The British General Election 2015 III: The Greens

1.      Home Affairs

a. Taxes and Economy: the flagship statement is that Greens want “the current dependence on economic growth to cease, and allow zero or negative growth to be feasible without individual hardship”. Commit Britain to a “zero carbon” future. People earning more than £100,000 a year would pay 50% income tax. Wealth tax of 1% to 2% on people worth £3m or more. Enforce a cap on bankers’ bonuses. “Citizen’s Income”: a fixed amount to be paid to every individual, whether they are in work or not, to be funded by higher taxes on the better off and green levies. But in the short-term it would increase the minimum wage to £10 by 2020. Ban zero hours contracts. Axe the “bedroom tax”. Abolish the work capability assessment and restore the level of the former disability living allowance. Scrap the government’s welfare cap, which limits the maximum amount a household can claim annually to £26,000 a year. In respect to companies, councils would be allowed to impose extra business rates on out-of-town supermarkets to fund small local businesses as well as cracking down on tax avoidance by multinationals.

The fact that the Greens focus on such a revolutionary principle (allow a zero growth facility to function) coupled with the general public’s scepticism that the party is a serious alternative will do much to rein in the potential growth. By contrast to UKIP (which inputs very little to the economic discourse) the Greens try to engage along the entirety of the political spectrum. Whilst this is commendable, it requires a serious policy. Zero growth is an alien concept to most Western economies and it is argued that the rest of their policies will be submerged in this. This is regrettable, considering that their stance on bedroom tax, capability assessment and limits to household benefit claims strike an interesting balance between Labour and Tory policy.

b. The NHS: Prevent privatisation, and secure greater funding by sectioning the tax which supports the NHS, apart from the general tax payable per year.

It is not surprising that the Green have raised concerns of privatisation. An issue which engages many from the left, the privatisation has been pitched both as a necessity in the economic climate of today (by the Tories), and as a dismantling of the welfare system (Labour).

c. Jobs: Focus is on creating jobs by creating multiple sustainable projects (implying that sustainable jobs will be created).

Appealing to sustainable jobs is a smart move; it is a snappier sounding proposition than the Tory pitch of apprenticeships and certainly more realistic than Labour’s promise to guarantee a job to everyone under 25 who has been unemployed for a year (considering there are roughly 10,981,000 12 – 25 year olds in the UK). However, there is no indication of how they will be paid for. The Tories are at least upfront regarding the cutting of benefits to pay for the apprenticeships. This is a missed opportunity to show a serious, professional, plan.

d. Education: They want to end performance-related pay. For younger children they want to change the scheme of assessment. For older students they want to give 16 and 17-year-olds suffrage. They also want to scrap university tuition fees.

Scraping university fees is part of the problem just outlined. Fees form an important (if not fundamental) part of a university’s income. It is particularly important to continue to fund universities so that they can continue to fund education and the kind of research that is required to keep a country competitive. The fact, therefore, that they have proposed this without suggesting an alternative source of income shows the immaturity of the party. On a personal level, I am deeply unconvinced that moving away from performance-related pay is a smart move.

e. Law and order: Relaxing the law’s stance on drugs and Ensure terror suspects have the same legal rights as those accused of more conventional criminal activities.

This position has been supported since, by certain celebrities – notably on the back of the success that similar campaigns have had in America. Richard Branson and Nick Clegg have adopted a similar stance with regards to the legalising of drugs. Nevertheless, this is undoubtedly likely to have a negative impact on the attraction for older voters.

2.      Foreign Affairs

a. Immigration: to widen access for immigrants; and to permit those who enter illegally to stay if they have been in the UK for longer than 5 years.

b. EU: they accept the need to have a referendum. Most controversially, they want to take the UK out of NATO unilaterally as well as ending the so-called “special relationship” between the UK and the US (e.g. stop TTIP).

Viewed as a whole, the proposals for foreign affairs strikes a dissonant chord. Whilst closing down on other-than-EU relations could broadly be argued to suggest a focus on localism in international relations. Yet it seems difficult to suggest seriously, considering that one of the major arguments for the EU is the fact that it provides an international platform to interact with a greater range of countries.

To summarise, though the Greens’ proportion of the vote is steadily increasing it is unlikely to be enough. The Economist has argued that the current disillusionment with the Liberal Democrats, has forced many ‘protest’ voters to turn to the Greens. This certainly sounds correct. Moreover, it should be seriously accepted that the Greens will nurture a generation of voters – who will move with them through their lives. However, as has been pointed out in several places the Greens simply do not have the machineary of the other parties and this is likely to prove fatal to any attempt to create a critical mass of voters, especially in the older age-ranges. A longer-term manifesto, backed with clear facts should be their priority.

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