Politics and playing ‘safe’

One of the reasons that I left the LibDems a decade ago now was the decline of genuine community politics in favour of pure electoral opportunism, across most of that Party.
Any Party that wants to go places – be it the LibDems, the Greens, or whoever – must not make the historic mistake that is now terminal for Labour: selling out, and playing ‘safe’. This is why Cameron’s makeover of the Tories will not profit them for long: because all it involves is New Labour squared. (My experience in the Norwich North byelection was that the Tories / Chloe Smith were so obsessed with playing safe that they never ever said anything at all of interest, which could not be said of any other candidate. The only chance they took, interestingly, was signing my ‘Clean Campaign Pledge’. And they mostly used that to try to stop anyone drawing attention to the appalling record of the last Tory government, claiming that to do so was ‘dirty politics’, as Cameron of course had nothing to do with Major, Lamont et al…)
Politics IS risk. To start to really win, and to win sustainably, a Party needs to stand for something, and be bold about saying so, and doing things about it.
[This post was prompted by James Graham’s interesting post, here: http://www.theliberati.net/quaequamblog/2009/09/22/taking-risks-is-about-more-than-stunts/ ]

Quakers, a stable economy, and the future of humanity

Britain‘s Quakers are hosting a major conference this week to explore radical approaches to economics in the light of both the recession and the dangers posed by climate change. Taking place on Saturday 26th September, the event will focus on the idea of a “zero-growth economy”.

The Quakers say that they want to look at “the connections between the global economy, people and the environment”. They point out that while the global economy is almost five times the size it was fifty years ago, this growth has taken place at a time of unprecedented environmental destruction.

“This conference comes at a crucial time,” said Helen Drewery of Quaker Peace and Social Witness, “as world leaders prepare for Copenhagen and we all question whether ‘business as usual’ is a realistic option in the aftermath of the recent economic turmoil”.

The conference will hear from the economist Richard Douthwaite, author of The Growth Illusion. Other speakers will include the activist and author Alastair McIntosh, Duncan Green of Oxfam and Miriam Kennett of the Green Economics Institute.

Drewery suggested that “We need to find creative ways to nurture the growth of human wellbeing without outgrowing the planet’s capacity to support us”. She added that it “may well be humanity’s biggest challenge.”

The conference will take place at Friends House, opposite London‘s Euston Station. It is organised in partnership with the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre and is open to people of all faiths and none at a cost of £20 per person.

Details can be found at http://www.quaker.org.uk/conferences-and-events.

Some environmentalists have called for the establishment of a zero-growth economy as the only possible route to real sustainability. Some economists have pointed out that eras of high government spending on environmental projects have coincided exclusively with times of high economic growth and a financial “feel-good” mood.

We are now on the verge of a world-wide recession, with banks and businesses failing and governments casting around in vain for a solution. Whatever the outcome, we will all still be feeling the ripples, if not the tidal waves, by the autumn.

The conference aims to examine the implications of a zero growth economy on both the environment and on people, and to consider the right relationships between protecting the environment and alleviating poverty.

Confirmed speakers are:-

  • Alastair McIntosh – social activist and author of “Soil and Soul” and “Hell and High Water”
  • Duncan Green – Oxfam
  • Miriam Kennett – Green Economics Institute
  • Richard Douthwaite – economist and author of “the Growth Illusion”

The one-day conference will be chaired by Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

Cost of the one-day conference: £20 per person – open to all – Friends and others

The seminar is open only to area meeting representatives – please contact your area meeting clerk for details.

In the time between the conference and seminar, we hope that meetings will consider the issues raised so that the area meeting representative can bring these considerations to the seminar. The seminar will provide an opportunity to gather these reflections and focus them forward by considering practical action and developing common strategies.

For further information including bookings please contact:

Anne Wilkinson, QPSW, Friends House, London, NW1 2BJ
Telephone: 020 7663 1062
Email: annew@quaker.org.uk

A Zero Growth Economy? What would it mean for us all?

Saturday 26th September 2009, 10.00am – 5pm, Friends House, London (One-day conference)

Praise for forthcoming anthology on philosophy and literature

Endorsement for the forthcoming Blackwell, ‘Companion to the Philosophy of Literature’: “In its richness, variety, learning, and consistent balance, this anthology, which assembles some of the great names in the field, along with brilliant younger critics like Joshua Landy and Rupert Read, will serve as textbook for anyone interested in the inextricability of philosophy and literature. Indeed, the various branches of philosophy, especially ethics and epistemology, emerge as indispensable for an understanding of major literary texts from Shakespeare to Stevens.” —Marjorie Perloff, author of _Wittgenstein’s Ladder_.

I’ve been writing political philosophy for the last week… Now that I am on Study Leave, I am really enjoying philosophy (rather than ‘real’ politics) once again!!
Here is what I have been thinking: The problem with liberal political philosophy is that there is no clarity in John Rawls as to what the upper limit is for permissible inequalities. And no clarity (for how could there be?) as to how much ‘incentive’ the potentially-better-off can require for doing the work that makes the poor better-off. In other words: My argument is going to be that Rawls’s difference principle is actually not substantively action-guiding. It is compatible with a vast range of policies, including New Labour/Tory/Republicrat awfulness.
INSTEAD we need a genuinely egalitarian alternative. As recommended by G. Cohen, R. Wilkinson… – BUT NOT Rawls.

Inequality is the problem, not ‘deprivation’

I recommend Matt Sellwood’s latest post, http://anglobuddhistcombine.blogspot.com/2009/09/equality-is-must.html
Also do read Wilkinson’s previous book, ‘The impact of inequality’.
I am at present writing, using Wilkinson’s work to challenge liberal political philosophy, especially John Rawls’s disastrous ‘difference principle’, which provides a ‘justification’ for inequality.
My main focus this academic year is going to be this work. I am arguing that inequality in itself, not alleged ‘deprivation’ considered in absolute terms, is the fundamental social problem of modern society.

Why to vote RON for Ext Comms

Unfortunately the Green Party's postal ballot of all members for the
position of External Communications Co-ordinator was cancelled.
The decision was taken to hold a new Ext-Comms ballot at conference in
Hove, where I am writing from. This
disenfranchises the vast majority of party members who cannot or chose
not to attend
conference because of the time, distance, cost or work/family
commitments.
By voting to re-open nominations a new postal ballot to ALL members will
be forced.
Given the key role External Communications plays, the critical year
ahead and the
democratic values of the Green Party, I believe that the right thing to
do is to ask for
all membersʼ involvement.
Voting will be at conference starting on Saturday 5th September. Only
registered conference
attendees can vote. So: I am asking you, if you are going to be here at
Conference,
to ʻbe bigʼ, and do the right thing: Please speak for the majority not
present by reopening
nominations for the External Communications Co-ordinator post on the
Green
Party Executive.

Vote RON for Ext-Comms!


Rupert Read
Green Party Councillor, Norwich.
http://rupertread.net
[If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob@gmail.com]

Green Party internal democracy in poor health?

I am blogging from the Green Party Conference main hall. The Party has just decided not to go ahead with a ballot of all members for the post of External Comms Co-ordinator, a post for which I had wished to stand.
I am not willing to participate in a sham of democracy. So I am not now going to stand. I wanted to campaign before all members, not the the small fraction who can come to Conference. I am deeply saddened that my effort to become involved more in the national party through subjecting myself for democratic internal election has been stymied, because this Party has not as yet been willing to come out clearly FOR internal democracy.
There is one chance left for the Party to prove that we still care deeply about the democratic culture of our Party. One way left for us to give ALL members a chance to vote. One remaining way in which Party members at Conference – for others now do not have a voice – can resolve this situation. It is this: Jason Kitcat and I are urging any Party members at Conference who read this post to support democracy: Please vote Re-Open Noms (RON) for External Comms co-ordinator, to force a postal vote of all members. (If RON wins the election here at Conference, then Jason and I WILL go ahead and stand in a ballot of all members for this post.)