UK Politics,  Vote 2010

Greens offer an alternative to the main parties

This is a guest post by Peter Tatchell of the Green Party

In this election, the British people are being conned into believing that there are significant differences between Cameron, Brown and Clegg. Not so. The three big parties are part of the mainstream political establishment. They are wedded to the system as it is. Their proposed reforms are mostly tinkering around the edges.

Labour, once the great hope of progressive politics, has lost its heart and soul. It has become the party of war, privatisation and the erosion of hard-won civil liberties.

The Lib Dems support the basics of free market capitalism, use dirty tricks during election campaigns, and when they get into office at local level they have always drifted to the right.

The Conservatives are split between modernisers and the reactionary old guard. Their green-friendly image is contradicted by their anti-green policies of supporting new motorways, aviation expansion and more nuclear power stations – just like Labour.

In contrast, the Green Party offers a genuine progressive alternative to the three old, grey parties – and not just on environmental issues. We are also a social justice party, with commitments to the redistribution of wealth and power, including industrial democracy, workers cooperatives and trade union rights. Our aim is a democratic and accountable economy, which gives all employees a real say in how their institution is run, and which values and utilises their accumulated skill and experience to improve private enterprises and public services.

We want to make society fairer and more equal. This democratisation and socialisation of the economy is necessary, we argue, to improve productivity, prevent a repeat of the reckless decisions that led to the economic meltdown and to reorient production to better meet people’s needs.

This includes switching from weapons production to the manufacture of renewable energy and advanced medical technologies, which are socially useful and have huge export potential.

The Greens are not retreads of the old Left. Traditional socialism is flawed. It is based on a left-wing version of big business growth-driven economics, with the goal of producing more and consuming more.

This uncritical drive to maximise economic expansion is destroying our planet, causing life-threatening pollution, climate chaos and species extinction. It is also dramatically depleting reserves of natural resources, such as oil, that are vital to the global economy and to the long-term maintenance of a decent standard of living.

This old-style growth-fixated economics, which is shared by both the left and the right, is outdated and reactionary. It is time for fresh thinking.

The Greens argue that quality of life and fair shares for all are more important than the left’s simplistic agenda of spending more on public services.

Greens would, of course, invest more in health and education. But we also believe that government needs to radically rethink basic premises, like shifting the focus in the NHS from curative to preventative medicine. Our aim is to ensure that many fewer people get sick in the first place, rather than merely throwing more money into treating people once they become ill.

The Greens realise that the whole economic system has to change, in order to meet people’s needs and to ensure the survival of life on this planet. We propose a synthesis of the best bits of red and green, combining social justice with sustainable economics.

A good example of how we would do this is our proposed Roosevelt-style Green New Deal. It would stimulate the economy through large-scale government investment in socially and environmentally valuable energy
conservation, renewable energy and green public services like cheap, hi-tech public transport.

This would slash carbon emissions and tackle climate change, as well as cutting unemployment by creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs.

With more people in work, more people pay tax and national insurance, thereby boosting the public finances. With more people earning, they’ve got more money to spend. They go out and buy things, which creates demand and new jobs to meet this demand. This stimulates economic recovery. We all benefit.

We could fund the Green New Deal in several ways.

First, by axing Labour and Tory plans to waste £160 billion on Trident nuclear missiles (£76bn), super aircraft carriers (£4bn), Eurofighter aircraft (£20bn), A400 air transporter (£3bn), national identity register (£10bn), the Afghan war (£5bn), motorway building and widening (£30bn) and NHS computerisation (£20bn).

Second, we could increase taxes on the very rich and introduce a tax of 0.05% on financial transactions, such as shares, foreign currency and derivatives. This would discourage short-term speculation and raise a whopping £225 billion a year worldwide. Britain’s share of this taxation could be invested in the Green New Deal and to help pay off government debt.

Third, we could improve the efficiency of public services. Efficiency savings of up to £30 billion a year are not unrealistic. Trade unions and employees should be invited to become partners in finding savings, to get more for less. Contrary to the knee-jerk resistance of some left-wingers and trade unionists, we can run our public services more efficiently. There is waste. Savings can be made without diminishing the quality of service.

The people best placed to know how to deliver cheaper and better public services are the frontline, grassroots employees. They have hands-on experience and knowledge. Why should bonuses be limited to the very rich? Lower income earners also deserve bonuses if they contribute to success. To this end, employees who devise and implement efficiency savings, while maintaining or improving services, ought to be encouraged and rewarded with bonuses. It’s only fair.

Editor’s Note: Harry’s Place will accept party-political guest posts for the purpose of generating political debate. No collective or individual endorsement of any party is necessarily implied or should be assumed.