I’ve been thinking about this for some time but my thoughts have brought to a head whilst listening to the semi-coherent ramblings of Sian Berry this morning on the Today programme. Sian is, apparently, the co-leader of the Green Party which surprised me because like everyone else I meet I thought it was Caroline Lucas their one MP.
Ms Berry seemed totally incapable of answering the presenter’s questions. I don’t know whether she didn’t understand the questions, couldn’t answer them or just bludgeoned through the questions to get ‘her message’ over. One thing that she could not be swayed from was her belief that the Lib Dems are bad because of the things that we had to do in coalition. Repeatedly she failed to answer incisive questions about the cause and effects of ‘austerity’. As this was her one point you would think that she would at least have armed herself with some facts!
So, she made clear that she doesn’t think that the Green Party could form some sort of ‘progressive alliance’ for elections for Parliament when they come up. I think that she is quite right. At present I don’t think the Lib Dems should be in any sort of alliance with the Green Party. It is important that the Lib Dems lay out their lines on this because lots of people believe that because we are in agreement that we need to stay in the EU and we both place a huge importance to the issue of climate change then we are very similar to each other. But in fact, those might be the only two areas of agreement. It was fine within the context of Brexit and the EU election to suggest that there could be joint working. That is a very immediate and urgent issue.
However, as we look to the longer term, we can see that much of what they would like to do in Europe is not necessarily what we would like to do. When we look at how they would tackle climate change we see an incoherent approach which would not deliver the attitudinal change that is required to get the mass of people ecologically concerned. Instead, much like Labour’s magic Granddad their views are proscriptive and set within economic policies which would leave us looking like Venezuela.
The Green Party has some representation in Liverpool and they occasionally put forward motions to the Council which are always on environmental issues. Of course, the environmental issues are hugely important but they are not the only issues which a cash-strapped council is facing. I cannot recall motions about education or social care or many of the things that the council has to do on a daily basis.
Usually the Lib Dems vote against the Green motions or amendments and we do so for two reasons:
- We haven’t got a clue what they mean because they don’t seem to understand them either. If I want to vote for something, I want to know what can happen as a result of it; how we deliver it and have we got the money to do it: or
- They are mere flag-wavers. Motions put forward just to draw attention to an environmental issue.
The latter is not necessarily a bad thing. We will from time to time put forward motions to draw attention to issues which cannot be solved by the Council but which are of legitimate public concern to people within the City and on which we should lobby. Our rule as a Party in Liverpool though is do not ask other organisations to do something without saying what we as a Council are prepared to do.
This can best be seen in a motion that they have tried to introduce into the Council system calling for the Council to declare a ‘climate change emergency’. I have no problem with that and I hope that we will do it on July 17th. Their motion however committed the Council to nothing but talk and declarations. Liverpool still has a gross budget approaching £1 billion. We have staff; we run big services we have influence within the City Region and can influence on a wider stage through our membership of the Local Government Association.
So, we are not then, primarily a lobbying organisation. We can actually do things which can directly involve the 470,000+ people who live in the City; the people who visit it and the people from outside who work action. I believe that we should only declare a ‘climate change emergency’ when we can show what we are prepared to do about the serious problems that are being and will be caused to people in our City by the emergency.
So, could we or should we work with the Green Party? My answer is yes but only on the policies and strategies where there is agreement between our policies and principles are those of the Green Party. The Greens are not a centre Party. Their economic policies are on the extreme left and their methods of achieving change through protest and meetings are very similar to the those of the cult elements within the Labour Party.
Two years ago, my colleague Kris Brown and I met with two leading members of the Green Party and looked at where we could work together in an electoral context or within the Council. We put forward some suggestions and never heard from them again.
The problem of dealing with the Greens is that they have never really run anything. Their one Council control in Brighton and Hove was disastrous failing to meet few, if any, of its environmental or other targets. To put their ‘surge’ into context Lib Dems defended more council seats on May 2nd than the Green Party have in total in England collected through the four year political cycle. Most of their groups are small and one issue. They have to take no responsibility for anything so they can moan about everything!
Just as we should work with the Greens on some issues; we can and should work with some Labour members on some issues; we can and should work with some members of the Tory Party on some issues. At the end of the day we must be prepared to cross Party boundaries to ensure majorities within councils and within the Country for purposeful progressive policies. If we are to do that, however, we must be aware of the political differences between us every bit as must as the political agreements.