I’m an environmentalist; it is what I do for a living, and what I will always be. Politically, I can’t muster any enthusiasm for the mainstream parties, and I’m actively hostile to the likes of UKIP. I wish, therefore, that I could support the Green Party. It should be my natural political home, if only it were able to galvanise not just those converted to the sustainability movement but those – like me – actively immersed in it every day.
Unfortunately, from my vantage point, they are about as credible as Michael Foot’s Labour Party. And, having read their policy documents, not much different ideologically. Their current ‘surge’ may give them hope of some kind of electoral breakthrough. I fear such optimism would be misplaced.
The first problem is their positioning. The Greens come across as anti-business, anti progress, anti aspiration and anti enterprise. They share the sort of Utopian idealistically rooted thinking that gave birth to The Diggers in 1649, and The Levellers around the same time. And they didn’t last long.
There is a terrible irony here. Given the massive opportunities in clean technology, a leaner competitive economy, the extraordinary advances in renewables, scientific progress that makes the last two millennia pale, there ought to be room for an economic policy platform that marries green thinking with economic benefit.
The second problem is more parochial – the structure of the party. For many years, two ‘co-leaders’. The Greens’ strongest asset, Caroline Lucas, is in Parliament but no longer leader. A leader who is not in Parliament and who, despite her media background, is unsuited to the media age. Will the public vote in large numbers for an Australian calling for re-nationalisation of the railways and transgender rights? Stranger things have happened, but not many.
All this is compounded by an appearance and feel that screams of looking backwards (to 1649) and inwards, and managing to do both at the same time. There is no political savviness, no smart cultivation of the media, no stand out proposition, no sense at all of the momentous potential inherent in environmental capitalism.
I read that they aspire to participate in government at a national level. But a Green Party which behaves like a 1970s protest movement, is split down the middle and has turned its Brighton government into an acrimonious mess isn’t a terrific signal that the they can deal with proper grown up office.
Despite my loathing of all that UKIP stands for, it has built its remarkable popularity, which could swing the general election, by adopting clear, if mad, policies, and communicating them with skill. Even making a virtue of the deliciously bonkers clangers its troops excel at with such reliable regularity.
It has been said the Greens are too ‘nice’ for politics. A look within the party and its internal machinations would quickly negate such a claim. Arguments disguised as ‘consensus building’, the tortuous right of dissenters to have their voice and express it at will, endless policy motions, sub clauses, votes and amendments, and earnest corridor discussions between activists on how to demolish the capitalist system, oh so gently of course. It’s a nice club to be in if that’s your bag, but a serious political force it can never be.
So come on Greens, step up a bit. Find a leader who can do for the 21st century green argument what Farage has done for 1950s bigotry. Abandon Old Labour policies and embrace a vibrant, entrepreneurial lean economy. Forget the obsession with wealth (you might need more wealthy donors) and corporate power (you might need that too) – focus on the irrefutable arguments for the circular economy, renewables, cleaner, greener spaces and quality of life. If your policies on migration and transgender rights alienate the mainstream, ditch them.
A Green Party in 2015 should be an innovator like Google or Apple. Instead, it looks like Kodak, which kept its head firmly lodged in the sand as mobile photography replaced film. Kodak went bust. It’s a warning worth heeding.
This article first appeared at www.businessgreen.com