A New Year message to Eastern Green supporters

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all my readers who are supporters of the Green Party for your continued support and to reflect on all the successes the region has had this year.

Having launched our European Elections campaign at the beginning of the year, the momentum has been building. Our members responded generously to our fundraising appeal, raising thousands of pounds. This increases significantly our ability to fight a strong and effective campaign.

The local elections in May saw us increase the number of councillors in the region for the eighth year running, and the Green Party now sits on more district authorities in the East than in any other region in Britain. Many Green candidates were only a few votes away from being elected, and we look set to make further gains next May.

So far our future looks promising, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Our continued success comes amidst fresh reports that the effects of manmade climate change could be even worse than had been feared, as little as a year ago. With the other parties still so far away from taking real action on ecological and social justice concerns, it is more urgent than ever that the Greens are able to gain more power – and gain it fast. Only with the active support of everyone who believes in what we are trying to do will we be able to achieve our goals for 2008, and all the years ahead. I hope you will consider giving the Party all you can afford of yourself and of your time, at this vital time.

One exciting development in recent months has been the passage with an overwhelming majority of the Leadership referendum within the Party nationally. Now that Party members have signalled so strongly their desire for a formal Leadership structure within the Party for the first time ever, I am looking forward with hope to the Party really uniting around this decision. This time next year, we will have a Leader in place, and let us hope that we will soon start getting the national press coverage that we, as a Party whose time has come, truly deserve.

Today, I have been putting my own New Year’s resolutions together; they include finding new ways of working with other Euro-list candidates and with local Parties to ensure that Eastern Region Green Party gets more press coverage than ever before, in 2008. (I have also resolved to keep my house tidier than ever before… Now THAT will be a challenge!)

I look forward to meeting many more of you in 2008. Thank you once again for your support in this remarkable year that we have had, in 2007, and very best wishes for the New Year. And please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, if you wish to do so, about any matter of mutual hope or mutual concern.

Rupert.

[Cllr. Rupert Read; Eastern Region Lead Candidate for 2009 European Elections]

Norwich’s congestion madness

On the second day of the ‘January’ sales, my girlfriend and I took the bus into the city. I was shocked and disgusted that it now costs £2 to get a single on First from where I live (just inside the Outer ring road) to the city centre. No wonder the bus was mostly empty.
Cycling into town next morning, on the third day of the ‘January’ sales, I was struck by the even more dire traffic levels than there had been the day before. The entire central area of Norwich was gridlocked.
It is desperately urgent that, with the coming of the long climate crisis, we sort out our transport system. We simply must find ways of encouraging people out of their cars, and onto buses and bikes.
But this will obviously never happen while the bus system in cities like Norwich is run by profit-grabbing private companies.
The appalling congestion that I have witnessed and that many many others have been caught up in, sometimes for hours, over the past few days, must be the last of its kind. This is why, in 2008, with unitary status at last in sight, I will be pressing very hard for serious money to be put into Norwich’s buses. We must have a Quality Bus Contract, and we must build the Norwich Cycle Network. Anything less is really an insult to those of us who want to use our cars less, and of course to those of us who don’t have cars. We need to provide genuine choice: as my girlfriend remarked to me, it is sheer madness to have buses which, if 2 or 3 of you are travelling on them together, do not deliver any saving, compared to simply phoning for a taxi instead!

A bad time for Clegg’s liberalism

Further to my posts below on Clegg, check out the letters in yesterday’s _Indy_, at http://comment.independent.co.uk/letters/article3266532.ece , on the same topic. The first such letter, ‘A bad time for Clegg’s liberalism’, by myself, takes up the same vein as my posts here and at ‘Our Kingdom’ (Open Democracy). A little further up in the letters, there is a lovely contrast between the radicalism of Caroline Lucas, Green MEP, and a degree of low horizons from Chris Davies, LibDem, on the question of whether we should move to coal, or alternatively press for lower energy demand, decentralisation of energy sourcing, and big growth in renewables.

Against Bruce Anderson, growth-fetishist

Bruce Anderson (See his http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/bruce_anderson/article3258031.ece ‘The environmental debate…’, Mon. 17 Dec.) pretends to be a friend of cool dispassion, and spends a fair bit of his article repeatedly and distastefully making fun of the Dutch man at the heart of the UN climate change negotiations who cared so much about what he was trying to do that he broke down in tears while on the podium. He accuses us greens moreover of being devotees of a “fanatical cult”. But Mr. Anderson himself is a devotee of what truly is a fanatical unreasoning cult: the cult of economic growth. He never stops to ask the question why economic growth is presupposed by so many, including himself, to be ‘a good thing’. The answer to the question of whether economic growth actually is a good thing is: It is when it improves quality of life, and it is not when it does not. And the evidence is getting stronger all the time that since about 1970, economic growth in the West has NOT improved quality of life – it has made it worse.

This is hardly surprising, when you consider that among the things included in GDP are expenditures on arms manufacture, funerals, and toxic waste clean-up.

Mr. Anderson should in future examine his own beliefs a little more carefully, before accusing anyone else of being a fanatic.

A letter to the _Telegraph_ that I always somehow doubted they would publish…

Sir;
Your story (p.4, 17 Dec.) concerning Cameron’s call for a ‘progressive alliance’ between Tories, LibDems and the Green Party reads strangely for a Green residing in East Anglia. Here in Norfolk, for example, the Tory County Council wants to build an incinerator, backs the expansion of Norwich airport, wants to throw hundreds of millions of pounds into building a new road on the north side of Norwich, backs nuclear power, and opposes wind energy planning applications at every opportunity.
Such a Party has no Green credentials at all.
David Cameron would have to utterly transform his utterly-anti-progressive Party, before his ‘alliance’ call had any credibility whatsoever. I can’t see that ever happening. For, so far as I can see, the Tory Party, in reality, here in Norfolk is much like the Tory Party everywhere else in Britain — the very opposite of progressive. As — to be slightly cheeky — the Letters pages of the _Telegraph_ itself quite often make manifest…
Faithfully; Cllr. Rupert Read, Green Party lead candidate for Eastern Region in 2009 Euro-elections
17 Merton Road
Norwich
NR2 3TT
01603 219294

Clegg wins! Read responds:

Nick Clegg has beaten Chris Huhne, by just 511 votes, in the LibDem Leadership contest.

I knew and worked with Chris Huhne long ago, back as a student in Oxford in the 1980s, when we were both in the SDP there. He always impressed me, and he would have been a serious Leader for the LibDems.

But as I detail at http://www.socialistunitynetwork.co.uk/voices/read.htm , I left the LibDems 8 years ago, terminally dismayed at their (lack of) direction. The critically important thing, from my perspective as a Green, was that the LibDems, like New Labour and like Cameron’s ‘New Tories’, became thoroughgoingly committed to neo-liberalism and to globalisation. That is why it didn’t really much matter to us whether Clegg or Huhne triumphed today. The differences between them in terms of underlying political economy are negligible. Clegg is marginally more right-wing, marginally less green, and marginally more vacuous – but the key word here is “marginally”.

Similarly, that is why Cameron’s call at the weekend for a ‘progressive alliance’ between Tories, LibDems and Greens sounds so strange – so … laughable, really, to us. It is not just because of the Tories’ rampant non-progressiveness (On which, see http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/comment/0,,2229111,00.html )! It is also because the three grey Parties now have so much in common, that it matters very little which of them governs. They might as well all ally together. The only real opposition is provided by the likes of us – only we question whether further economic growth will actually improve quality of life, or diminish it; only we stand for localisation as opposed to globalisation; and only we in the Green Party propose to protect the local, globally, rather than allow neo-liberalism to run riot and continue trashing our planetary life-support system – our atmosphere, our climate.

Now that Nick Clegg has won, albeit so narrowly, there will undoubtedly be a rash of newspaper articles suggesting that now we may see a LibDem resurgence. Now that New Labour has allegedly abandoned the ‘liberal tradition’ in British politics, the word ‘liberal’ is being spouted over and over by Clegg, and may have some mileage.

But the liberal tradition consists principally of two components. One, political and juridical liberty, has indeed been massively eroded by Labour. But a second, economic liberalism, they have massively embraced.

Both components are favoured by the LibDems. But an era in which the overriding political issue is the human race’s bursting through the ecological limits of the planet that sustains us is hardly an era well-suited to a liberal approach to economics and consumer choice. The LibDems’ staunch liberalism will stand directly in the way of their alleged commitment to taking green issues seriously.

The new LibDem Leader may energise their Party for a while. But there will be a leadership contest for the first time ever in Britain’s 4th political Party, the Green Party, next year, now that the Greens’ members have decided to adopt a formal Leadership structure (see my previous post on this, at http://ourkingdom.opendemocracy.net/2007/12/04/green-party-embraces-new-leadership-model/ ), so as to challenge the other Parties on more equal terms. The Green Party, not the LibDems, is best-suited to be the growing force in a decade which will see the climate crisis rightly trump many reactionary calls for individual liberty, such as Clegg majors on. In a nutshell, on a totemic issue: There is no ‘right’ to use high-energy lightbulbs; they and their ilk should simply be banned.

So long as Clegg’s LibDems go on about ‘liberty’ and being ‘liberal’, they will simply be missing the point.