Recent Green party Articles

The Green Party has abandoned its key principle in support of Scotland’s YES campaign

by Sunny Hundal     September 16, 2014 at 9:50 pm

I’ve not waded that much into the debate on Scotland’s future, partly because I’ve been focusing on ISIS and partly because its not my fight. I support the Union but its up to the people of Scotland to decide and they’re unlikely to be persuaded by this random guy from London.

But I’m perplexed by the pro-independence position that some lefties have taken, particularly the Green party.

The Yes Scotland campaign say their economy is strong and can survive independence thanks to natural resources such as oil and gas. Its a key claim on their website and its true; oil and gas would be key to an independent Scotland’s finances.

Revenue from oil and gas is also how an independent Scotland will pay its bill and stave off deep spending cuts. I’m not saying they’re the only source of revenue but they’re very key to Scotland’s future. Without them there would be deep cuts. Independence would make Scotland even more dependent on that revenue.

As you can see from the chart above, revenue from fossil fuels easily dwarfs everything else combined.

Scotland wants to invest in renewable energy, but the money for investment will inevitably have to come from further investment and money raised through oil and gas.

AND YET – one of three key principles of the Green Party is to reduce “dependence on fossil fuels”. Scottish Greens too say they want to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

So why are the Green Party supporting an outcome that makes a nation even more dependent on exploiting its oil and gas resources?

Can someone explain this to me?

If the Greens are arguing that Independence will make Scotland less dependent on fossil fuels, I’d like to see the evidence and sums, since the YES campaign in Scotland isn’t saying that at all.

Could the a Green Progressive Council Tax idea work?

by Guest     August 18, 2013 at 9:59 am

by Mike Shaughnessy

An idea in the form of a Progressive Council Tax (PCT), from the Brighton and Hove Green party, is creating a buzz around the whole Green party. It may soon become a central policy tool for Greens in local government.

To be clear, Green party national policy is for the introduction of a Land Value Tax for raising local revenue. But we also need a credible strategy at local government level where we can and do (in Brighton and Hove) run local authorities, which is more than just implementing cuts as directed by national government, as we are at the moment.

So, how does it work? First a referendum needs to be held and won in a local authority area on raising Council Tax by more than 2%, in fact much more than 2%, with the higher the increase, the less the majority will pay.

Then residents are required to apply for a reduction in the charge, which would be means tested, with around 80% of residents receiving a reduction, meaning most would actually pay less than now. For the other 20% who do not qualify for a reduction there will be steep increase in Council Tax.

This is all based on residents’ income and ability to pay, which is perfectly fair and counter to the policies of the ConDem government. Vulnerable groups will get special help to ensure they pay only the correct amount.

I’m told that this does not require any change to the law nationally, so if voters can be convinced that this a fairer way to fund local services, and for most it will cost less, then there is nothing to stop a local council introducing this approach.

PCT has a number of advantages, I think. It is fairer, because those who can afford to pay more will do so, leaving those on more modest means either unaffected or better off. It also has the potential to reduce some of the cuts to services that are required by national government reducing direct grants to local authorities, and so at least some services and jobs are retained.

Then of course there is the politics. Would Labour run councils for example, follow suit and introduce the scheme themselves? If they saw it working in Brighton and Hove, they might consider it, but if not then the Green party will have staked out an alternative approach, which to use sales parlance, would be our ‘Unique Selling Point’, offering the voters a true choice in how local services are funded.

There is probably a huge amount of detail to work through on this idea, in practically introducing PCT, but I’m sure that can be achieved, and in principle it can be justified in terms of fairness. We need to be bold as a party in these testing times. PCT’s time has surely come.

Mike blogs more regularly at Haringey Green Party Blog

Has overseas anger sunk Cameron’s plan to charge certain immigrants bond money?

by Natalie Bennett     June 26, 2013 at 11:54 am

From a British perspective, this news story looks like a familiar model: government floats trial balloon that it hopes will become policy in Sunday papers, it is shot down by Tuesday night, and it is remembered at most as an incidental footnote in political history.

That’s the obvious fate of the proposal, presented with the backing of Theresa May and Nick Clegg in the Sunday Times (paywall), to force visitors from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Ghana to pay a £3,000 bond before they can get a visa, to be repaid after they leave the country within the limits of its term. These states were labelled “high-risk” for over-stayers. (Labour had twice suggested similar schemes when it was in government, but they never came into being.)

David Cameron last night “slammed the brakes on the proposal”, in the terms of the Financial Times (partial paywall), on the basis that he doesn’t want to undermine “his growth agenda or the ‘open for business’ message he delivered on a recent trip to India”.

Outside the UK, in particular in the countries affected, however, the impact will, however, I’m afraid last a lot longer than the Sunday papers. That was clear to me after an appearance on Indian television last night (from London) to speak about the visa plan, when I was almost buried at times under giant gushes of anger, driven a sense of humiliation and ingratitude, from representatives of the business community, commentators and the host.

That’s widely reflected in the Indian media and blogosphere – the well-known FirstPost calling for matching retaliatory action against UK visitors. Discussion on the television show focused particularly on how the British economy could be damaged, with India being the fifth-largest source of foreign investment into Britain, and its home firm Tata the largest private-sector employer. “It seems that Britain is no longer interested [in trade],” The Economic Times quoted an unidentified CEO as saying.

Unsurprisingly, there seems to be similar anger in Nigeria, Ghana, and I’ve no doubt the other states.

I had a clear message that I hope got through to what I was told was up to 100 million viewers on The Newshour – that despite the stance of the British Government and Labour Party, both chasing after UKIP voters with astonishing desperation – the visa bond did not reflect the general view of the British public.

I was clearly stating that the Green Party is utterly opposed to the idea of the bonds – and more broadly to the government’s approach to immigration, and its attempts to drive down number of immigrants based on a single blunt target of a immigration cap, despite the damage the tactics employed are doing to industry and business, to our universities and colleges, to tourism, to the family life of many Britons, and to our international reputation.

On the specific bond idea, I pointed out that Canada had considered a similar proposal and discarded it as discriminatory, as it undoubtedly is. I understood why the Indian commentators to whom I was speaking were focusing on their own nationals’ treatment, but the selection of six predominately non-white Commonwealth countries for this special treatment – not the US or Australia or any Latin American state deserves to be highlighted.

The story by tomorrow in Britain will have disappeared. Its impact around the globe will take a lot longer to fade.

The Green Party needs to talk about the mess in Brighton

by Guest     June 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm

by Josiah Mortimer

This Friday, Green Party members across the country will face an immense dilemma – the choice between supporting our own minority Green council or hundreds of workers going on strike for a week against proposed pay reductions.

Some of the workrs could lose up to £4000 a year. That’s a choice most Greens would a few years ago have never thought they’d face. In the midst of massive local authority cuts, the Greens are in office but seemingly not in power.

Many local parties and individuals – including the local Brighton & Hove Green Party, Caroline Lucas (who has pledged to join the picket lines), and university branches such as my own – have spoken out against the bin worker pay cuts.

It has thus-far been a shambolic dispute where a noble attempt to equalise pay between male and female staff has turned into idiotic comparisons to the winter of discontent, accusations of potential strike breaking, and outsourcing the pay proposal decision altogether in order for Greens to claim ‘it wasn’t our decision’. Yet the council leader, Jason Kitcat, seems determined not to budge.

Serious internal discussion about this sorry state of affairs has sadly been minimal at best, stifled at worst. The party is coming under attack over this from all other sections of the left, and Labour will exploit this to its fullest unless the Green group in Brighton change tack and handle the situation properly. If Greens don’t tackle the issue head on, other parties will do so.

Neither is it good enough to say, as some have, that since the Greens are a federal party ‘it’s up to Brighton’. Brighton Greens – both the local branch and our only MP – have spoken clearly on this issue. It’s now up to the rest of the party nationally to back them up in this. Brighton is, bar a sizeable number of honourable exceptions in the likes of Alex Phillips and others, a rogue council, refusing to cede to the wishes of its local party, its constituents, and (from what I gather) the rest of the party nationally.

Disappointingly, the Green Party Executive (GPEX) and leader Natalie Bennett have appeared quiet on the issue.

Worthy though bringing in a Living Wage, leading the ‘no evictions’ fight over the bedroom tax, and attempting to equalise pay between male and female workers is, a Green council should never cut the pay of some of the least well off. That should be a given, particularly after enshrining social justice into the party’s Core Values last conference. As a party which has the strongest record on workers’ rights in terms of policy, strike busting should never have even been rumoured, let alone a potential possibility.

There are some hopeful signs however. Leading figures in Brighton & Hove Greens have at last made public statements about the strike action, though still seemingly refusing to back down over the pay proposals. The GMB has agreed to re-enter negotiations. And the candidate for the Hanover & Elm Grove by-election, David Gibson, is a solid trade unionist who opposes the measures to equalise pay down instead of up.

There needs to be a serious discussion about the possibility of setting ‘needs budgets’, and if not, discussing whether we should be in office at all if we are forced to act as a mere smoke-screen for Tory-Lib Dem cuts.

At what point does the party start to consider that to stay in office and continue to implement cuts would be to breach fundamental principles? As the Green Party conference in Brighton approaches, it’s time to get backtracking on the proposed pay cuts, and time to start talking.

Josiah Mortimer is a Green Party activist and student based in York.

Think the Greens are the party of the middle-class? Think again

by Guest     June 3, 2013 at 3:09 pm

by Josiah Mortimer

A bunch of humus-eating, London-dwelling, middle-class, Masters-holding Guardian-readers. That’s the stereotype of Green members anyway. How true is it though? The answer is – not entirely.

The results of the Green Party Equality and Diversity membership survey are in, and some of the results are fascinating. 1100 members took the survey, a decent proportion of the party (especially for a voluntary questionnaire) and around the sample size of most polling.

Bearing in mind that non-compulsory surveys, especially online ones, generally over-represent wealthier people – those with more spare time on their hands and generally the most politically engaged – the findings are surprising.

Nearly a quarter – 23.4% – of Green Party members earn less than £10,000 a year. This category was by far the plurality – i.e. the largest group. Over 17% live on between £10-15k a year, another 12% between £15-20k and 10% between £20-25k – still below the average income nationally. In total, this means well over 60% of Greens earn below the median income of £26,500.

Since the median income, by definition, means there are around 50% on either side earning more or less, for 60% to be earning less than this in the party means Greens are actually over-representative of people from lower-income background.

Only 9% slotted into the top-rate of tax band of more than £45k a year, probably explaining why we’re so skint all the time. So the stereotype of the Greens as middle-class hippies seems just that: a stereotype.

Yet class is a messy concept, of course, and income isn’t always the best indicator. Occupation, background, housing type, education, culture – all are factors in many definitions of class. Sadly the survey didn’t look into all of these, but the figures for education are less surprising than income.

The proportion of members with a university degree is 57%, far above the national figure of 26%. Within the 57% figure (since you could tick more than one box), 37% of all respondents had a Masters, PhD or other ‘higher’ degree. A pretty huge figure. Given the stats earlier about income, it seems the Greens are becoming a party of the precariat – educated but poor, especially given a higher proportion of members compared to the general public who are private renters (20%) and living with family or friends (nearly 8%).

On the whole, this seems to be borne out by how members described themselves in class terms. 56% responded as ‘lower middle class’, and just under a quarter (23%) identified as ‘working class’ of some form or another.

Shout it loud – the Greens are becoming the true party of the working-class. Even if most of us are humus-eating Guardian readers.

Green Party members can view the full survey results by logging in here.
Josiah Mortimer is a student and Green Party activist based in York. Follow him at @josiahmortimer

Squaring the circle: behind the pay controversy at Brighton council

by Guest     May 9, 2013 at 2:30 pm

by Jason Kitcat

My colleagues and I on Brighton and Hove Council have led this country’s first Green local authority since May 2011, although as a minority administration we can (and do) get over-ruled by Labour and the Tories when they choose to work together.

There’s much we’ve done over the last two years which has been widely welcomed including introducing the Living Wage, building more affordable homes, protecting third sector funding, becoming the world’s first One Planet City and progressing a City Deal, but it’s fair to say that staff pay has been the most controversial issue we have had to deal with.

We inherited a deeply flawed and muddled pay and allowances structure from previous administrations, and indeed from predecessor defunct local authorities.

The lowest paid were not getting a living wage and the work on resolving single status for employee take-home pay (regardless of gender) was incomplete.

The Tory-Lib Dem cuts to local government have also hit us hard: in fact, they are the second steepest faced by any council of our type. Furthermore, we cannot raise Council Tax beyond a level Labour or the Tories would support. Although senior management pay is down to its lowest level for over ten years, the budget is exceptionally tight.

So we’re consulting on a proposal that will bring in fair pay and allowances for all who work for the council.

Building on the Living Wage we’ve already introduced for the lowest paid, we now are seeking to complete the final step of ensuring single status for all council employees.

It is very clear that this is not about budget savings and not about ‘austerity’. In fact, based on the offer under consultation, the pay bill is likely to go up slightly. Which other Council in the country can claim that?

What is the offer then? The offer includes three key aspects:

1) A new fair and simple set of allowances which is easy to understand and helps the council meet the needs of our citizens.With these new allowances 90% of staff will see very little or no change at all in their take home pay. Of those that do, the majority will actually see an increase and a minority will see some detriment. Most of those seeing detriment will, it is estimated, lose less than £25 per week. I recognise even that is a lot to some people, but not the headline figures being used by some individuals.

2) Anyone who is unfortunately suffering detriment will be generously compensated for that loss with a lump sump payment. For example someone losing between £1,001 and £1,250 a year is proposed to receive £3,550 in one-off compensation.

3) We are keen to provide new opportunities for staff. We hope that, if agreed at a future committee, changes like Bank Holiday working can increase opportunities for waste and recycling staff whilst improving services to the city by eliminating changing collection days every time there is a Bank Holiday.

Some staff will regrettably see allowances reduced, but we can see no legal and affordable way merely to increase everyone’s pay up to those levels – and we therefore propose a lump sum to compensate those staff, worth very roughly about three years’ worth of any reduction.

We have to resolve these allowances now. To do so without any detriment to any member of staff would sadly be totally unaffordable, even with Council Tax rises that would certainly not be supported by Labour and Conservative councillors.

I know this process has been controversial and could have been communicated better. Some colleagues locally have concerns about it, to say the least.

I would therefore welcome suggestions from them, as well as from staff and the unions, on how to improve these proposals in any way which is legal, fair and can be afforded within the tight budget limits effectively set by the government as well as our Labour and Tory opposition.

For more on the proposals, see Jason’s blog here.
Jason Kitcat is a Green City Councillor. He is writing in his capacity as Convenor of the Green Group of councillors on Brighton & Hove City Council.

Why haven’t the Greens become popular since the financial crash, rather than UKIP?

by Sunny Hundal     May 8, 2013 at 9:10 am

At a cricket match with some lefties a few years ago, I suggested to some prominent Greens that their party needed to sound more anti-establishment like UKIP.

Obviously I didn’t mean the Greens should adopt UKIP’s half-baked policies, but that the latter were doing a much better job at sounding like they wanted to challenge the Westminster consensus.

I was reminded of that when Chris Dillow said UKIP’s rise is a triumph for the pro-establishment ruling class.

This sounds too much like it was inevitable the likes of UKIP and the ‘ruling class’ would triumph after the financial crash of 2008. I think it actually highlights the failure of the Left to get our shit together.

The rise of various Leftist movements across Europe has shown it’s not always the Right that triumphs from political and economic uncertainty. Of course, there are plenty of anarchist groups and anti-establishment movements in the UK. But they’re too busy infighting or competing with each other to be puritanical. The ‘threat’ they pose to the Westminster elite is, at best, vague. Moreover, I’ve barely seen any introspection or open discussion about why any movements have failed to take off (especially among students).

To my mind there are broadly two ways to broad political power: you either mobilise large numbers of people, or you can get them to vote for you. The British Left is failing on both counts.

This brings me back to the Greens. I was told that they did not want to ape UKIP for two reasons: first, they wanted to sound credible and viable rather than mad; second, their strategy was to slowly build up a base and win seats local rather than jumping for attention in the national media.

It’s a plausible strategy but not one of an insurgency trying to pull the consensus in their direction. The financial crash, ongoing austerity cuts or even the slew of dire warnings about climate change should have injected a sense of urgency into the Greens. Instead, the party is pottering along (they won 5 council seats in the local elections) and upsetting no one.

The rise of UKIP demonstrates two points I think:

1) To pose a threat to the system you don’t need detailed policies or an established base, but to latch on to a few issues and rile up enough people about them to give you a boost. Own those issues completely and find ways to inject urgency into the national discourse.

2) Voters are annoyed enough with the narrow consensus of the three parties that, when they see a viable alternative (Lucas in Brighton, Galloway in Tower Hamlets and Bradford, UKIP in Eastleigh etc), they vote for the alternative.

But the Greens have to sound like they pose a threat to the establishment; they have to radiate danger and insurgency (while not sounding angry), not fluffy middle-class sentiments.

PS: I’m not bidding to join the Greens and remain firmly committed to the Labour party. All I’m saying is that the rise of UKIP, as opposed to a more left-wing movement, wasn’t inevitable.

It reflects a failure on the left to be fail to mobilise large numbers of people or have a political party in Westminster that sounds like an insurgency.

Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion

by Adam Ramsay     September 10, 2012 at 10:01 am

It didn’t take long to discuss, but one policy motion at last week’s Green Party of England and Wales conference marked a line in the turf for the party.

It was a part of broader proposals around economic democracy, and reads as follows:

We will grant employees the legal right to buy out their companies and turn them into workers co-operatives. Buy outs would be funded by a Green National Investment Bank and contingent on the co-ops following green and ethical policies. These co-operatives would localise economic decision-making and give employees incentives for greater productivity.

There was a bit of a debate about whether this should apply to all companies, or if the motion should be opposed as it implicitly includes small as well as medium and large companies.

But one speech about labour rights abuses in small companies put paid to that.

The motion was opposed by one member who said that this was effectively Labour’s old clause four. Much of the conference floor cheered in agreement – yes, it is, yes, that’s what we want.

It passed overwhelmingly. And so the Green Party committed to collective ownership of the means of production.


Can Bennett’s Green strategy pay off with former Libdem and Labour voters?

by Guest     September 6, 2012 at 10:01 am

contribution by Dr Matthew Goodwin

For political parties, the arrival of a new leader is often a catalyst for change. But as the relatively unknown Natalie Bennett will quickly find, the wider environment offers the Greens both problems and opportunities.

Like their counterparts in other Western democracies, over past decades the Greens have benefitted mainly from a broad process of value change that has seen more educated and secure citizens increasingly embrace progressive and post-material values, such as concern over the environment, human rights issues and economic equality.
continue reading… »

Three principles that won Natalie Bennett the Green leadership election

by Jim Jepps     September 3, 2012 at 5:26 pm

This morning the Green Party announced that Australian-born journalist Natalie Bennett was elected to lead the party. In a hotly fought contest Bennett polled 42% of the first preference votes and was elected after second and third preferences were redistributed.

As her campaign manager I’m really proud that the party has chosen Natalie to lead them and that decision signals both an increasing willingness to professionalise the party while maintaining its distinct, radical politics.

Though-out the campaign we had three clear themes. And we stuck to them from start to finish.
continue reading… »

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