Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Green Party - walking the line between radical and mainstream.

The Green Party feels that it's on the edge of electoral breakthrough and wants to be seen as one of the main players in the British elections. Over the last few years it has elected a leader for the first time (it used to have two non-executive principal speakers), worked to show that it's not just about the environment and professionalised its approach to communications and campaigning. As it moves towards the mainstream it walks the line of wanting to remain true to its radical roots whilst appealing to a broader cross section of the population.

It will be clear why I've chosen 'Where is Love' by the Blackeyed peas in my electoral playlist. Rap music has made the journey from the musical outback towards the popular mainstream, but maintains an edge. It's radical, but not too radical. Lyrics like "I think the whole world addicted to the drama/ Only attracted to things that'll bring you trauma / Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism  / But we still got terrorists here livin'
 / In the USA, the big CIA" maintain an outside perspective but with a very accessible tune and chorus.

The Green Party's core values stress the close interdependence between the earth and people and between people themselves, of whatever race, gender or sexual orientation. They are internationalists, seeking peaceful, long lasting solutions to problems, but also emphasise building sustainable interdependent communities at local level.

Given the coherence of their philosophy it seems odd that their headline policies for the election seem rather piecemeal: Free insulation, safer streets and free school meals all seem rather lightweight. The meatier ideas of green energy for all and a living wage of at least £6.80 per hour illustrate the still strong emphasis on climate change and deeply rooted ideas of reducing the gap between rich and poor.

The Greens are generally seen as a party on the left, but differ from Labour in two key respects. Firstly the idea of bottom up sustainable communities contrasts sharply with Labour's model of top down solutions. Secondly the Greens tend to emphasise greater economic equality not as an end in itself, but because it will make people happier. Policies that aim to what they see as a culture of overconsumption, overwork and overcommuting in employment reinforce this theme.  

The Green Party has about 125 elected local councillors and 2 MEPs - it may soon have an MP. It will be interesting to see how it adapts to life as a mainstream party with the pressures to adapt principles to the sometimes less than green world of politics.

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