29 Reasons Why The Greens Must Do Well On May 7th

The Green Party launched its manifesto on 14th April. What is very clear from it is that, from the Green Party point-of-view, on so many issues the other Parties really are all the same.
There is only one Party at this election which will:
1. Bring the railways back into public ownership.
2. Slash rail fares (paid for by scrapping the government’s road-building programme).
3. Oppose airport-expansion full-stop, and support taxing air-fuel fairly (at present, incredibly, it doesn’t get taxed).
TTIP protest
6. Phase out nuclear.
7. Inaugurate a renewables revolution, massively investing in tidal, solar and wind, putting our country on the road to being carbon-free (paid for by scrapping all fossil fuel subsidies and all nuclear subsidies).
8. Changing the law and economic incentives to make community-renewable-energy – rather than private for-profit renewable energy, the norm in this country, as it is in Germany (thanks to the Greens).
9. Insulate every house and public building in Britain.
10. Bring in a Personal Carbon Allowances (aka carbon-rationing) scheme, so that we are all committed to reducing our climate-dangerous emissions to sane levels.

Photo: Beverly Goodwin

11. Back animal rights.
12. Keep our NHS public, and in fact reinstate the NHS as a public service (which technically it has not been since the 2012 Act).
14. Bring in monetary reform to phase out debt-based money.
15. Make the minimum wage into a living wage.
16. Over a ten-year period, phase in a Citizens Income scheme, to end wage-slavery and to ensure that the post-growth economy works for the common good.
17. End all zero-hours contracts.
18. Restore the highest rate of income tax to 60%, the level it was set at by that socialist firebrand Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
19. Bring in a Wealth Tax, as argued for by Thomas Piketty
20. Replace Council Tax with a Land Value Tax.
Photo: www.flazingo.com
Photo: www.flazingo.com
26. Scrap tuition fees
27. Take the private sector out of education – turn academies and free-schools back into being under local democratic control
28. Scrap Trident
29. Take a wholistic approach to the whole terrain of politics – e.g. seeing and taking seriously the inherent links between education policy, transport policy, health policy, food policy etc.
Every Party is itself a kind of coalition. Not every Green Party member agrees with every last one of these items. But if you agree with a majority of them, then remember that no other Party in England stands for a single one of them. If you are sympathetic with the majority of the items on this list, then it’s clear: #VoteGreen2015!

“Funding Scandal”, Or Just Another Day At The Office?

queen funny money
By @Doug88888

There’s something very tired and predictable nowadays about news-managed responses to the latest “party funding scandal”. It feels like a couple of fairly junior members of the relevant Comms team get out the clipboard and start ticking off the boxes. Perhaps someone “steps down” from their role – only until a “full investigation” is completed of course. Maybe they “refer themselves to the Electoral Commission” and they state that they will “comply fully” with any investigation. Meanwhile the party had “no reason to believe” that there was any wrong-doing and they have “introduced new safeguards”. And so on.

The latest “party funding scandal” to “embroil” a party was uncovered by Channel 4’s Dispatches How to Buy a Meeting With a Minister, broadcast last week. This time it was the Lib-Dems, apparently being pretty brazen about how to get round Electoral Commission rules preventing the use of proxy donors, including, astonishingly, in the course of a direct conversation with Nick Clegg. Lib-Dem fund-raiser Lord Strasburger has “temporarily withdrawn” himself from the Lib-Dem whip in the Lords (tick) – “for the sake of the party” (ooh, unselfish, very good), and has of course “denied any wrong-doing” (tick). He’s referred himself to the Electoral Commission (tick). A party spokesperson admitted that the donation “may” (tick), “without our knowledge” (tick), have been made on someone else’s behalf but that the party has now introduced an “additional level of scrutiny” (tick) that is “over and above legal requirements” (good, tick). And so on and so on.

jm2prAs with any formulaic response, we have stopped paying attention before we’ve even finished reading.

But perhaps the most depressing thing about this latest dollop of sleaze is to realise just how little anyone cares. This scandal broke only weeks before a General Election and it features the leading members of a governing party. Yet here we are – just a week later – and it’s already completely out of the news-agenda. The public reaction was a cynical shrug – we are being told nothing that we don’t already know; our political system is now thoroughly corrupt. The super-rich routinely bribe our mainstream politicians – or “buy access” to use the euphemism preferred by our news media. We know this and we know that when our political leaders prate about the rules being “tightened” or about how terribly important “transparency” is, it is just a matter of time until the next party funding scandal rolls up.

And it’s clear to most of us that this is not a question of a few bad apples being naughty, it’s a systemic issue. Everyone’s at it. All the main parties are cozying up to the rich and are desperately trying to squeeze money out of them. If you bring in a rule that makes that harder, they will find a way round it.

So if it’s a systemic problem, what’s the systemic solution? The obvious answer is state funding of parties – give political parties access to a decent income and they won’t need to be constantly dancing to the tunes of the oligarchs. The traditional response to that is the public don’t want it. And – especially in times of huge cuts in public spending – the issue is politically toxic. Baroness Warsi has opined that “the public will simply not accept a plan to hand over…taxpayers money to politicians”, while Tim Farron – in 2011 – said that “now is not the time to be handing over more money to politicians”.

So the debate about state funding for political parties in the UK is shelved once again and we are back to the scandal treadmill and the comms rituals and public faith in our politics continues its relentless decline.

The first thing to point out about the traditional response (“the public hate state-funding of parties so we can’t have it”) is that it’s based on a whopping great falsehood to begin with, namely that we don’t already fund our political parties. E.g. In 2013, the Labour Party received over £7 million from the state in the form of Short Money and Cranborne Money. The largest parties tend to keep pretty quiet about this funding since they divvy it up amongst themselves and have absolutely no accountability to the public for how it is spent. But the important point is that despite state funding allegedly being “politically toxic”, the main parties have happily helped themselves to plenty of it.

But surely the wider point is this; in the late 1970s the Labour and Conservative Parties received half of their funding from membership subscriptions. By 2013, the percentage they raised from memberships was, respectively, under 15% and under 3% – primarily because 80% of their members had deserted them over that time.

If we advocate state funding we are effectively saying that since the public no longer voluntarily pay for the Labour and Conservative parties through subscriptions, they should now be forced to do so via their taxes. It is not surprising that most politicians choose to avoid insulting the electorate so openly.

Instead of looking for a quick fix that won’t wash, we would do better to understand the causes of the huge democratic deficit in the UK, and to look into ways to link any state funding of our now-multi-party system to dramatically increased levels of public participation in UK democracy. One could start by reading our Green House report on party funding, Strangled By The Duopoly, which sets out a number of ways in which this could be done.

John Hare and Rupert Read are part of Green House, the green think tank. Rupert Read is also Green Party Parliamentary candidate for Cambridge.

First published on The NewsHub, 1st Arpil, 2015.