Saturday, 20 April 2013

A lot can happen in half a century

A lot can happen in half a century, and a lot can change. So when are our opinions of political parties going to follow suit? Ask your average person today what they know about the Conservative party and you’ll no doubt be hearing about ruthless privatisation that reeks of 1970s Thatcherism - and as for our perception of the Green Party, our bias will be dating back to the ‘hippie movement’ of the 60s. In a modern democracy, where we have complete transparency as to what all our political parties stand for, why is our perception of them still outdated by 50 years?

1963, fifty years ago, the world was at the height of its ‘green revolution’. The world’s first nuclear test ban was signed, the civil rights bill was proposed and Martin Luther King had a dream. It was the radical protests of the 60's that influenced many of the liberties that we today take for granted, yet members of the liberal movement across America and Europe are cast aside in our memory as ‘druggie hippies’. The era of politically radical activists coincided with the involvement of the ‘hippie’ youth movement with recreational drugs and their laid back ethos of ‘free love’. Their association with liberal parties such as the Green Party have today led to a twisted image of what the supporters of such parties stand for; take the ‘Wikiality’ definition as a prime example, ‘You are a hippie if one of the following applies to you: You smell. You don't have a job. You vote for communist groups like the green party.’ Or the more blunt definition on an alternative website that The Green Party is ‘completely batshit insane’.

So are all supporters of The Green Party smelly, unemployed hippies with communist ideals? Are Green Party MPs nothing but insane? The irony is that whilst our opinion of them is formed from a stereotype stuck in the past, they are fast becoming the only political party with sustainable policies for the future.

It’s an inevitable fact that our natural resources are running out at a frightening rate. A fact that, if Osborne’s most recent budget is anything to go by, the current coalition are blissfully turning a blind eye to. Take fuel duty for example. We are becoming more and more dependent on fuels such as petrol whilst finding less and less of it. Yet Osbourne’s budget proudly boasts of the cancellation of the fuel duty increase that was planned for 1 September 2013.This will mean that fuel duty will have been frozen for nearly three and a half years, the longest duty freeze for over 20 years. We need to stop thinking in the mindset of the last century – Yes, In 1940, five times as much oil was discovered as consumed. But we’re not living in the 1940s. A quick Google search and I’ve stumbled across ‘A scientists’ guide to Energy Independence’, that tells us at the turn of the 21st century, world consumption of petrol was three times the amount of oil that was discovered. Based on this history and our knowledge of the kinds of rocks where petroleum can be found, it seems likely that world oil production will end in 50 years, or at least by the end of this century. It’s time to start thinking 50 years ahead, not behind - and that’s exactly what the Green Party are doing. As Caroline Lucas Green Party MP so nicely put it, a government which really cared about bringing energy bills under control and improving energy security would put its money on renewables – where the costs are predictable and falling – and agree to recycle carbon tax revenue into a jobs-rich energy efficiency programme, rather than deepening our dependence on gas, where prices are set to keep rising.

“Going all-out for offshore wind, for example, instead would save £20bn by 2030, create 70,000 more jobs, and lead to both lower climate emissions and lower fuel bills."

A party that is looking to invest in research, leading to the development of currently non-existent industries that have the potential to kick-start the economy and bring the whole of Britain back into prosperity, whilst lowering our drain on the world’s natural resources… still sounding like hippies to you? No, me either.

Maybe I’m being unfair towards the other parties... it’s not just the Greens, after all, that have adapted over the past few decades. The conservatives have liberalised and are increasingly being swayed towards Keynesian-style injections into the economy to stimulate growth – the investment in construction that has just been announced despite looming debt repayments show that the conservatives aren’t as strict on austerity measures as past parties would have us think. The Labour party too, have moved further ‘right’ with their policies… just take a look at their stance on the EU and immigration. As for Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg has dropped the socialism-founded ideals of their past and last year said of his party: ‘we are not on the left and we are not on the right’.

In other words, the measures that all three major UK parties have taken to adapt towards the future have been to veer towards a central ground; dropping any radical views, crossing their fingers and hoping that controversy would steer clear of them. No party is the same as it was 50 years ago, but instead of this being due to ground-breaking new ideas for a modern economy, it seems that the only change in today’s leading parties is the dropping of core ideals.

So, how are the Greens any different? Just let their manifesto do the talking. They are unashamed of their ‘world peace’ mantra: ‘We stand for.. fairness, sustainability and peace’  and radical changes to achieve this are put forward in an upfront, no nonsense manner. Taking the troops out of Afghanistan and not invading Iran are things which other parties would be too scared to put forward, for fear of rocking the boat, but avoiding conflict abroad is more important for the greenies than avoiding conflict in the House of Commons. If you’re growing tired of the same old policies being regurgitated by three parties that, despite guarantees they are all are vastly different, are interdependent on each other and share similar ground on a large fraction of their viewpoints, instead take a look at the radical ideas of the Greens: The abolition of VAT which hits the poorest hardest, the introduction of the living wage instead of NMW which will reduce inequality, reducing arms sales and even abandoning gross domestic product as the key measure of economic success, seeking instead to increase our overall welfare… Say what you like about the Green Party, but one thing they’re not is an outdated stereotype.  Their policies are radical, sustainable and innovative. Agree or disagree with them - form an opinion of them! Whatever you do, next time somebody brings up the Green Party, don’t let an image of picking flowers and singing Bob Dylan be the first to spring to mind.

If you're interested in looking at the Green party and what they stand for, even further, why not hit the jump here

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Stuart Collins said...

Some very insightful points. Has made me think twice about discrediting the Greenies in future!

Adam Comelio said...

Some good points, I'll make one of my own, Martin Luther King's Dream had nothing whatsoever to do with the green party's ideals, he wanted racial equality, not renewable energy.

Shadi Paterson said...

Hi Adam,

you are completely right. Emily, however, was just adding context to the start of the article.

Thanks for reading.

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