surprise, frankly, and rather ugly.”

Heh, irony is fun.

Sorry, is someone accusing me of being a LibDem? That’s funny, because I’m not partisan, I’m just contrary.

To be fair, I think it’s important to be honest – I’m critical of the Green’s because I’m open to the idea of being convinced of the message they supposedly promote, but that requires someone to communicate it clearly.

I don’t think you adequately describe what you stand for.

That David Laws’ LibDem education policy may or may not skirt round the issues doesn’t excuse you from doing so. Also by saying you stand against ‘greater profit oriented public sector in health’ and against ‘greater business control over curriculum in schools does not say whether you stand for the current level or a reduction in those levels, and if a reduction to what level and on what basis.

I also don’t think you are being adequately fair to your opponents for what you say to have any credibility.

The LibDems have clear policy differentiation in a number of areas, such as they have recently set out on Tax. You also propagate the idea that if they did appeal to you you still wouldn’t vote for them, which hardly speaks of an unprejudiced mind. You can admit your own confusion about your opponents, but please don’t assume that’s the same grounds for disagreement everybody else holds with them.

Finally, I don’t think you are being consistent in your arguments.

You claim the Greens are different, yet you defend the Green education policy by saying it is the same as someone else’s before saying theirs are the same as everybody’s.

thanks for that link (although I was already aware of it) – can you point me to the bit which summarises what the party stands for?

Reading through the site it appears like an exercise in distracting attention from the vacuum at the heart of it – Sian Berry has a job on her hands improving the communications department!

Perhaps so few people vote Green because so few have found out what the greens say and therefore are just too unprepared to have it demonstrated by green representatives.

Thanks for returning to more substantive concerns.

There is a distinction between specific policy detail and what you refer to as ‘what the party stands for’. I think that oppostion to profit orientated control of school curriculums and health services is very clear in terms of what a party stands for. I think that taxing those earning over £100,000 more than they are currently is also very clear.

You may not agree with these policies, the liberal democrats officially don’t, but the point is about clarity.

To be fair some policy that demonstrated where the greens stand is what you asked to be provided with.

I then suggested that the there was less distinction between the liberal democrats and the two major, economically liberal parties, than there was between the Green party and those two parties. This left me concluding that the earlier remark that the liberal democrat poltical brand was weak, and that left liberals were justified in preferring the Green party to the liberal democrats had validity.

This still stands up in my view.

However if you wanted to pursue other more specifric policy debates , then I’m happy to do that, but perhaps we should start another thread?

Best wishes


Much obliged mattf, though I’m not so sure it would be a useful exercise.

You are already very clear that you stand for opposition not leadership, while being completely unclear about the extent of your ideals and how far-reaching whatever principles you have are.

So I doubt the ability of LCs Green conspirators to produce something interesting and I doubt anything productive will be achieved. However, that’s the political challenge for you to overcome.

I may be unused to your style of discussion ,but i’m not trying to ‘win’ a battle with you. This discussion now seems a slightly fruitless exercise as you seem to want to say provocatively negative things and are unwilling to to acknowledge the simple point that there does exist policy in the green party which gives it a clear poltical identity, and that the liberal democrats don’t have such political clarity, and that left liberals need suffer no confusion if they support the former rather than the latter. That doesn’t make you ‘wrong’, it just answers validly the questions raised

Your other latest points may all be correct, or worthy of discussion, but they are seperate from the above key points, and perhaps due to my brain not working well,, rather unclear. Can you give me an example of what you mean by ‘extent of your ideals’ and ‘how far reaching’, and then hopefully I can assist

If i may, perhaps we can move on by you saying the following:

” In response to your key points, agreed. What i would now be interested in finding out is ….( for you to fill in)

sent in constructive spirit


So Mattf, why are you against profits? If it turned out that profits delivered better health care or education, would you change your mind or is it a point of principle?

To be fair, I think it’s important to be honest – I’m critical of the Green’s because I’m open to the idea of being convinced of the message they supposedly promote, but that requires someone to communicate it clearly.

is this what you call criticism?
is that all you’ve got? A greater collection of ineffectual and irrelevant nonsense I’ve never heard!

Now, to be honest, we could spend all day long criticising Labour, Libdem, Tory and Green policy.

I’d be interested more in hearing about why a particular party’s policy, in a subject area, is better than what the Greens are proposing.

Otherwise, all I can read from you is just a bit of condescending lather. And usually, you’re the first person to criticise others for being partisan.

So Mattf, why are you against profits? If it turned out that profits delivered better health care or education, would you change your mind or is it a point of principle?

I don’t think they should be against against profits per se, but excessive profits, which are rife in our economy, are simply a product of market failure.


thanks for your question. It’s important I think to look at the specific wording that i used. It’s not about being against profits per se, as Sunny notes, but against what i have called ” profit oreintetd control” of things like school curriculums. That doesn’t mean I’m an out and out statist, but that having non state sector involvement in the provision of certain materials and goods is very different than , and this is the most important bit,

having companies who are inevitably driven by their fiduciary duty deciding what subjects actually get taught to 11year old children

the latter approach stems from a neo-liberal position, which the three biggest parties curently share. Left liberals dont’ share this,and so presumably if you are a left liberal you would rather support the green party than any of the other three. So, to conclude, my feeling is that those current lib dem supporetsr who would place themselves on the social democratic wing ought to consider supporting the green party.

In anticipation of your immediate response, how we measure the delivery of better education is a debate in and of itself.

profit making might deliver better school buildings, better staff training, etc et, I think that has still to be demonstrated but I;m open to debate on it. However allowing profit orientation to decide curriculum is a dangerous road to tread,and one which esentially leads to bringing ideology to curriculum choice ( fundamentally unliberal i’m sure you’ll recognise) whereby for example history is forsaken for economics.

I’d rather have those decisions done democratically and accountably. And this is the real problem for neo-liberals, ultimately they beleive in the market rather than democracy, because they believe that the market is democratic. Why they believe this in the face of what seems to me to be all evidence to the contray (ranging from Adam Smith to recent ‘nudge’ economics) is better left to them ( including you?) to explain.

It seems clear to me that left liberals share my analysis, hence my conclusion about liberal democrats and the green party

hope that helps

Best wishes


you really ought to choose quotes which back up your point, rather than selectively editing what can easily be read in context above.

I agree that there will always be critics, but non-partisanship is better served by judicious endorsement under specific qualifying conditions – so for example, though I err in favour of Obama I also recognise the dangers potentially arising from an overwhelming victory and would reserve all rights to avoid a decision until the final moment.

I also acknowledge what you’re trying to say when you accuse me of condescention, but again there is a fundamental talking point here about the way people relate and communicate and I disagree therefore with the charge.

Perhaps those Greens above really can answer the questions raised even though they choose not to, or perhaps they choose to waste the opportunity because they can’t… whichever, and whatever the criticisms we throw at the other parties (larger and smaller), is any of us prepared to tell the public they are wrong to put the x’s in the boxes they do? Yet at least one person is deluding themselves that Greens are more popular than the LibDems, according to this conversation – is it possible to defend this untruth by any measure?

what you suggest about introducing ideology into curriculum choices ignores the fact that education is inherently political in the first place, so I think you are being naive.

I also think you’ve consumed a bit too much Green propaganda to being seeing clearly. Surely you understand the vested interest the Green party has in promoting a self-supporting perspective?

You simply make so many assumptions that is hard to believe you have actually thought through the development of your ideas from their starting point. So instead of using blanket insults to dismiss those who disagree, wouldn’t you do better to engage with them in open dialogue to find out why they disagree?

The economic effects of education can be measured at various levels and it is a political decision which needs to emphasised more. At the macro level, schools need to provide for the situation in which leavers will find themselves and be able to survive – which means having the tools to do jobs which exist, rather than the tools to do the jobs you may wish to exist. At the micro level the choice is only noticable at the point which streams diverge.

So, do you think latin ought to be reintroduced as compulsory? How do you cope with demand for plumbers? To what standard should a general education be provided, and to what extent should a specialist qualification be funded?

For starters it would help to know that you’re not in the either/or camp.

I’m glad you agree that curriculum is inherently poltical, that’s exactly the reason why it should be determined democratically rather than commercially.
I’m sorry if you feel i have used blanket insults, I don’t believe I have.

I’m afraid i keep having difficulty understanding exactly what it is you are saying. I felt that Nick asked a very clear and precise question and so i answered hopefully clearly. You seem to want to mix both various tangential points of discussion with having a go at me for some reason, so if you don’t mind I’m going to stick to discussing with others from now. Apologies if I’ve misunderstood you, but life is short and all that…


what do you intend by the term ‘neo-liberal’ if not an insult? what is it except to make a blanket pronouncement to say the three other parties are the same?

Do you see the contradiction you make in saying you want a democratic method of choice which doesn’t result in a commercial outcome?

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