The Politics Of Debate: How And How Not To Criticise The Green Party

Andrew Dennis:

I address this article mainly to members of my beloved Labour party. The Labour party is, in my mind, the best option of all the political parties. As Martin Freeman points out, the party has the best principles; the policies of the party are the most sensible and the party, on the assumption of an unlikely majority, can achieve their policies and ideals in a practical sense. Unfortunately the average voter is not an Andrew Dennis clone, as much as I would love that when I am door knocking. As a result only 36% or so will vote labour across the UK whilst the remaining 64% will vote for other parties. This election has seen a rise in votes for smaller parties and one of these small parties are the Green party.
Whilst the Labour party is fighting right wing parties such as the Tories and UKIP in the way I would like to see the party fight, some members of my party fail at effectively criticising the Greens and this has compelled me to write this piece which aims to tell all political parties two things: How to criticise a rival party, and how not to criticise a rival party. I will be using a specific example on how a Labour party member should (and shouldn’t) criticise the Greens but my advice should be taken by all political parties. Take my advice and we could see a return to intelligent debate in our political system and a return to the electorate placing trust into out political system. Who knows, once that trust is restored maybe we will get high turnouts in elections again and the threat of separatists tearing our country apart will reduce. My advice can only benefit the country.

Firstly, I would like to point out how not to criticise the Greens. There is one member of the Labour party I personally know who likes getting into debates on Facebook. There have been at least three occasions where the Green party has cropped up and each time this member has given the same line: If you vote green, you might as well vote conservative and be honest with what you are doing.

I don’t really know what the party line is on the Green party. To be very honest, I don’t personally follow the party line too much (especially on immigration, but that is another matter). The one thing I can certainly say is that this line does not work for several reasons. For a start, it is simply false that voting Green is a way of supporting the Tories. The Greens have very different principles to the Conservatives such that it is ridiculous to portray Green supporters as hidden warriors for the political right. It also assumes that people are voting Green to reject conservatism. This is also completely false. People vote for a party usually because they like what they are saying. If you do not want them to vote for a particular party you must convince them that they should not like what the party is saying. This argument is also lazy, obnoxious and akin to bullying. Lazy because you fail to tackle any issues that the voter is concerned about. Obnoxious because you make yourself look like a power hungry monster who simply wants support for your own reasons. Akin to bullying because it is like that kid in school who is a twit but is still very popular. When a newbie comes into the school the popular kid jumps on him instantly and tells him not to talk to another child, a child who is bullied in the school, because that child simply ‘is not popular’.

The argument that voting Green is voting Blue and you should vote Red because only Red can beat Blue is unconvincing then. Saying people should vote Labour over Green because Labour is more popular is can be analogous to football. Let’s say that at the world cup, the organiser says this: “Brazil is far more popular than any other team, especially Germany, so we will give them the world cup without playing any matches!” This, as you know, is stupid. The popularity of the team is in no way a factor that should be considered when giving out silverware. The only factor is how the teams perform against each other and who plays the game the best. As we know, when Brazil was pitched against Germany in 2014, Germany won 7-1. In this case I am arguing that Labour is the best so I will now use a rugby analogy because everyone knows rugby is better than football. New Zealand is the most popular international rugby team in the world. No rugby fan has a bad word to say about them. However, they must show they are the best by showing their style of rugby is such that they are better than the South Africas, the English, the Walesh and the Australias. The Labour Party is New Zealand. We are the best party but not because we are the most popular, but because when we are compared to the likes of the Tories, the Greens and the Lib Dems, we are the party with the best style.

Ed and Nat

In short, when criticising another party there are 3 “P’s” that you should focus on: Policy, Principles and Practicalities. Policy and practicalities are closely entwined whilst principles are what I define as what the party was founded to do, and how close is that party to its original principles. You can guess that now I will argue that in all of these P’s I am going to say that there is at least one thing in which the Green party fails and that this is how any Labour Party member should attack the Greens. We live in a time such that every vote is important and the Labour Party cannot afford to lose a vote on the basis of lazy arguments. All readers should take note.

Policy is a matter where, on the face of it, one might agree. The Greens have pursued a very progressive stance in recent years. The main criticisms of Green policies centre on the practicalities of the policies and I will talk about these later. There is, however, one Green policy that disgusts me, especially as a unionist. That policy is their bizarre desire to split apart the United Kingdom, to erect borders between our friends, families and neighbours and to encourage us to be more divided in an increasingly global world. We have seen Natalie Bennett, unashamedly posing with the leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru. She claims this is a ‘progressive alliance’ but in reality this is a way of fragmenting our nation. During the referendum the Scottish referendum we saw the Greens backing the Yes campaign with a claim that an economy centred on the oil industry will be the Greenest country in the world! Could a Green party member tell me, what on earth is ‘progressive’ about splitting apart a 300 year old union? What is good about rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall and separating Scots from any family members they have south of the border? How does this view reconcile with wanting more integration with Europe? The answers are there is nothing progressive about fragmenting the UK, there is nothing good about rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall and you can not ignore a blazing contradiction in wanting a stronger EU but not a united UK. Every committed socialist who has read Marx will know how the left should embrace Unionism. I know that I, the son of two nurses brought up in a mining village in Wales, have more in common with a working class Geordie lad than I do with that bloke who lives one street down the hill from me who lives in a mansion and owns a trucking company. Only when Britain and its people are united can we achieve a progressive future. Divided we will fall. The Labour Party is for the UK, it is for the EU and will not see this country split apart. This is a Green policy which I find sickening and if you want a UK, I fully suggest you do not put an ‘X’ next to your Green party candidate.

Green-Yes-logo

The Greens’ problems on practically implementing their policies are well documented. Let’s just assume that the Greens won a majority and gained the mandate to implement their manifesto. No more austerity, 300,000 houses or how ever many they say they can build, a constitutional convention consisting of everyday people, an all out war on big corporations which will be replaced by small businesses, Putin is given some appeasement, the army is abolished because we don’t need it and her Majesty lives in a new council house in Pickering. This all sounds ideal and lovely. However, we don’t live in an ideal world. It would be nice if we could give Putin control of Latvia and he would leave us alone, but he won’t. Remember what happened with Adolf Hitler? Placing the queen in a council house is bizarre but if you do think she should go and live in Pickering, remember that there could be some tourist revenue loss at Buckingham palace if people know they won’t see the queen. Natalie Bennett has already been lampooned on her housing pledge and the fact that her manifesto shows that she will not raise the money to do this. Abolishing the Army is ridiculous. They may have done it in Costa Rica but the UK is a G7 country that is under threat from Al-Qaida amongst others. Not to mention that the Army plays an undervalued role in keeping the peace in various world conflicts. In terms of the practicalities of abolishing the army, what will you do with all the personnel who now do not have a job? What will happen to all the equipment? What about the opportunities the Army gives to young people to learn a trade? It would appear that the Green party would reduce the opportunities of future generations with this policy and create a new wave of unemployment and economic embarrassment. You campaign against austerity, but there is only so much you can do without withdrawing some government spending. In the Labour party we criticise the current government for their cuts but what we say is that they are cutting the wrong areas and are failing to encourage investment. Hence we offer a realistic economic policy, a mixture between austerity and stimulus that will bring the best recovery for everyone. The Greens offer nothing but an unrealistic and idealistic economic policy that cannot work in the real world. Their constitutional convention idea is silly. I recall Bennett saying something like this when she visited the University of York. Surely it is better for experts to decide the future structure of government, not random people who may not have the knowledge? In a completely non-Labour standpoint, I ask people to read Plato’s critique of democracy then tell me it is a good idea for the average person to directly decide the future of the country. It is a lovely idea but practically, it will not work. As for replacing all big corporations with small businesses, again it is a nice thought but there would be a transition period where supplies would end up short and we would experience massive damage to the economy. In short, Green policies are simply not adequate, practical solutions for modern Britain’s problems. Labour does offer practical solutions and ask any Labour member about them. They will explain.

Finally, I will discuss the principles of the Green party. Originally they were the Ecologist Party; the Greens were founded on the basis of protecting the Environment and bringing a future where humans could live sustainably. As a man who has studied sustainable development in his Geography A-Level and as the winner of the World Skills 2013 Environmental Science Gold Medal, this is an issue that would attract me to a political party. So why did I sign up to the Labour Party? The reason is because I question how genuine the modern Greens are on the principle of the environment and sustainable development. I recall in a New Statesman article that when the Greens recently unveiled their key issues for the 2015 election, the environment was second from last. This strikes me as odd for a party that has spent the last 20 years or so campaigning on the environment. The Greens today are targeting a socialist agenda which I think is not genuine. I personally believe that the Green party has jumped onto a band-wagon of anti-establishment politics to simply build on their one seat in parliament and one day get power. It’s a bit like the Liberals in 2010, as soon as they got into power; they abandoned many of their key pledges. Can we trust the Greens? By my gut instinct and their marginalisation of their founding principle at this general election, I’m going to say no. The Greens in power will result in greater disappointment for everyone, and that cannot be good. The Labour Government from 1997-2010 has been accused of abandoning the party’s principles but this is false. We were founded on the basis of protecting the worse off in society and we did. We introduced the minimum wage to protect the poor, we got rid of homophobic legislation and introduced civil-partnerships, and we increased spending on the NHS and achieved set targets which were higher than the current targets for waiting times. When we bailed out the banks in 2007/08 it was not to protect the bankers but to stop the everyday person losing all his/her money that was deposited. If you are concerned about the environment, you should not look further than Labour. The world’s first ever climate change act was passed by the Brown government in 2008 and it was drafted by the Climate Change secretary at the time, a certain Ed Miliband.

To conclude, it is wrong to tell people not to vote Green because only Labour can win or for any party to say something similar. That argument does no-one any favours. The only way to attack any political party is on three things: their principles, policy and practicalities. Since practicalities can be merged with policies, that really just makes two things. So next time a Conservative wants to attack the Labour party, don’t say ‘Ed Miliband looks funny’, and say that you think our policies are not practical. Next time you attack the Lib Dems, say they betrayed their principles rather than they cannot win or that Nick Clegg is a (Insert expletive here). By scrutinising each other’s policies, we bring a more informed debate and encourage the people to vote for the party that can genuinely bring Britain forward into the future. Perhaps we could even bring about more trust if we stop arguing lazily.

On a side-note, if you feel that you have been personally referred to in this article, do not take anything personally and think about what I argue in this article. As for the Green party, you are merely an example in this piece and when I share this on Facebook, please talk to me in person. I really dislike Facebook debates.

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