After Natalie Bennett’s talk last month saw a huge number of students engage in Green politics, Sophie Harrison, Online Books Editor, reflects upon some of Green’s more obscure policies and considers whether students see the party through rose tinted specs.
Exeter is looking quite Green of late. Last month saw Natalie Bennett become the new ‘it’ girl of Streatham – quite fitting of a campus that memorably claims to have more trees than students.
Unlike rival ‘it’ girl Miss Delevigne, we won’t see her donning furs or being condemned by Animal Rights groups for hugging a lion cub. Ms Bennett is very much a woman of the country and all its creatures… including the terrorists, and those seeking more risqué evening entertainment than an episode of Downton Abbey or Wolf Hall. Under Green Government, certain streets could quickly turn a shade of scarlet red. Perhaps Game of Thrones would make more appropriate viewing.
For me, their lies two fundamental issues: morality and pragmatism. The moral question is posed by numerous policies, as alluded to above. These are, namely, granting prisoners the right to vote, the legalisation of prostitution and condoning membership to terrorist organisations.
The first, quite simply, baffles me. Rights come with responsibility; you cannot have your cake and eat it too. That being said, the Green party is all for giving prisons a makeover, so perhaps that would be an option. In terms of prostitution, legalising this endorses licentious behaviour and increases the risk of exploitation – in a time of national recession, more and more people could resort to it in a state of desperation.
Then we come onto terrorist organisations. The Party’s manifesto reasons this by stating it does not have a “right” to associate organisations with terrorism. Yet given the current global situation, notably ISIS and the recent Paris Attacks, this is concerning; the declaration that a standing army and navy is “unnecessary” is arguably even more so. This brings me onto the second key problem: pragmatism.
The Green’s manifesto is a textbook example of the ideology that prevails, when unchallenged by the realities of government. The party justifies this more lenient approach to terrorist organisations, in that it will seek to “address desperate motivations that lie behind many atrocities labeled ‘terrorist’.” It is, theoretically, a fantastic idea, but where is the backing? There is no specification or strategy for how this will be achieved.
It is not dissimilar to Bennett’s gold ticket claim to our students: no tuition fees. Let us take a little stroll down memory lane. April 2010: all 57 Liberal Democrat MPs, among them Nick Clegg, signed the “Vote for Students” pledge. It has left an indelible footprint on the Deputy Prime Minister – a “promise [they] were not certain [they] could deliver”. Is Natalie Bennett certain she will? When she made this statement to cheers and applause from a full auditorium, is it not simply a repeat of four years ago? Of course, it is a winning policy. Yet if put to the test, as the Liberal Democrats were, broken promises would fall like an avalanche.
Then there is the approach to immigration, with the party stating their intention to “progressively reduce” border control. They state it is needed to ensure “global inter-responsibility”, but with services such as the NHS currently at breaking point last month, Natalie Bennett spoke of her grave concern over the poverty present in society, specifically the one million people using food banks. How will a reduction in border control, and thus a continual expansion of the UK population, assist this? I am not opposed to immigration; contrarily, I recognise what an important part it plays in both the culture and economy of our country. Yet the current scale is simply not sustainable.
The public sector will need to grow, placing a greater strain on the economy. In terms of economy, the Green’s are again idealists over pragmatists. Their condemnation of multi-national companies, in favour of cottage industries, will signal a regression in our economy at the very time when innovation and expansion is never more in need. Their manifesto also supports the “informal economy… make full-time paid employment less necessary”. So up go the unemployment figures, while incomes and standards of living fall. Not quite so ideal.
I do not see all red when it comes to the Green Party’s policies. In fact, I support much of its ideology and policy. Their outlook on animal welfare, on its own, would secure a firm tick on my ballot paper, while their thoughts on education – specifically giving arts an equal footing to more traditional courses – hold a lot of weight. Moreover, their manifesto does make for an uplifting read. The desire for a compassionate community, not dissimilar to Cameron’s “the big society”, where the government will “encourage all to contribute to society according to their abilities, recognising as they do so, responsibility for themselves and for others” is also appealing.
Nonetheless, this book remains fictional; the words will stay glued to the page, due to a fatal sticking point – us. The brutal reality is that we, as a population, are not about to hold hands in the streets to sing John Lennon’s “Imagine”.
Imagine if we did. The world would certainly be a more promising place to live in, but sadly it is a pipe dream. It places too much faith in society. The manifesto asserts that “individual consumer choice can be exercised positively, in favour of environmentally and ethically sound products”, but how many will, choose this? When they claim that “in a Green society money will have a lesser role”, it exposes the closeted outlook that comes when policy is, ultimately, paper-thin. This ‘green society’ is not possible in a global community, and is in turn quite oppositional to the Green’s call for integration.
For all its philosophies, there is no feasible policy. The manifesto’s peppering of terms such as “encouraged” and “supported” reflects this. It is ideology over implementation. It is much easier to keep promises, when you never believe you will be in a position to enact them. Does Nigel Farage truly think he will be sitting at the head of the cabinet table in five months time? Does Natalie Bennett? No. They can be the party for the people; they tailor themselves to an electorate, in a way the Conservatives and Labour never could.
The backbench or, in the case of UKIP and the Greens, entirely benchless, is a far more comfortable place to be. There are far less people ready to aim a dodgeball at you, the moment you try to wriggle out of promises made in naivety. Nick Clegg has endured five years dodging press and public shots; he will breathe a sigh of relief when the end of term bell rings this May.
The Green Party has merits, but they are also free to dodge the difficult decisions. Young adulthood is the time to be filled with philosophies, before age and experience provoke disillusionment; it is, consequently, all too easy to be swept along by the politics of idealism. However, at some point we have to look at it from behind rose tinted glasses….
…or, in this case, green.
Sophie Harrison, Online Books Editorbookmark me