Who is My Neighbour?

A Green Party member’s response to the House of Bishops letter saying that “Politicians need to deliver a fresh moral vision”

800px-Green_Party_protestors_2011In a letter urging congregations to vote on 7 May, the House of Bishops of the Church of England says it does not endorse a political party but encourages debate on issues such as nuclear defence and the economy. As a Vicar’s wife (retired) I know that letters to congregations are usually read out by the vicar during the main Sunday service. However, this “letter” is 56 pages long!

Here are some sound bites from the Bishop’s letter(1) with my response based on Green Party policies(2), with quotes from our two Derby Parliamentary election candidates; Alice Mason-Power (Derby North) and David Foster (Derby South).

Visions Worth Voting for – The Bishop’s letter states that the country needs “a new approach to political life that will change the political weather …”.

It seems to me that the Green Party has a new approach and a vision worth voting for.

David FosterDavid Foster says: “We Greens have a fundamental conviction that the existing system, based on inequality and exploitation, is threatening the future of the planet on which we all depend. This conviction colours every single policy we have.”

The Bishops letter covers various issues including the Economy, Europe, Defence, The State and Globalisation.

The Economy: It credits politicians for helping Britain avoid the financial instability of other European countries, but criticises them for turning the banking crisis into a “political football”

The Green Party believes that the existing banking system is undemocratic, unfair and highly damaging. Banks create money and decide how it is first used. Through the interest charged on the loans on which all credit is based, the current banking system increases inequality. Banks create and lend more and more money until the level of debt becomes unsustainable, then the taxpayer bails out the banks that are “too big to fail”. Servicing the growing debt mountain is a key driver of unsustainable economic growth that is destroying the environment. The power to create money must be removed from private banks. The supply of our national currency must be fully restored to democratic and public control so that it can be issued free of debt and directed to environmentally and socially beneficial areas such as renewable energy, social housing, and support for community businesses.

Europe: The Bishops say there is an “enduring argument for continuing to build structures of trust and co-operation between the nations of Europe”

Caroline Lucas Making a point CropCaroline Lucas MP says “I support a referendum on our membership of the EU…” but “,,,I want to see a radical reform of the way Europe operates. The EU has the potential to spread peace and make our economies more sustainable, and to promote democracy and human rights, at home and throughout the world. But it must urgently change direction, away from an obsessive focus on competition and free trade and towards placing genuine co-operation and environmental sustainability at its heart”.

Defence: The Bishops state “Shifts in global strategic realities mean that the traditional arguments for nuclear deterrence need re-examining”.

The Green Party is committed to pursuing immediate and unconditional nuclear disarmament. It believes Nuclear weapons are political weapons of terror, and are disproportionate to any threat. The £100 billion needed to renew Trident could be better spent elsewhere.

The State: The Bishops state “We need a richer justification for the state, a better account of the purposes of government, and a more serious way of talking about taxation”

The Green Party would end austerity, restore the public sector and create good jobs. This would be paid for with a wealth tax on the top 1%, a Robin Hood tax on the banks, and the closure of scandalous tax loopholes. It would also introduce a minimum wage of £10 per hour by 2020.

Globalisation: The Bishops say “The problem is that no-one in politics today has a convincing story about a healthy balance between national government and global economic power”

David FosterDavid Foster says: “Greens believe in a world that would prioritise the many, not the few. To this Government’s surprise, Coalition tax revenues are low. The rich don’t pay their way, and the poor barely earn enough to be taxed. The Green Party would change that.”

The Campaign ahead – The Bishops state “The election campaign is likely to entrench the apathy and cynicism with which many people approach politics today. To accept such attitudes is a counsel of despair. Unless we exercise the democratic rights that our ancestors struggled for, we will share responsibility for the failures of the political classes…”

This year, the Green Party will give more people than ever the chance to “vote for change” with candidates standing in 90% of constituencies. So people will have a real alternative to “politics as usual”

Vote for Values – The Bishops encourage voters to sow the seeds of a new politics by supporting candidates and policies which demonstrate key values such as “Halting and reversing the accumulation of power and wealth in fewer and fewer hands, whether those of the state, corporations or individuals”.

In the UK, wealth exists alongside unimaginable poverty. Since 2009(3), the number of billionaires in the UK has more than doubled. Pay for top company directors has increased by 40%, while the number of people using Food Banks has increased from 26,000 to nearly 1 million and the average UK worker has experienced a 9% real terms pay cut. The Green Party is committed to reducing this divide between rich and poor.

Alice Mason PowerAlice Mason-Power says: “Austerity is not working for the people of Derby. Child poverty is at 19%, food bank usage is increasing, wages are stagnating as prices rise, and the bedroom tax is putting yet more pressure on already struggling individuals and families. We believe there is an alternative to yet more cuts. We believe in a society which prioritises the many, not the few. We believe in creating a future based on sustainability and equality. We believe in working for the common good. “

The Green Party would abolish the unfair Bedroom Tax. It would aim to dramatically increase the number of social rented homes and bring empty homes back into use, ensuring everyone has a secure, affordable home. It would also introduce rent caps and longer tenancies for renters. It aims to facilitate the development of human societies in which people can enjoy the exercise of their individual and collective rights responsibly. It would fight for a publicly funded NHS free at the point of use and end the creeping privatisation of its services. It would make mental health a much higher priority with resources to match its status and ensure free social care for the over 65s

The Bishops’ letter acknowledges the depth of insecurity and anxiety that has permeated our society after decades of rapid change, not least the changes brought about by the banking crisis and austerity programme.

It encourages political parties to reflect on the obligation to secure the common good of future generations, not just our own, and address issues of intergenerational justice and it states that this must include a responsible approach to environmental issues.

The Green Party’s policy is to work to phase out fossil fuel based energy generation and nuclear power and invest in renewable energy, flood defences and building insulation.

Who is my NeighbourWho is my neighbour? – The Bishops say “This letter is about building a vision of a better kind of world, a better society and better politics. Underlying those ideas is the concept of virtue – what it means to be a good person, a good politician, a good neighbour or a good community. Virtues are nourished, not by atomised individualism, but in strong communities which relate honestly and respectfully to other groups and communities which make up this nation.”

They warn against the temptations of apathy, cynicism and blame, and instead encourage people to seek a more humane society – a better politics for a better nation.

As a Green Party member I say “Amen to that!” “Roll on the election!”

Jean Macdonald
Green Party Activist

Links:
1. House of Bishops letter – letter urging congregations to vote
2. Green Party Policies – http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/
3. Inequality Briefing – http://www.inequalitybriefing.org A non-political organization whose purpose is to spread information rather than to suggest policy solutions,

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2 responses to “Who is My Neighbour?

  1. It’s an affront to democracy that an Anglican bishop could cast a deciding vote on an issue that affects all of us. Check out our manifesto on constitutional reform.

  2. Well John, I agree that there should be complete separation of church and state and that bishops and other non elected people should not have decision making power in parliament – but I don’t really see that that has much to do with this post. Bishops, like anyone else, have a right to raise concerns, and I think that this post does a pretty good job in explaining how Green Party policy would meet many of these very justifiable concerns.

    I’m not religious myself, but I do see that the Church is often rightly criticised for not speaking out on social issues, so it does seem a shame to criticise them when they do… a question of damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

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