With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change


by Jim Jepps    
12:13 am - May 14th 2012

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Caroline Lucas MP, has announced that she will not stand for re-election as Green Party leader in September in order to make way for new leadership voices.

In the announcement says that “I will also be able to dedicate even more of my work to the political frontline, putting the Green case for change in Parliament and in all circles of national political debate.”

This is an extremely positive development despite the fact that Caroline Lucas is clearly the most capable, extra-ordinary green politician.

Lucas currently has the four most difficult jobs in the Green Party. She is a fantastic constituency MP, the sole Party voice in Parliament, the main port of call for the media and the leader of the party.

It’s in her interests and the long term interests of the party that she creates room for someone to take at least one of those jobs off her hands.

It’s been five years since the referendum in the Green Party to adopt a leadership structure.

However, the moment the party adopted that new structure, the discussion on how it should use that structure stopped in order to move on from that debate.

There’s been no real development of the position of leader (and deputy leader) within the party and Lucas’ announcement gives the Greens a chance to do that.

The party will need to decide in September not just who it wants to elect as leader but how it wants to use the leadership position itself.

A collapsing Coalition government opens up new political opportunities, but getting taken seriously as an opposition party out from under the shadow of the Labour Party will be no mean feat in the second dip of an economic recession.

1. That means popularising a clear vision of how we deal with the politics of austerity and a drive to help local parties embed themselves in growing community movements, trade union struggles and opposing the politics of reaction.

2. We live in times where there is a growing confidence on the fringe right. There needs to be a strong voice against the demonisation of immigrants, homophobic bigotry, and anti-abortion campaigning.

3. That means a focus on building a campaigning party that champions the needs of disabled benefit recipients, opposes every local instance of privatisation of our health and other public services, that keeps pushing for real action on climate change in times when it has dropped down the political agenda.

Caroline Lucas has been, and will continue to be, an outstanding and articulate advocate for Green politics.

She needs to be joined by other higher profile Greens fighting their corner, developing new voices and ensuring that in every town and city in the country there is a viable Green group which makes a real contribution to the politics of the area.

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About the author
Jim Jepps is a socialist in the Green Party and formerly blogged at the Daily (Maybe). He currently writes on London politics, community and the environment at Big Smoke.
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Reader comments


1. So Much For Subtlety

This is an extremely positive development despite the fact that Caroline Lucas is clearly the most capable, extra-ordinary green politician.

I actually agree with that. Well the first half anyway.

The Greens have been moving away from the further fringe of nuttiness for years. That is a good thing. Hopefully they will continue swimming powerfully until they reach the shoreline of sane politics. This is a good start.

The greatest problem the Greens have to overcome now is structural. Currently I understand that regional parties can effectively make their own policies, the national conference does not make binding policy decisions. Without someone as effective as Lucas at the helm there is a risk that regional fruitloopery can come to dominate the debate just when practical alternatives are most needed.

It’s not positive at all, it’s a real mess. Caroline Lucas is the only half-decent national politician the Greens have, and the only one with a Westminster seat. It took the Greens an aeon to finally get round to having a leader the public could notice, and now she’s off after only two years, just as she is beginning to be recognised and just as circumstances are looking better for minor parties than ever before.

Now, instead of trying to formulate a Green case for coming through the unfolding collapse (which they’ve been hopeless at so far,mostly knee jerking against any cuts at all at the same time as critiquing growth) the Greens will have a silly internal debate and elect a less appealing leader with no voice in parliament.

It feels like 1989 all over again. Back then the Greens had a chance to capitalise on success and blew it, and fell off the map for 20 years. It would be a real shame if that happened again.

4. Shinsei1967

Didn’t UKIP have exactly the same problem a few years ago with Nigel Farage being the overly dominant figure.

As a result they did what the Greens seem to be doing and attempting to bring in new blood. However was a total disaster (Lord Pearson of Rannoch) and they had to u-turn and bring back Farage to the fore. And UKIP’s profile soared.

No reason that the Green Party will make the same mistake, but it is a high risk policy for a fringe party to downsize its most able media performer.

5. Spartacus Mills

Still too many idiots in their ranks. Like this high profile member of the Hull Green Party who’s a loony troofer.

http://www.thisisull.com/politics/martin/911show.html

You know, the planes being flown by remote control… I shit you not. I’m sure the jews are in there somewhere too.

6. Sunder Katwala

I see Lucas’ decision as reflecting the Green consensus on leadership: that they would go for a ‘leader’ as a media label, but remain ambivalent about whether leadership is compatible with a democratic party culture. The call for looking again at what the leader is for is a good one, yet the decision that it won’t be Lucas confirms an anti-leadership anxiety (despite what looks, from the outside, like good trust in the outgoing leader in practice).

My instincts are with Paul Kingsnorth, in terms of what would be good for the Green Party.

I can see why there is an ideological preference from activists and members for very constrained leadership, including the 2 year term and moving a leader on after 4 years as here (which is added to the democratic policy structures, which could be combined with longer-term and higher profile leadership). But I think there is a trade-off in terms of Green public voice and reach by making that choice. It is difficult to think of major breakthroughs in electoral or party politics which have not been made more accessible by being identified with personalities. It is as true of the radical left (Bennism, for example) as other strands. My impression was that the public leadership of Joschka Fischer and others, while not uncontroversial, was important to the German Greens making more mainstream impact than other Green parties in Europe.

It could well be the role of a new leader makes little difference, with Lucas easily remaining the best-known public figure, and most commonly used media spokesperson. But it seems likely that the party would then try to balance this, so puts efforts into building new leaders’ profile. Lucas statement suggests that could be win-win. In theory, it could, but it seems as or more likely to dilute her profile and potential public reach, without the new leader breaking through.

Nigel Farage had similar (workload) issues for not being Ukip leader, but it helps the party that he returned to the post. Ukip may be better placed to continue to compete more effectively than the Greens for 4th (and maybe 3rd) in polls if their best known elected rep is the leader, while the Greens decide against that to build future voices. That means that the government will more internal advice to focus on the threat to its right-flank than to pay attention to pressure on environmental issues, which are increasingly referred to pejoratively, as an unaffordable luxury in tough times.

That is a central argument the Greens (and other greens) need to take on, and Caroline Lucas remains the most important Green public advocate of the counter-argument.

I think Sunder is right. The problem the Greens have had since inception is that they have never decided at root whether they are a political party playing the political game, or a wider pressure group lobbying for social change. There’s a clear tension here which, as Sunder says, was mirrored in (and perhaps taken from) the German Greens (who, unlike the UK Greens, came out of the radical left, where this terror of anything that looks like hierarchy originates from.)

My view is that if you are going to get into the game of trying to get Westminster seats and build up a powerbase that way – which is the game the Greens, as a national political party, are playing – then you need to get real about how to do it. Like it or not, you need a recognisable leader with a media profile, good communication skills and a clear message. And when you find one of those (they’re rare), you need to keep her in that post for as long as you can! Especially if you are a small party struggling to break the media blockade.

Finding a leader like that, as the Greens did, then allowing her to step aside for reasons of internal party democracy, to make way for someone no-one has heard of and who is likely to be much less good at the job, is a big mistake. And will the new leader be doing the same thing in four years too? The Greens have really got to get their act together.

Good tactics, but I’d say the problem for the Greens is a tension between what they do in power and what they when not in power.

They haven’t yet squared allegations of supporting autonomy for people with policies which go for huge Government and telling everyone what to do.

Brighton will be key.

>nuttiness

That’s appropriate. One of the first things they did in Brighton was to make developers audit their sites for fruit and nut trees in search of “food sustainability”. Quite how architects needing to spend a couple of hours at £50 an hour or whatever in search of an apple tree has not afaik been proved a serious contribution to saving Brighton from starvation.

It’s also a question whether the refugees from Respect stay with the Greens or go back now that the Gorgeous One has returned.

Much as I’d like to portray the Greens as touchy feely group huggers the decision is not about a non-hierarchical internal party democracy. I think it’s essentially about two things.

First are we asking something unreasonable of Caroline Lucas herself who has served the party incredibly well, but is still a human being after all. She remains an MP, chrged with retaining our first Parliamentary seat and representing the parties policies in Parliament ad on committees. Added to this she will still be the go to person for the media, so she wont disappear as far as the country goes.

However, she simply does not have the time to lead the party except by example, something she can do just as well in her role as MP. Leading a party is a full time job i itself and think it’s unfair to ask Caroline to do this job too (andcertainly unfair to ask her to do it well).

Secondly we have had no discussion in the party about how we use the role of leader and deputy leader in the party and so they have, by default, become mechanisms to get into the press when any political organisation needs political direction an clarity on what the current key tasks are.

Having someone who can concentrate on those roles will be enormously helpful to the party.

Of course there are risks. Choosing the wrong candidate or people wrongly assuming that this means there is internal strife in the party – however one risk we aren’t running is the end of Caroline Lucas who will, no matter what continue to be the leading advocate for the party.

Sunder is wrong when he says the Leader is ‘moved on’ after 4 years – up until reasonably recently (February this year or so) Caroline was fully expected to be standing for the position again, and had another three possible terms as leader to go should she so wish – the limit is 5 terms (10 years) not 2. I don’t think that this is any realistic constraint on the party.

I think the move is a good one, and I’d like to see some new talent moving to the fore, having a strong leadership vision for the party and so on, although I’m minded (by stealing it from another comment on the matter made by someone else) of Kingsley Amis comment when he stated that it wasn’t the untapped pools of talent that concerned him, it was tapping pools of untalent that were the major concern.

There is a list of people within the party who might stand, some of whom would benefit greatly from the position in raising their profile to increase the likely hood of getting a higher profile elected seat, although I don’t think many people on this list would provide much in terms of the leadership role that the party really needs at this point.

‘First are we asking something unreasonable of Caroline Lucas herself who has served the party incredibly well, but is still a human being after all.’

i realise the Greens are only a small outfit, but are you really saying someone can’t be both MP and party leader? other parties seem to manage. How are yo going to square that with trying to get more MPs?

‘Secondly we have had no discussion in the party about how we use the role of leader and deputy leader in the party and so they have, by default, become mechanisms to get into the press when any political organisation needs political direction an clarity on what the current key tasks are.’

Sounds like the Greens still haven’t resolved that tension. If you have a leader,the leader is the person the press will go to and the public will look to when things need to be said and done. That’s how it works. You tried have rotating speakers to get round this and it failed, which is why you voted to have a leader in the first place. The idea that less charismatic people who are less good at leading should be leader is not a runner. What’s going to happen during the next election campaign?

It’s just a real shame.

“are you really saying someone can’t be both MP and party leader?”

Actually no – because she doesn’t have a team of cabinet members and back benchers doing the Parliamentary work. she doesn’t have the kind of national profile that would automatically retain her seat at next election, seeing as she had just over 2% majority.

Other parties have more than one MP to sit on committees, spend time trying to catch the speaker’s eye, speak at conferences, and all the other associated things. It’s very clearly different to be the only MP and leader of the party than being in a group of dozens or hundreds of MPs.

” If you have a leader,the leader is the person the press will go to ”

No, the press go to who they like. Respect’s leader is Salma Yaqoob and she does pop up now and then, but Galloway is the go to person for the press. The Greens now leader will get some press, will be able to get in the media and take some of that burden off of Caroline, but the idea that somehow Caroline will no longer be in demand is not the way it works.

13. Michael Powell

A whole post about the Greens, and not a single mention of environmental issues. Shome mishtake shurely? Unless the Greens emerge from their loony left comfort zone, and engage with people from across the political spectrum who are concerned about environmental issues, they have no future. A more reasoned approach to nuclear power would be a good place to start, as evinced by the more thoughtful green commentators, such as George Monbiot and Mark Lynas.

Well, I look forward to the Greens modelling themselves on Respect!

15. Shinsei1967

“Unless the Greens emerge from their loony left comfort zone, and engage with people from across the political spectrum who are concerned about environmental issues, they have no future.”

Couldn’t agree more. But it is a problem with most (primarily) single issue pressure groups/political parties that you are expected to sign up for an entire partisan political point of view.

Hence UKUncut and Tax Justice make zero effort to associate or engage with those on the right who are just as keen to outlaw tax havens and rein-in egregious tax avoidance.

And UKIP don’t have much time for those on the left who happen not to want the UK to be a member of the EU.

16. Michael Powell

Modelling themselves on Respect amounts to copying a party that already exists. That way lies the path to electoral oblivion. Hence my belief that any prospects for Green success have to be centrist or not applicable to a simple left-right spectrum. Besides which, the prospect of emulating a party which has a demagogic leader playing aggrieved ethnic groups off against each other, contributing to the balkanisation of Britain in the process, hardly seems a healthy development.

17. Chaise Guevara

@ 13

“Unless the Greens emerge from their loony left comfort zone”

Honest question – how are the Greens “loony left”? When they weigh in on debates they generally come off as sensible left-liberal environmentalists. I agree that being anti-nuclear is counterproductive at present but I wouldn’t call it “loony”. And obviously the party will attract a certain kind of nutcase, but is this reflected in policy?

18. Michael Powell

@ 15 & 17 – both fair points. Certainly Green policy is more centrist and sensible than the party’s public image, but that just goes to show that it needs to attract a wider and more diverse membership base. They also need to grasp the nettle and make clear that having large numbers of children is not the best way to care for the environment, even if you’re a vegetarian hippie!

19. Chaise Guevara

@ 18

I think the Greens’ problem, much like UKIP, is that they are a full-manifesto party that people see as a single-issue party, not least because of the name. And of course they suffer from association with the “crazy hippy” stereotype, so I imagine a lot of people assume that having the Greens in power would mean veganism being required by law and so on.

I think they do sometimes support silly policies (not that they’re alone in that), either to appease certain factions of supporters or just because they’ve paid too much attention to what *sounds* nice. So you’ve got the nuclear thing and, until recently, the homeopathy thing. Actually, perhaps the best thing the Greens could do is come out against irrational ideas and overbearing ethical demands, in the hope that the lunatic fringe would split off and try to make a Peta Party or something, leaving the Greens looking moderate by comparison.

20. Michael Powell

@ 19 “Actually, perhaps the best thing the Greens could do is come out against irrational ideas and overbearing ethical demands, in the hope that the lunatic fringe would split off and try to make a Peta Party or something, leaving the Greens looking moderate by comparison.”

Amen to that!

21. Disgruntled Gnome

The Green Party probably needs to work on alternative methods of getting their candidates elected as MPs (other than making them Party Leader first).

22. blitzfish

Surely the issue this brings up is where the party positions itself. Lucas had gone for an old labour democratic socialist position overall which didn’t exactly suit all the members. Her departure will bring the divisions into the open and show up the absence of a central political philosophy; being green by itself is simply not enough – you can have green fascists, if you like. Despite efforts and contortions, ‘sustainability’ is not a substitute for politics – possible why the author styles himself a socialist…

Besides which, Lucas is helpfully telegenic.

Michael Powell – quite agree that the Greens should come out of their comfort zone actually. They could be doing much better than they are if they were to ditch some of their baggage. Don’t agree that stepping into Mark Lynas’s comfort zone represents progress however. From loony left to loony right in one fell swoop?

(PS: as I hope was obvious, my one-line Respect comment was deeply, deeply sarcastic!)

@13
“A whole post about the Greens, and not a single mention of environmental issues. Shome mishtake shurely?”

I take it that you’re also concerned about every post on about Labour that doesn’t have a single mention of the working class.

@14
“Well, I look forward to the Greens modelling themselves on Respect!”

That’s not what Jim said. He simply pointed out that the official party leader is not necessarily the press’s go-to person, pointing to Respect as a prominent example of this.

@22
“Surely the issue this brings up is where the party positions itself. Lucas had gone for an old labour democratic socialist position overall which didn’t exactly suit all the members. Her departure will bring the divisions into the open and show up the absence of a central political philosophy; being green by itself is simply not enough – you can have green fascists, if you like. Despite efforts and contortions, ‘sustainability’ is not a substitute for politics – possible why the author styles himself a socialist…”

Actually, the party’s positioning had relatively little to do with Caroline. Our policy is not set by the leader, it’s set by conference. The membership is overwhelmingly left-wing, and dominated by those who would hold an old labour philosophy, with a small but vocal group of ecosocialist marxists on our left wing. I’ve never come across a single member who comes anywhere close to fascism.

And we do have a central political philosophy. Have a look at our Philosophical Basis (http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/philosophical-basis).

Green Christian – well, if your membership is overwhelmingly left wing, with a small group on the even-more-left-wing, the case for broadening your appeal seems pretty watertight!

@3 Paul: “Caroline Lucas is the only half-decent national politician the Greens have”

You may be right, but the thing is, they’re never going to get any more if they don’t have a strategy to do so. Lucas won the Brighton Pavilion seat because she genuinely had a higher profile at the time of her election – she appeared on Question Time quite often, sometimes Newsnight, etc. She was also an MEP already.

Over in Norwich, where the Greens are trying to pick up another seat (and could probably do so, the dynamics look very possible if they can take Liberal Democrat votes) they might be trying to do the same trick. Adrian Ramsay is deputy leader of the party, and leader of the opposition on the city council. Those aren’t particularly prestigious or high profile positions.

Making Ramsay leader would give him a much higher profile, get him on TV, etc. It would give him a similar profile to the one Caroline Lucas had when she won pavilion. I think it’s a smart move and the Greens are well placed to exploit something like this, specifically because they don’t really care much about the post of leader and can pass it around like some kind of megaphone.

The whole point of having a leader for them in the first place was because they had to play the media’s game – now they can bend, even slightly exploit the rules of that game and get a higher profile for one of their candidates.

People mentioning UKIP and Farage are right that he’s their only capable national level politicians. He’s doing a fine job of winning the air war for the right of the Conservative Party, hence UKIP’s 13% vote share in the seats they stood in at the local elections. Not that it did them any good – they didn’t win net a single extra councillor in England. Their vote is too spread out, they couldn’t focus their media profile into a seat. The Greens are working to channel any media profile they get into winning a seat in the first past the post system. This might actually get them a second seat. That would be a coup for them, a breakthrough – winning two seats is a lot more than twice as impressive as winning one. It’s a party rather than a one man band.

If Caroline Lucas stayed as leader and did a successul Farage, here’s what would happen: she might raise the Greens’ national profile and they might get a couple of extra percent at the general election. They might pick up a couple more MEPs. But they’re not going to win any more seats without campaigning directly in them. Lucas will hold her Brighton seat even when she’s not leader, but now they have an extra chance of concentrating their publicity where it will actually affect an electoral outcome.

MP @ 13

Unless the Greens emerge from their loony left comfort zone, and engage with people from across the political spectrum who are concerned about environmental issues, they have no future

Difficult to see how the greens can possibly pull that off, given that their entire philosophy is based around ‘Loony Left’ politics or at least the type of politics that are so labelled. The greens believe that society and the policies that drive that society should be driven by the needs of the environment, not the needs of ‘Big business’, ‘profit’ or shareholders. To try and campaign for ecology without being diametrically opposed the causes of the planets destructive forces seems fruitless.

And for whom would this conversion to the Centre Right be for? To appeal to Tories who have ‘concerns’ about the environment? Yeah right, being a Tory and having a ‘concern’ for the environment are mutually exclusive.

People like Goldsmith are kidding themselves on, you are either pro business or an environmentalists. You can be the former and play at the latter for so long, but sooner or later you are going to have to make a choice. Sooner or later your environmentalism means you are going to have to stand up and deny the multinationals the freedom to act in the most profitable ways imaginable.

29. Shinsei1967

Jim:

“And for whom would this conversion to the Centre Right be for? To appeal to Tories who have ‘concerns’ about the environment? Yeah right, being a Tory and having a ‘concern’ for the environment are mutually exclusive.”

Sums up everything that is wrong with the mindset of many Green supporters. And hence why they remain a fringe party of the “loony left”

Do you honestly think that every one of the millions of people who vote Tory are concerned only with maximising corporate profits at the expense of the environment.

You don’t think that millions of Tories are members of the National Trust, are Nimbys preventing development of their local environment, aren’t the backbone of environmental charities ?

And what about all those nasty capitalists entrepreneurs who want to make money out of building windmills, or insulating your house or running over-priced restaurants serving locally sourced food.

@28 and @29

In Brighton and Hove the Green Party have proved perfectly capable of taking wards off the Tories, in well to do Hove of all places. They appeal to them with policies like 20 mile an hour speed limits and neighbourhood noise patrols.

Of course there are some Tory voters who care about the environment, but the fact is that overall in terms of salience, most Tories don’t vote for that sort of issue as much as left-wingers who want to vote for social justice will. There is a gap on the left that the Greens can fill, and there may be a tiny gap to appeal to conservatives, but the opportunity cost of filling the smaller gap on the right instead of on the left is much greater.

Shinsei1967 @ 29

Do you honestly think that every one of the millions of people who vote Tory are concerned only with maximising corporate profits at the expense of the environment.

Er, yes. If the history of the Tory Party over the last thirty years and every Right Wing commentator is any indication, then I cannot honestly see a controversy in that statement.

You don’t think that millions of Tories are members of the National Trust, are Nimbys preventing development of their local environment, aren’t the backbone of environmental charities

I never said there wasn’t a bit of cultural masturbation and naked self interest going on. If push came to shove, they would tear every fucking tree in the Country down if they believed they could squeeze a few quid out of it.

And what about all those nasty capitalists entrepreneurs who want to make money out of building windmills, or insulating your house or running over-priced restaurants serving locally sourced food.

Ah, but that is okay as long as they are making money out of it. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with making money out of something, that is perfectly laudable, BUT that means they look like fair weather environmentalists. They are only willing to do ‘the right thing’ as long as the ‘right thing’ makes them money. I wonder where these people stand when doing ‘the right thing’ costs them profit margins?

That is what I mean; like it or not being an environmentalists will mean you have to be willing to take principled stances against some common business practices. “Voluntary codes of conduct” and informal agreements are not going to swing it. If you want to protect the environment, you are going to have to ban (not disapprove, actually ban) certain practices and ban companies from outside the UK/EU from importing products that use those practices.

I am afraid that goes against everything the Tory Party stand for and people like Zac Goldsmith are either on the side of the environmentalists or the free traders, there cannot be any comprise. Given he joined the Tory Party, I can guess where his fundamental loyalties lie.

A little bit of history might be useful here. The green movement grew from the conservation movement, and the conservation movement was broadly conservative, with a small-c. The left were late converts to environmentalism, and many are still suspicious of it, largely because many trad lefties, at least of the socialist variety, still believe that social justice comes ahead of protection of the biosphere as a whole in terms of priorities.

As for the nasty Tories who would happily mince all the trees if it would make them money … this does indeed sum up how blinkered you are. Distinguish between Tory voters and the likes of George Osborne (for whom this might well be true.) Plenty of tory voters are nature lovers. That does not mean they share left-wing views on what ‘social justice’ is, and neither should they have to. The fact is that a connection to the natural world and a desire to protect it is a deeply human issue, and is not limited to any part of the old (and increasingly irrelevant) political spectrum. The left has not historically given any more of a stuff about deforestation, pollution or extinction than the right, and sometimes less.

If there’s no consensus on these issues, they will never be tackled. Capitalism is certainly a root cause of our current crisis, but then capitalism also destroys much of what traditional conservatives value, like small communities, family life and stable traditions. The left does not own green issues, and it didn’t invent them.

Jon – you’re missing something: namely that leadership is a skill, and not one that everyone has. Lucas won her seat because of her appeal, her communication skills and the rest of it. Put someone else in the same place and there’s no guarantee their higher profile will lead to success. Leadership, and communication, are rare skills. When you find someone who can do both, you don’t let them wander off after a few years to give someone less able their turn. I don’t hear anyone suggesting that Labour ought to sack Ed Miliband and give the job to some shadow cabinet nonenity. At least, not for that reason …

34. Michael Powell

@32 Paul Kingsnorth – quite so. Other commentators might like to read John Gray’s “An Agenda for Green Conservatism” for some philosophical background before assuming that conservation is an inherently left-wing virtue. In fact both liberalism and socialism contain significant elements of promethean/enlightenment thinking, which has tended to view human interests as somehow distinct from (and superior to) those of nature:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=qiSp-MuGjZkC&pg=PA124&lpg=PA124&dq=an+agenda+for+green+conservatism+john+gray&source=bl&ots=WmqA-gy-hk&sig=BvlmYd4doDMRQY5ZYHpqwRNoMCA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=OjeyT8_CO4TG0QXBh921CQ&ved=0CF0Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=an%20agenda%20for%20green%20conservatism%20john%20gray&f=false

35. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 Jim

Quite a lot of Tories seem to be genuinely interested in improving the world and believe in putting people before money. If you want to square that with your view of them (and I’m not saying you should) you could put it down to ignorance: because they live in a nice home-counties town, they really do think that tax money is mainly spent on vanity projects, and that preserving the village green is a significant issue, because they’re just not aware of how things are on the other side of the tracks.

As the ancients say: never attribute to malice what could be better attributed to incompetance.

@33 Paul – leadership is a skill, but it is far less rare than national media coverage. I suspect the reason you think the Green Party doesn’t have any other national caliber politicians isn’t because you’ve checked the party and noted them all to be uncharismatic, but because Lucas is the only person who actually gets any coverage.

Caroline Lucas didn’t win Brighton Pavilion by herself – she merely finished the job started by her predecessor. Keith Taylor campaigned in the seat for two general elections brought it from 2% Green vote to 22%. Lucas won with 31%. She’s a good politician and a competent public speaker, but she’s by no means unique, even within the Green Party.

Paul @ 32

A little bit of history might be useful here. The green movement grew from the conservation movement, and the conservation movement was broadly conservative, with a small-c.

I certainly would not dispute that for a second. The old guard Conservatives, like their pre war American counterparts, where undoubtedly conservationists in the truest sense of the word. However, I suggest that the modern Tory Party have stopped being small ‘c’ conservatives in the broadest terms and appear to have turned against environmental issues in particular.

Sure, you can find plenty of NIMBYs when the edge of a particular village is threatened and there was a revolt when the Government threatened to sell off the forests, but it seems that the main body of the Tory Party certainly do not show much in the way of protecting our environment, when it really matters. Look at the number of Tories and the Right wing thuggery that openly dispute Manmade Global Warming, for example. In fact, many on the Right use support for envirnomental causes as a sure indicator of ‘socialism’.

Plenty of tory voters are nature lovers.

I do not dispute that for second, either. That is emphatically not what I said or implied. I see nothing incompatible with being a Tory and enjoying hill waking. It has to be said though for many on the Right being a ‘nature lover’ entails fox hunting, grouse shooting and support for outrageous handouts to farmers, rather than any genuine love of nature. In fact, they may well that support the ‘Countryside Alliance’ and cite this as evidence of being a ‘nature lover’.

Of course being a ‘nature lover’ is a million miles away from being an environmentalist. Environmentalism is (and has to be) a non-comprising commitment. That is why I say the philosophy of the modern Tory Party is completely at odds with the Green movement. The former is based on an obsession with free markets and self interest, which is the antitheses of what the green movement stands for. Being an environmentalists does not mean tramping through the New Forrest, studying nature and breeding foxes for huntsmen. Being an environmentalists means being prepared to legislate to prevent carcinogenic chemicals in our water supply or stop our furnaces causing acid rain in Scandinavia. To be a green mean you are prepared to prevent, via legislation, individual people and big business from acting in their own self-interest. No true Tory can sign such a blank cheque, because they are all about personal freedoms and to fuck with the rest of us. They are about cutting red tape, not defending curbs on greedy actions. Eventually, every ‘green Tory’ will be confronted by a conundrum where big business wants ‘A’ but the environment DEMANDS ‘B’. As soon as you Choose A or B you stop being a Tory or a Green, depending on which you choose.

Which is why when anyone in the green movement opens his or her mouth on any subject, the Right are quick to pull out ‘eco-fascism’ and ‘environNazi’ out of the epithet box.

Jim:

Nobody ever said the Tory party were green. Or conservative for that matter. Clearly they are neither. They are, as you say, representatives of big business – as are the Labour party, to a lesser but still significant degree. As any party that wants power must be, right now. That wasn’t the point I was making.

‘Being an environmentalist does not mean tramping through the New Forrest, studying nature and breeding foxes for huntsmen. Being an environmentalist means being prepared to legislate to prevent carcinogenic chemicals in our water supply or stop our furnaces causing acid rain in Scandinavia.’

Actually, it means both. Being an environmentalist necessitates both an emotional connection to the natural world, and a preparedness to work to protect it from human ‘development.’ Anyone who has not ‘studied nature’ or enjoyed a tramp through the New Forest is no kind of environmentalist at all. And those who do go by that label have many ways of doing so.

Paul @ 38

Anyone who has not ‘studied nature’ or enjoyed a tramp through the New Forest is no kind of environmentalist at all.

Hmm, I don’t know if that statement hold water, to be honest. Do you have to seen whales in the wild to appreciate that they are highly intelligent species and deserved to protected, along with Rhinos, apes or even a ‘less sexy’ species of fly? I am willing to accept that there are thousands of unique species of ‘ugly’ looking insects that are less appealing than Pandas, whose ecosystems count on none the less. I can see that we are all worse of if the rain forests are cut down.

You don’t need to be a ‘nature lover’ to see the value of cutting asthma causing gases in our atmosphere, or worry about the chemicals sprayed on our food. We need to remind people that ‘the environment’ isn’t something that exists in the Countryside, it is everywhere and we need to protect it just as much in urban areas as well as the great seas and plains.

Shinsei1967: “But it is a problem with most (primarily) single issue pressure groups/political parties that you are expected to sign up for an entire partisan political point of view.”
I’ve found the Greens to be far more tolerant of internal diversity of opinion than most political parties – the entire party structure is designed with that in mind. The last thing we want is the internal authoritarianism and paralysing fear of disunity which plagues some other political parties.

Shinsei1967: “Do you honestly think that every one of the millions of people who vote Tory are concerned only with maximising corporate profits at the expense of the environment.”
Of course they aren’t. But if we (as a party) were to move out of the anti-corporate left, then WE would have to necessarily endorse maximising corporate profits at the expense of the environment.

To take one example – for obvious reasons we couldn’t possibly oppose the overall expansion of aviation in any meaningful, practical way and be considered centrist. However, endorsing the expansion of aviation means abandoning any realistic attempt to prevent global warming. It’s a really very basic contradiction.

Shinsei1967: “And what about all those nasty capitalists entrepreneurs who want to make money out of building windmills, or insulating your house or running over-priced restaurants serving locally sourced food.”
You appear to be confusing us with the Communist Party. We’re not against the continued existence of private enterprise.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Mark Smithson

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/oCrUHvYR via @libcon

  2. CiJohnMa

    Very much agree with this comment on the Green Party leader vacancy by @Jim_Jepps: http://t.co/KjFHkLj4

  3. Jason Bergen

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/bqn8QfT1

  4. Nicolas Dear

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/bqn8QfT1

  5. S. Matheson

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to …: This is an extremely positive development despite… http://t.co/992FsqpH

  6. Panda

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/bqn8QfT1

  7. Panda

    Not the title I'd have chosen but anyway: RT @libcon With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/T4rw8uNv

  8. S. Matheson

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to …: This is an extremely positive development despite… http://t.co/3XRKsG4e

  9. BevR

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/oCrUHvYR via @libcon

  10. Ruby Red

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/bqn8QfT1

  11. Alan Roberts

    RT @garydunion: Very much agree with this comment on the Green Party leader vacancy by @Jim_Jepps: http://t.co/aCVER1eO

  12. Neil Lovelock

    RT @libcon With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/BqwP4W2X

  13. Colchester Green Pty

    RT @libcon: With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/fgVuWBdN

  14. sunny hundal

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Green party needs to change http://t.co/t9dBE9eF

  15. Emma Round

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Green party needs to change http://t.co/t9dBE9eF

  16. Matthew Goodwin

    As support for minor parties continues to rise, a post-Lucas #Green Party considers how to capitalise http://t.co/Vr3rDLq3

  17. Democratic Society

    As support for minor parties continues to rise, a post-Lucas #Green Party considers how to capitalise http://t.co/Vr3rDLq3

  18. Jonathan Kent

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/a033iSAJ via @libcon

  19. Luke Walter

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Green party needs to change http://t.co/t9dBE9eF

  20. Charlotte George

    Great article that I hope @TheGreenParty will read and take note of, via @sunny_hundal http://t.co/sgUBKtBI

  21. Michael Townsend

    RT @goodwinmj: As support for minor parties continues to rise, a post-Lucas #Green Party considers how to capitalise http://t.co/rFa6CnTe

  22. Dr Sea Rotmann

    RT @goodwinmj: As support for minor parties continues to rise, a post-Lucas #Green Party considers how to capitalise http://t.co/rFa6CnTe

  23. Jamal ?

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Green party needs to change http://t.co/t9dBE9eF

  24. Chris Butler

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/s1DVYnx6 via @libcon

  25. Rob Ward

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Green party needs to change http://t.co/t9dBE9eF

  26. Duncan Cantor

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/AqgGNcdi

  27. Mehdi Hasan

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Green party needs to change http://t.co/t9dBE9eF

  28. shmoney timebank

    RT @libcon: With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/hCmYMpz3

  29. BevR

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Green party needs to change http://t.co/t9dBE9eF

  30. Sunder Katwala

    Commented on @jim_jepps @libcon post on why I think Caroline Lucas standing down is a risk for Greens + green politics http://t.co/szvvCeRa

  31. TheCreativeCrip

    Commented on @jim_jepps @libcon post on why I think Caroline Lucas standing down is a risk for Greens + green politics http://t.co/szvvCeRa

  32. Ross McNamara

    Very much agree with this comment on the Green Party leader vacancy by @Jim_Jepps: http://t.co/KjFHkLj4

  33. sunny hundal

    Commented on @jim_jepps @libcon post on why I think Caroline Lucas standing down is a risk for Greens + green politics http://t.co/szvvCeRa

  34. Paul Kingsnorth

    @billybragg @thegreenparty Discussion about it going on in a bit more detail under here. http://t.co/LFomlE71

  35. Euan Maclean

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Green party needs to change http://t.co/t9dBE9eF

  36. Jonny Butcher

    With Lucas on her way out, what direction should they take (i especially highlight point 1.)? http://t.co/Xsd2abGF

  37. UKERC

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/qKfbvg1B via @libcon

  38. Jonny Butcher

    With Lucas on her way out, what direction should the Greens take (i especially highlight point 1.)? http://t.co/Xsd2abGF

  39. robert woodland

    RT @libcon: With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/fgVuWBdN

  40. David Mackenzie

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/bqn8QfT1

  41. Jamal ?

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/4rxzoAk3 via @libcon

  42. Mark Smithson

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/oCrUHvYR via @libcon

  43. DPAC

    RT @britishroses1 With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/eSX4z06G via @libcon

  44. Darren Cross

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/lKUk1edn via @libcon

  45. Jim Jepps

    Great article that I hope @TheGreenParty will read and take note of, via @sunny_hundal http://t.co/sgUBKtBI

  46. Jay Owens

    With Caroline Lucas stepping down, how the Greens need to change http://t.co/Dy3wlnJy

  47. Elections thrown wide open as Caroline Lucas steps down from leadership role « Green Party Elections 2012

    [...] You may like to read the official Green Party announcement and also the piece on Comment is Free, (or the same story with different comments at Liberal Conspiracy). [...]

  48. What we need from the post-Lucas Green political leadership | Stephen Wood

    [...] news late on Sunday night was a sharp intake of breath, but I’d agree with the sentiment of Jim Jepps’ piece for Liberal Conspiracy, that this is good news for the Green Party’s future prospects if we take the challenge it sets [...]

  49. Jeffrey Newman

    Good article on opportunities for Greens with Caroline Lucas stepping down. New love in with Lib-Dems? Hardly! http://t.co/84AcXiWw





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