Friday, 5 September 2014
The Greens Stake Their Claim To The Left
The Green Party has begun their autumn conference in Birmingham today, a conference they see as key in their effort to crack the UK political scene once and for all. The party, despite being chronically under represented in the media, is seeking to do this with a bid to claim the progressive left of British politics as their own.
Last night, ahead of the conference, party leader Natalie Bennett was interviewed on LBC, where she reiterated that the Green Party would introduce a wealth tax in order to stem the rising inequality that has gained significant political credence through the work of Thomas Piketty and others. This policy is a part of the party’s effort to broaden the prospect of a ‘green economy’ not only meaning an environmentally sound one, but also one that is fairer and works better for ‘the common good’.
This focus on the damages of high wealth over high income is backed up by concerns about low wages. In a somewhat polemic piece on the New Statesman this morning, Natalie Bennett said that the Greens were committed to raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020, going further than their current commitment to the living wage with a long term goal. The party has been pushing the idea of the citizen’s income for a while, the idea that citizenship guarantees a standard of living, protecting people against the often harsh realities of the wider economy. Through their sustained support for higher wages, the Greens are putting firm policy emphasis on inequality.
Inequality has certainly reached a political mass, not only with Thomas Piketty’s book this year but also with The Spirit Level, The Price Of Inequality and even Mark Carney talking of the virtues of an ‘inclusive capitalism’ with an emphasis on reduced inequality. This has created a reinvigoration of the left’s focus upon inequality, with many calling for action; the Greens are building upon this and other feelings of disaffection with leftist politics in the UK in order to position themselves on the progressive spectrum. In fact, politics.co.uk today asked whether the Greens are ‘the only left-wing party left in Britain’, something that no doubt the party are happy about.
The Greens have long celebrated the fact that they score very well on blind policy tests and are equally happy to point out that their policies of tackling low wages and renationalising the railway are incredibly popular with the public. Alongside their locally popular, grassroots campaign against fracking it demonstrates the party’s goal of being responsive to the public and representing the model of the kind of democracy that they want to instil. Being popular without resorting to populism shows that the party is serious about electoral politics and the left’s future within it.
Perhaps the key message that Natalie Bennett and her party want to push this weekend is the fact that the Greens are not a single issue movement, and that voting for them is not a frivolous protest vote. By presenting a broad platform of common sense, thought out and costed ideas, the party is showing that idealism is not political suicide. When you consider that the party is currently polling neck and neck with the Lib Dems, the UK’s official ‘third party’, you realise, that despite the lack of column inches devoted to them, they are serious force in UK politics.
First published at Shifting Grounds