Archive for the 'Green Party' Category

Green Party, society, travel, USA

Canada… versus the USA

ottawa's war memorial

Ottawa's war memorial

I’ve spent less than a week in Canada, to my sadness.

After a day, the differences between here and the US were tangible. After nearly a week, the differences are overwhelming.

As a young English guy from Guildford told me at a bar in Toronto, Canada has all the advantages of the US (which for him were late licenses and plentiful weed) with none of the drawbacks. To drugs and alcohol I might also add: liveable human-scale cities, cosmopolitan cultures, a national respect for linguistic and ethnic diversity, a relaxed and positive sense of national identity, decent public transport, a progressive political system that publicly funds political parties and outlaws all corporate donations, a largely non-psychopathic government, great outdoors (although so far I’ve seen a lot of low-grade grassland (it’s not prairie – that was killed that long ago)), plenty of space and natural resources (a mixed blessing), good comedians (apparently) and surprisingly good beer.

In Ottawa and Toronto (although not Montreal) I saw a very low level of homelessness. In fact I saw almost nothing but healthy happy people, in good houses, with a very nice quality of life.

Frankly, its surprising any Americans still live in the US.

Did I mention, Canada also has universal health care?

Canada’s health care bill argument had some of the same elements of people crying “communist” as we’ve just seen in the US; but that debate was concluded 50 years ago, and unlike the US, not only did the best side win, but it achieved a genuinely-progressive result: single-payer healthcare, similar to Britain’s National Health Service.

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Green Party, politics, USA

The Green Party in the US

Recently I was lucky enough to attend and speak at a State Committee meeting for the New York state Green Party. The gathering was a managable size and well-defined, with delegates having been elected from various areas, some holding proxies for absent colleagues; it shared similarities with – I imagine – Green Party meetings around the globe: a chair valiantly maintaining order against some members’ tendencies to talk too much, an imposingly long agenda and a tasty shared lunch.

I was impressed however by the members’ attempts to keep a sense of discipline in the face of what is a state-imposed uphill struggle: they’re not even on the ballot paper.

To get on the ballot paper in the UK in a general election it costs £500 to stand in each seat (which is returned by winning 5% of the vote or more) and the European Elections require a £5000 deposit for each regional constituency (which is returned by winning 2.5% of the vote or more). In most constituencies in the UK Greens find it fairly difficult to win 5% in the first-past-the-post General Election, but easy to win more than 2.5% in the pseudo-proportional regional European Elections.

For all the strategy and political debates the US Greens might want to have, they acknowledge that this one thing comes before all that: they need to get on the ballot paper, and no amount of ideology, or money for that matter, can get them there. In NY state, they need to first collect 15 000 valid signatures from registered voters to appear on the ballot paper for the governor race. And doing this opens up the other races for them. In order to get 15 000 valid signatures they will collect 30 000: so, a big job ahead of them in the next few months. If they then go on to win over 50 000 votes in the gubernatorial race, they win “ballot status” which means they don’t have to collect the 15 000 signatures the next time, and energies can go into campaigning, not meeting the starting requirements. Needless to say this is not something that the Republican or Democratic parties have to worry about, and it represents a large step between the bottom and first rungs of the ladder for new parties hoping to chip away at the two-party duopoly.

One of the things that shocked me most is the desperate underdevelopment of any national or federal party: state parties seem fairly self-contained, and if anything members regard “national” activity – when it happens – as interfering with state autonomy. Of course this is arguably a “green” attitude and, dare I say, an American attitude. But when I learned that the national party has literally a handful of staff members, that there is no nationally-used Green Party “brand”, no logo, no strapline, no message, and no national figurehead or even mandated public figures, my reaction was one of horror.

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Green Party

Standing for chair of the Green Party executive

So, exciting times; I am standing for chair of the Green Party’s national Executive. Having seen the rest of the field I don’t expect I’ll win – not least because I am off on a (British) holiday in a couple of days… hurray…!  But the main rationale behind my standing is to draw to people’s attention the unfortunate staff losses the Green Party office has suffered this year, through, I believe, poor leadership from the Executive. I am hoping Green Party members will engage more with the process of electing Executive members, and watching what they get up to once elected, as I do not believe the Executive has enough scrutiny given to it. I also believe the general consensus on the Executive this year has been that communicating their actions and behaviour to the members has been a long way down the priority list, and I am not the first Green Party blogger to have mentioned this. The contest will be decided by postal ballot of the Green Party’s 9000-odd members. The new chair will be elected some time in September.

Here is my candidate statement:

“I am standing for the Green Party Executive in a long tradition of independent protest-vote candidates standing to raise a particularly important issue into prominence.

If elected as Chair my single issue would be to protect, nurture and grow the staff complement of the organisation, and to protect staff members from interference – political, practical and emotional – by Executive members. I have stood for the role of Chair because the Chair has direct responsibility for line-managing the party’s paid Chief Executive/Head of Office, and is therefore the point of contact between the paid staff and the Executive. It is vital that whoever is elected Chair prioritises having an empowered, sustainable workforce.

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anti-racism, BNP, EuropeanElections2009, Green Party, politics

How close were we to a Green landslide?

(the answer is…. about 1% away)

This month’s European election was not a disaster for the Greens, but equally the party’s intentions of moving forward were dashed. With opinion polls hitting 9%, 10%, even 14 and 15 per cent nationwide for the Greens, it seemed at one point that there might even be the chance of a Green landslide – echoing the momentous Green vote of 15 per cent in the European elections in 1989. This could have seen Green MEPs for the South West and Yorkshire at least, as well as the target seats of North West and Eastern and the existing seats of London and the South East. Depending on the extent of the landslide, indeed any other region, including Scotland, could have had a Green MEP representing it – one for each region. There might even have been 2 Green MEPs to represent the South East.

But in the event, the Greens did not manage to gain their further two target seats of North West and Eastern.

Of course, the consequences for the Greens are not limited to the ambitions of the party; their agenda will also now remain less prominent for another 5 years.

Greens have already had to suffer dismissive articles such as Leo Hickman’s on The Guardian’s Comment Is Free “The grass wasn’t Greener: The European elections showed that, sadly, the Greens will always remain at best a tokenistic minority in party politics” .

Although hostile in tone, Hickman claims “I would love to see a Green MP – we might realistically get one in the form of Caroline Lucas in Brighton and Hove come the next general election – but I still struggle to see how this will come to be seen as anything more than a tokenistic presence at Westminster. We just don’t have the luxury of time for these small, incremental steps forward”.

And indeed – given the timetable of global climate change and the loss of natural resources and habitats – a Green landslide, of some extent, would have been very timely indeed.

But just how achievable was it? And did the Greens miss it by a whisker, or a mile?
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BBC, BNP, EuropeanElections2009, Green Party, politics

Greens’ loss is the BNP’s gain

With the election to the European Parliament of BNP leader and convicted racist Nick Griffin, British politics has entered a subtly different era. We were hoping that the storm over expenses would lead to a higher vote for smaller parties: well it did, with UKIP gaining 2nd place nationally, and the Green Party’s vote up by 44% nationally. However, Britain still only has the two Green MEPs it has had for the last 10 years and the one place where this is a tragedy more than anywhere is in the North West, the new European seat of Nick Griffin, where the Green Party needed only 0.3% more of the vote to overtake him and to occupy the seat instead. Even on the night of the count, as the ballot results rolled in from around the region it looked like the Greens were ahead time and time again… 13.6% in Manchester, ahead of the Conservatives in Manchester and Liverpool, ahead of the LibDems and on 14% in their stronghold of Lancaster. But when the Returning Officer took the agents and candidates aside and revealed the final seat allocations, the Greens still needed an extra 0.3% of the vote to overtake the BNP, and the seat went to Britain’s leading fascist Nick Griffin, instead of the Green, Peter Cranie, a former social worker and a life-long anti-racist campaigner.

This is – ironically – exactly what the Greens predicted and feared happening. Continue Reading »