May 25, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith
I loved the Green Party’s 2015 manifesto. It was a comprehensive and well thought-through vision of a cleaner and nicer future for the country, covering 84 pages of detailed, rigorously explained and honestly costed policies. The 2017 manifesto? Well, it seems that this is what happens when an election catches by surprise a political party determined to run in a highly participative and democratic manner. This one is 26 pages. The explanations are thinner, the policies don’t hang together as much, and so the document fails to present a coherent vision of what the Green Party want to create.
Its aim is to present a ‘confident and caring’ Britain where citizens work together to achieve common goals and where Government prioritises the rights of citizens and the environment over the wants of corporations. It showcases the Greens’ political positioning as a party very much of the left, but struggles, at a time when Labour are also positioned there, to separate itself and give someone a reason to vote Green instead.
It apes a lot of the Labour manifesto, too, with scrapping of university tuition fees, rolling back privatisation of the NHS, renationalisation of water, railways, the Royal Mail, and care work, lowering the age of 16 and commitments to raise corporation tax.
It then adds a proper attempt to tax the wealth of the top 1% of earners (problem – some of them have little wealth as they are young, and some lower earners have huge wealth as they are older or inherited a lot). They want to phase in a four day working week (consistent with the 2015 manifesto, to try to improve quality of life), they want to cancel the Trident replacement (which Jeremy Corbyn wants to do but can’t put in a Labour manifesto at the moment), and they want to introduce proportional representation for the General and local elections (which would benefit them greatly).
Unlike Labour, they have a definite position on Brexit, which is that they want to force any agreement to a referendum in which remaining in the EU is on the ballot. They want to protect freedom of movement and the UK’s position in the single market if that can’t be done. As I have said before, this amounts to no negotiation position, as the EU would simply offer a bad deal if a referendum like the one the Greens (and the Lib Dems) are presenting were on the table.
Anyhow, in this election, with its special circumstances, it is difficult to predict how many will vote Green. In 2015 they offered a genuine left-wing platform once Ed Miliband had been scared off offering one. That is not the case here. In 2015 climate change was on the agenda a lot more than now. The Lib Dems have agreed to step down in Brighton Pavillion, which should protect Caroline Lucas’s seat. Oddly, co-Leader Jonathan Bartley is not standing in any seat.
Ultimately, and rather sadly, it is almost as if the Greens are giving this one a miss. A shame, as their vision for this country continues to be highly uplifting.