The Green Party has launched its manifesto today, [14th April]. At the launch Natalie Bennett said “This manifesto presents the Green Party’s genuine alternative to our tired, business-as-usual politics. We desperately need a more equal society and the policies we announce today pave the way towards a brighter, fairer future for all.”
This is a long document, featuring policies relating to the economy, our society and our shared environment. It is also costed to show that it is possible to implement policies that will improve everyone’s lives and help stabilise the economy without the need for austerity.
Like most elections, this in 2015 is dominated again by arguments over the economy. No one can deny the importance of economic policy, but in a General Election that will vote in a Government for 5 years, we should be asking other, more profound questions. We should ask about priorities and about what sort of society our politicians are wanting to create with the power we will give them.
The Conservative Party is focused on money, it wants a society in which those who have it can keep as much of it as possible and do with it as they please. Labour seems now to be content with simply shadowing the Tories, accepting their economic strategy and hoping to be able to put a bit more of a human face on to it. Their real focus is power – vision has deserted them.
By comparison the Green manifesto sets out a clear vision of what we can build through our policies:
• a human scale economy that works for people and doesn’t damage our planet
• public services that deliver what people need
• a society that cares for the future of the young and the welfare of the vulnerable
• a more equal society that accepts diversity and offers opportunity regardless of background, governed honestly by elected representatives dedicated to the common good.
None of this is wishful thinking, neither is any of it unaffordable. What is wishful thinking is the idea that we can go on trying to solve through ‘growth’ the endlessly recurring crises that the economic strategies of the post war period have created. Perpetual growth in the economy is not possible; forever increasing the rate of consumption of natural resources is not possible, any economic strategy based on either or both will fail. Chancellors may engineer a temporary upturn of the indexes that they control in order to win an election, but in the long term the “growth and consume” economic plan dooms us all to failure.
The Green manifesto catalogues the failure of successive governments to which our present leaders seem to be blind. More than one in four children growing up in poverty, nearly one million people reliant on food banks, growing levels of inequality that sees the wealth of the richest 1% greater than the poorest 55% of fellow citizens, and the spiralling growth of debt that will see more that 2 million households paying half of their disposable income paying off loans by 2018.
For many, these grim realities do not add up to the success story that the Coalition Government is trying to claim in its bid to hold on to power. They spell out failure, and what the other manifestos are offering is very slightly different versions of this failure. More cuts, more austerity for the majority of voters, more tax cuts for the affluent supporters of the status quo, more privatisation that will lead to us paying private providers more for poorer services. Just more wishful thinking.
We are at a critical time and the outcome of this and the next election will shape our future – although you would barely know this from the trivia that is gushing out from the mouths of our so called ‘leaders’. Climate change is gathering pace. We need a clear action programme to be agreed in Paris at the end of the year otherwise global temperatures will overshoot 2 degrees centigrade. The cost of the damage will break all but the strongest economies – and the British economy is not one of the strongest.
Democracy is under threat by a corporate takeover of Government policy-making. This is demonstrated in the secret Trans-Atlantic Trade negotiations, TTIP, that will strip Governments of the ability to enact laws to protect public health or our shared environment lest they threaten corporate profits and bonuses. Inequality is stoking tensions in society that can only lead to a rise in crime, in fear and a decline in general well-being and health. The capacity of our natural environment to provide the food and clean water that we all need to survive is being eroded by increasing unregulated development and pollution.
These issues are ignored by politicians and commentators alike, they are too big for them to comprehend. But they are not ignored by the Green manifesto. Here, we set out a route that will steer us away from the dangers inherent in ‘business as usual’. We show how it is possible to build a sustainable society in which each individual can build a life of purpose, within the natural limits of the one planet that we have to live on. Our aim in this election is to campaign on this manifesto, to maximise our vote and so demonstrate that there is a serious and growing level of support for our policies; policies that work for the Common Good.
Mike Shipley April 2015
Mike is standing as Green Party candidate in the Local Elections for Sett Ward on High Peak Borough Council