Culture

Britain's big green heart awakens

Green politics is now vital for change

Group photo from the SWGP Summer Conference in Bristol July 2019

We are living in an (extremely) political time. Everyone is getting involved. It is decentralised. It has a green heart. It is energising.

Since 2015, Britain has blown from one emergency to the next. First, we took back control; and yes, real people did campaign, in addition to Boris’s red bus and the Russian bots. Then a pro-European grassroots belatedly sprang up calling for a “People’s Vote”. Just down the street schoolkids were striking for their futures, and thousands of people blockaded London’s bridges, willing to get arrested if the Government did not “Tell the Truth” on the Climate & Ecological Emergency and “Act Now”. This year, mutual aid groups have blossomed across the country, feeding and comforting their communities during Coronavirus lockdown; the loss of black lives in America threw a statue of a slave trader into the Bristol Avon, after years of political conservatism keeping him securely on his plinth. We have all shown there is such a thing as society.

Now we are all united in demanding a “Green Recovery”. Lockdown has awoken memories of clean air, quiet roads, birdsong, local food, and community spirit. A chorus of unexpected voices has joined the call: The Government’s own Committee on Climate Change, copious business leaders, and the Financial Times, all say we must not miss this opportunity. Eight out of ten of our fellow citizens on the Climate Assembly UK (a citizen’s assembly) support a Green Recovery. With the need for urgent action within the next 10 years now understood by all, this should be the Green Party’s moment of truth.

Bruton Residents developing their Climate Action Plan last September

The Green Party has indeed made dramatic progress over recent years. We doubled our number of elected Councillors last May, thanks to ever-more effective local campaigning, and increased our representation from three to seven MEPs in our foreshortened membership of the current European Parliament. Our Green Councillors are at the forefront of Local Government action on the Climate and Ecological Emergency, following Bristol Green Councillor Carla Denyer’s leadership of the UK’s first Climate Emergency Declaration in November 2018. They all prove the power of “a Green in the room”.

For all of this apparent consensus, and progress, there remains a mountain to climb to deliver a genuine Green Recovery, in the maximum ten years that we now have. If we are serious about our policy of “a zero carbon society” by 2030, and “an exciting new world in which human needs are better met without driving the Sixth Mass Extinction” (Ecohustler’s vision), then Greens need to step up now. The ecological movement needs a more effective, braver, political arm to direct the levers of power towards this exciting new world.

Yes, the UK’s mediaeval electoral “system” is set against ‘challengers’ from outside of the establishment, where some of our European fellows achieve a share of power in more democratic systems – but Greens currently share power on 18 English Councils, under the same mediaeval electoral system. Greens must be bolder in seeking the power our public support deserves, and join the green wave washing across Europe.

Yes also, Greens lack the resources of conservative left and right – we must simply be more focused, and smarter.

To succeed the Green Party only needs to do two things…

First, to be heard, we must tell a consistent, clear, story that attracts. In December, Emiliano Grossman made a convincing “Do or Die” case in the Green European Journal for now telling Green stories through “an ecological prism” – vindicated by last weekend’s “green wave” French municipal election results. Green Recovery is a good positive British opening chapter. We should frame our social, economic, and democratic solutions through this lens. And we must keep telling this story, consistently, to cut through.

Secondly, we must rapidly learn the flexibility to localise our Green story within people’s real lives and communities. “Fridays for Future” school strikers, Extinction Rebellion, and now Coronavirus mutual aid groups have shown that the energy for political action is there within our communities. The Green Party must have the humility to recognise that we live within this ecological movement, rather than seeking to be the movement. Local Green Parties must go out into their communities to genuinely include, rather than expecting communities to come to them. Our position ‘outside’ the political establishment combined with our de-centralised (ecological) culture are our greatest assets. Neither Labour nor the Conservative Party could ever breathe decentralised.

To deliver these two things, the Green Party must stop wasting energies and resources on internal battles – instead freeing our spokespeople to speak clearly and confidently, and providing the stability and support for local Greens to maximise their positive political impact across all regions of England & Wales. I am standing in the upcoming Green Party Executive (GPEx) elections because we no longer have time to waste.

Bruton Church Bridge Stone Berm Building last May photo credit to Mark Adler of Mendip Times

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