10 things I’d like the Green Party to doPolitics
I wrote this in reply to this Facebook status from a Green Party candidate:
A question for all my green yet not Green friends – what might stop you voting for us? Genuinely interested as there seem to be a lot of people that I know who are working really hard to help make Bristol a greener city, but then vote for someone else. Cheers.
It’s really frustrating isn’t it? You look at both the policies and discover that 25% of the country would vote Green, but actually they don’t and won’t. I feel your pain.
- Have a clear and compelling vision. There is a simple narrative in here about civilised society, dignity, fairness, opportunity, flourishing. And it’s lost. Get better copywriters. (PS yes, clearly it’s complicated and systemic, but that’s what copywriters DO. Also: be strong on the change process: talk intelligently about sliding scale regulation / phased transition / localised protoyping. Anyone can describe a rainbow, but tell me how you’re going to make it and you’ve got my attention.)
- Raise the bottom bar, not the top one. People think that being green’s all about increasing amounts of individual pain and self-flagellation, whereas in fact it’s mostly about not letting a small number of people be dicks who are being unfair and hurting the rest of us. Their ‘freedom TO’ is hurting our ‘freedom FROM’. Talk of decency and harm and freedom and you appeal to left AND right.
- Do more to dispel fear and uncertainty. The future is weird and frightening and I’m not sure things are going to work. Provide strong simple points why we should try, and describe in beautiful enticing detail the size of the prize; though provide awareness of back-up plans if it doesn’t work out. (Yes, backup plans: the public is surprisingly rational if you have the balls to punch through the media.)
- Talk THROUGH the media. Have some balls. Say what you want to say and talk directly to the fighting spirit and pride and hope in all of us. Natalie Bennett’s good at it, Lucas is great but very ‘safe’. You need some ‘stirrers’ up there: people who can appeal with conviction to the Greatness lying dormant in British souls (Nationalist vernacular intended because it would be nice to believe that it SHOULD stand for a set of conscientious progressive and responsible values).
- Engage citizens in dialogue. There’s a lot of complicated weirdness coming our way. It’s true that smart people have answers to some of the challenges, but those answers are quite hard to grasp when you’ve grown up in the 20th century. Invite ideas, sprinkle discussions, and aim to get enough of us to tip the balance. As a society we need to go through the process of deeply understanding solutions any implementations. That’s going to take a lot of conversations. Start them.
- Engage citizens in action. The scope of what needs to be done is epic. The moon was EASY by comparison. We all need to be involved, and god knows we’re listless and frustrated at the moment. Give us something to DO.
- Claim the future (for all of us). You’re the only team that has a vision that’s even moderately mindful of the coming reality. It’s yours. Own it. PS I’ve not heard anything much about robots and AI. Get on the case – it’s a strong narrative which needs addressing, quickly. No other party is bold enough to have that conversation. Embrace it as a point to start the conversation about WHY your policies make sense.
- Prepare for Government. At the moment it’s all Lucas Lucas Lucas. “Caroline needs your support” “Caroline needs you”. Spread the love, get your smart faces out there and let us hear the wisdom. Right now I’m assuming there isn’t any, and that you’re like UKIP: one charismatic person and a hundred ideological nutcases. I mean, dammit they even upholstered the benches for you.
- Get a better website with clear language and engaging videos which supports this and helps us navigate in snackable chunks. The current one sucks.
- Rebrand and reposition to stop being so single issue. Everyone says it and still it never happens. Why? “Because we’ll lose core support”. Maybe so, maybe not. Either way, they’re in the minority vs all the people who AREN’T voting for you.
You’re the only party fit for purpose in the 21st century. Shape up and be the bold leaders we’re crying out for.
By policy, the Green Party’s agenda is by far the most popular – that’s simply because the policies are right; from retaining a Public NHS (84%) and using renewable energy (80%) through to renationalising rail (66%) and energy companies (68%).
I think clearer (simpler?) communication is needed too. Your two slogans are strong (as is Sharhar Ali’s “You only need to be green”.
And it is WAY PAST TIME to update the look. I’ve suggested Pure Green (0025500, & British Racing Green (004225) colours, Ubuntu (“I am because we are” philosophy & Open Source software) Font. I also think the logo is aged, and something Golden Section, like the Canadian Green’s flower would be much stronger.
Natalie Bennett is a real asset, especially as she tours the country. Shahrar Ali has proved himself a charismatic speaker, and needs to be heard more. Amaelia Womack is well placed too – I hope she can work the youth-vote. & Of course Caroline Lucas and Jenny Jones’ profiles are excellent. I agree though, we could hear more from the shadow spokespeople.
I Tweeted recently “Imagine what good a Green parliamentary majority could achieve”, and it sent a tingle down my spine. The truth is: the Green Party see themselves as opposition. As keeping Labour a little more Left wing. Well the truth is, there are many who’re looking for a party for the 99%; for Social Good; and The Green Party is it.
Great piece today: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/greensurge-did-you-know-that-the-green-party-is-growing-rapidly-let-me-tell-you-why-9852207.html
There are certainly people in the part with a genuine passion for issues; and they do speak out. The problem from my perspective is that the media are doing everything possible to ensure that other voices are heard. If I am to give an example, and even though it’s 74 pages long it’s in large print so doesn’t take long to read, there is this paper on an issue which seems to be ignored by the leadership of the other main parties http://tinyurl.com/a-better-way-than-this
It’s all well and good to speak out, but you need to be given a forum to be heard.
Faced with the genuine problems in society, simply using the word green isn’t enough. We are an Egalitarian party; an old idea but one which has not had the same exposure as things like socialism and capitalism. We genuinely believe government can aid in providing a fairer society; that is incredibly different from the other four major parties, who may occasionally give some small acknowledgement to the idea of fairness (around election time) but spend the rest of the time in an ideological cess pit of a belief that markets are something other than government constructs.
The Green Party is growing in numbers; this is in no small part to being the only party which actually wants to govern for the good of all. Of course what is needed in a time when the other parties are funded and controlled by the wealthy few, is a continuation of this recruitment, and an effort to effectively use our genuinely caring and decent membership to it’s fullest extent.
I’ll end by reposting the link I’ve shared. I urge people to read the document shared http://tinyurl.com/a-better-way-than-this
I agree with a lot of what you are saying. My own thought is that there should be a wee sprinkling of red to go along with the green. I think the GP have been too nice for too long and are seen as sandal wearing middle classers. Most of the policies have equality and social justice at their heart and I think we should be stressing that more.
I think there’s more than a wee sprinkling of red, and it goes deeper into the pockets with a Robin Hood Tax, Living Wage and wealth tax than just the slogan “For the common good.” And as you say, the renationalisation of services are also welcome on that front.
I also think that the Green Party’s niceness is refreshing too: why play the dirty politics of mud-slinging when you know the policies that you’ve thought long and hard about are right? The Green Party can stand above all that and put the message over eloquently. I agree with the post author though – make sure the message is simple, attractively presented and well disseminated.
Lots of these are novel criticisms that go beyond “Why don’t you support nuclear power?” and “I would vote for you if you liked GM crops”, so thanks for bringing something new to the debate. I’ll have to give 2-7 a hard think and see how we can enact them, but I’ll comment on the others now:
1. Get better copywriters
Almost all of our work is done by volunteers. Unlike the other major parties, we can’t afford to hire people to write what we want to say, so getting ‘better’ volunteers is a real challenge. The only way to do that is to either share best practice (if it exists) or recruit better people (which is mostly luck), and they’re not things we’re not trying to do anyway.
8. Focus on more people
A trap the Party definitely fell into is that we were so overjoyed at getting our first MP in 2010 it took us until 2012 to realise there was going to be another election. Our relentless targeting of the Brighton seat meant that our other target seats fared less well, and we will be working from near scratch to win our second/third seats. This time we are focusing on Caroline’s seat again (unsurprisingly), but plan to set ourselves up in 11 other seats with the aim of winning them in 2020/2025, so expect to hear about more people than just Caroline after the election. I can also assure you that the rest of us aren’t “ideological nutcases”, there just aren’t enough winnable seats to go around.
9. Get a better website
You should have seen the old one…
10. Stop being single issue
I’d quite like to know what that single issue is. If you check out the recent press releases the Party has issued (http://greenparty.org.uk/news.atom.xml) you’ll see that there is only one mention of climate change. In the five years I’ve been a member of the Party there hasn’t been much internal discussion about it at all, and my feeling is that you really can trust us to have climate change covered, so why mention it at all? The idea that we are a single issue party is a really old idea that will gradually be shifted the more people hear about us.
And of course, as a democratic party the best way to implement these ideas is to join here and get involved by telling us!
Spot on that.
Oh, and – the thing about “Why do you oppose nuclear energy?” – obviously I’ve done this discussion a lot with more loyal GP supporters and with Molly, and essentially the point that disappoints me is that I feel like it’s either intentionally tactically dishonest or just really dim and not understanding what they’re actually saying, because the really potentially valid objection to nuclear energy is about the economics of whether it’s cost-effective versus renewables, and that really comes down to making educated guesses about what are the appropriate timescales for making financial models to compare the cost-effectiveness of public subsidies for one or the other. That is a fair question and I don’t know the answer.
I wouldn’t feel bad about it at all if I felt that the GP reps I’d discussed it with (with the exception of Rustam, above) had made it clear that their objection was based on guessing, with reasons and some suggestive evidence about the trends in cost-effectiveness of renewables competing with big new nuclear reactor designs, that the timescale of development of renewables such as wind and tidal was likely to be shorter than is estimated in DECC’s financial models and therefore comparing 60 years of public subsidies for new nuclear reactor designs versus maybe 20-30 years of public subsidies needed to get new renewable technologies established on a firm financial footing meant that on balance the renewable options are a better economic bet.
However, what I’ve actually got back is still a mix of folk metaphysics (“Nuclear is not ‘natural’.” me: “What do you even mean?! How could anything other than supernatural fairy dust not be ‘natural’?”) and still going on about public safety risks as if those were still a relevant and real concern. We’ve done that discussion to death too many times already, but simply the public safety risks of nuclear energy **per unit of energy** and **for modern reactor designs, not for reactors built in the 70s** are relatively the best of any form of energy. Yes, even solar pv, because solar pv makes a relatively tiny amount of energy and those who imagine it is risk-free and industrial accidental death free do not live in the countries where indium and gallium are mined and prefer to ignore being given links to e.g. the European Health Authority’s report comparing the public health and safety risks of different civil energy technologies.
When I discussed it with Molly about Hinkley C and her comments about the “profiteering” off public subsidies, I bothered to follow the link to the EC assessment of the subsidy rate, and found that the Strike Price (the rate of subsidy) was calculated based on a financial model that built in a 10% profit margin for the private investors in the scheme. I don’t think 10% is an unreasonable profit margin for a project with the sort of delay and over-spend risks of building a new nuclear reactor. It seemed to me as though Molly had picked the more outrageous sounding absolute value, which taken out of context of a 60 yr life cycle and comparison to the cost-effectiveness of alternative options, did sound like profiteering, but then when you actually bother to read the workings behind the Strike Price, there are reasonable grounds for doubt about whether the timescales of comparison are the right guesses, but the profit margin built into the financial model for calculating the Strike Price is likely to sound reasonable to any reasonable person with a bit of experience of business finance.
It’s not so much the conclusion on nuclear energy which winds me up, as the either duplicitous or just a bit stupid reasoning.
Or to sum up, “Please disagree with me with better reasons in future!”
There are moves within the Green Party to make our anti-nuclear policy more fact based than “aren’t they dangerous” and such. There’s valid ideological arguments against them, such as the nuclear waste that gets left around for thousands of years, but there are far stronger (IMO) arguments that they are just as expensive as renewables, without the added benefits of being distributed, community owned, independent of foreign fuels etc.
Though an interesting point I have to concede on their public safety is that they are always inherently dangerous but regulated to be safe. Due to a safety concern, nuclear power is currently only producing 4.6GW out of a possible ~8GW, on par with wind generation at some points over the last week. You would never get half of all wind turbines having to shut down for a month because of a safety concern!
In the David MacKay book, which you’ve said lots of times you don’t like, but tell me if and why this specific bit is wrong – he does an estimate of the volume of highly radioactive waste water that would need to be safely contained for ~1000yrs if the whole of the UK’s electricity supply was to come from modern nuclear reactors, and estimated the total would be about the size of a football pitch 1m deep.
That’s dangerous but not *infinitely* dangerous. Compared to having many, many slurry ponds at dairy and pig farms, how much worse is it really? Pig slurry is also very high in copper, which makes it quite toxic if it gets out into waterways, so it has the same *sort* of containment problems.
I agree the economic case is reasonably arguable. I don’t know enough to really judge, but the clearly superstitious prejudice against nuclear remaining in the GP makes me doubt GP statements about the economic comparison of nuclear vs. renewables.
Rustam, your implied claim that half of the UK’s nuclear fleet is out of operation “due to a safety concern” is not actually true, is it? Of the 6 reactors currently out of service 4 are planned shut-downs, and all but one other shut-downs are for boiler inspections. [See EDF status page]
You are of course correct that “You would never get half of all wind turbines having to shut down for a month because of a safety concern!”. Of course not. But you conveniently omit to mention that you can quite confidently expect half – or even more – of all wind turbines to be producing no power because the wind is not blowing. Even over the whole of the UK: winter anti-cyclones can becalm the whole country, with accompanying biterly cold temperatures, for days or even weeks on end. Where’s the power to keep the lights and heating on going to come from then? Nuclear, gas, oil and coal, mostly, and we’ve closed a lot of coal due to pollution regulations, we haven’t got much oil and there’s competition for gas from domestic and industrial gas consumers.
Intermittent renewables can be no more or less community owned than present-generation nuclear: to provide anything like the amount of power we need to run this country we’d need tens of thousands of turbines, many offshore. Ironically our nuclear fleet was community owned – by the country as a whole – until Tory privatisation, whereas almost the entire wind fleet has always been in private ownership.
The expense of present-day nuclear is a valid criticism (it’s practically as expensive as “renewables” ffs!) and needs to be radically reduced by development of next-generation designs not requiring massive containment enclosures and multiple layers of engineered-on safety systems; designs that can be mass-produced on assembly lines rather than built as one-offs on-site; smaller, cheaper designs that poorer countries and communities can afford.
More critically the poor fuel-efficiency of present-day reactors is a limiting factor to widespread use: if we tried to generate all the energy the world needs from current designs we’d quickly run out of fuel. And the wasted, unused fuel becomes what we currently regard as nuclear “waste” which requires expensive long-term management. For nuclear power to be sustainable we need to adopt some of the many better reactor designs which burn their fuel – and in some cases existing “waste” – much more efficiently. Some of these such as the Integrated Fast Reactor are well-proven, others more speculative, but given humanity’s track record of developing technology when the motivation and resources are present it is certain that at least some sustainable, efficient, safe, cheap designs for mass energy production could be developed and widely deployed over the next few decades.