On Saturday, I went to an all-day conference run by the GreenHouse Think Tank on the Future of Green Politics.
The title interested me. This is exactly the type of dialogue we need to be involved in, both within and beyond the Party.
It didn’t start off too well.
I was shocked by the main presentation in the morning by Roger Scrutton of ‘Green Philosophy’ fame. Apparently, he jetted in from Princeton for this event. I wish he hadn’t.
In front of a panel, including Caroline Lucas MP, he went on to make an extraordinary pitch for retreating from the clutches of the Left which, according to him, had captured the Greens. Instead, we should be looking at ‘Conservatism’ through a new lens, especially Localism.
He then went to paint an idealised picture of 19th century Conservatism, and reeled off names such as Adam Smith.
Frankly, it was drivel. But it was Dangerous Drivel.
Thank God, Caroline Lucas stood up to say that the agenda is altogether different: that Redistribution of power, wealth and income is the key.
Roger S has taken the first 10 letters of conservation and conservatives and linked the two.
Sorry but the 19th century to me signifies imperialism abroad, the ransacking of resources and people in what today we call the Global South and at home the horrifying conditions of factory work for millions, living in slums.
Late 20th century and current Conservatives are about Big Business, the rule of the City of London and quasi-imperial war in Asia and North Africa.
Thanks also go to many in the audience who stood up and disagreed with the thesis. Forcefully.
Surprisingly, there was a workshop on how the Green Movement could work with Trade Unions (run by Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party) and another on Eco-Socialism (run by Adam Ramsey).
My summary: I think it was worthwhile raising the subject, a recognition that we need some fundamental rethinking perhaps or at least take stock.
This was reinforced by the make up of the 100+ audience (no mean feat on a Saturday at £10 entrance fee): Mainly middle aged, some being present at the birth of the People Party nearly four decades ago, and white.
There were some young people, though no way near enough.
I didn’t hear the word Nationalism mentioned. Nor Religion. I heard something about Corporate Social Responsibility and how apparently there was no space left of Labour.
To be fair, this was challenged as someone retorted that SNP was left of Labour in Scotland and Bradford West gave an inkling of what is possible in England.
A remark, which might not have quite sunk in, judging by the reaction, was that politics was likely to change very quickly, very suddenly, echoing what is occuring in mainland Europe.
Some of the tame strategies suggested of cherry-picking ideas & allies from both New Labour and the Tories look decidedly out of date and plainly wrong, and surely against the Green Party Philosophy about the anti-capitalism and social and environmental justice.
I much prefer the strategy of Lucas and Bennett of seeking a space where the millions of ex-Labour voters might want to visit. Towards the Left.
Rupert Read said ” we could believe in eco-socialism but don’t necessarily want to call ourselves eco-socialists”. That’s a valid tactical point about messaging.
The point is however to decide after 40 years and dashed hopes, that perhaps now the Zeitgeist reflects an era of Low Growth or Negative growth, rising unemployment, a Lost Generation of Young People, Austerity, Nationalism,fight over the Welfare State and the nature of the EU.
Is it more about talking about the whole Green political philosophy rather than moving to the Right, disguised as neither Left, nor Right, but Forward?
I am going to read some more of the Reports that have come out of the Think Tank. The fact they put together such an event as on Saturday deserves praise. The day was stimulating. The issues raised were crucial. The choice of workshops subjects showed a willingness to be inclusive.
May the dialogue continue.