Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Two paradoxes around Green Party policy

Here is a paradox:
The Green Party has too many policies, and has just got badly beaten up for it. UKIP has next to no policies, and is getting away with it.

Here is another paradox:
Green policies are trashed when delivered by a big TV personality, but valued above all other parties by people when presented in a neutral way.

On Sunday, Andrew Neil tore into Green leader Natalie Bennett in a hectoring interruption-rich interview, lambasting her with a few choice tid-bits selected from the Green Party's uniquely extensive, Conference-created oeuvre, Policies for a Sustainable Society. He successfully created the impression that Citizen's Income is impossibly expensive, (which it is not) that the Green Party supports terrorism (which it does not), and that to reduce the size of our arms industry would leave Britain open to invasion by the French. (Or someone. I made up the bit about the French, but hey, who is Andrew Neil to expect fair treatment?)

On the other hand, when key green policies are presented to people in an unemotional way, on a level with policies in the same area from other parties, Green Policies consistently come out on top.

VoteForPolicies* is a poll that has now reached half a million netizens. Policies from all parties are presented in short form, side by side, but anonymised so that you do not know which party they belong to.

It shows that the biggest section of voters prefer the Green Party option in nearly all policy areas - crime, and immigration as well as environment - except electoral reform, where the LibDems are in front.

In short, when green policies are presented neutrally and factually, they are appreciated.
when green policies are presented by mega-presenters, they are rubbished.

How can this be?

Green Policy is created democratically, by Party members who work papers up that are presented and voted on at Conference. Over the decades, this has produced a massive stack of detailed policies that used to be called the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society. The name was changed to Policies for a Sustainable Society (PfSS), to try to avoid confusion with much shorter manifestos that we write for elections. Clearly this maneuver did not succeed.

Being human created, and not a revelation by a god of any kind, the PfSS is not infallible. There are errors, some policies are outdated, they are to my taste too wordy, and there are probably contradictions. But they are interesting, and I know more than one person who has joined the party immediately on reading the PfSS.

It takes up to 2 years for a policy paper to be written, through an Enabling Motion, via Draft voting papers to the actual Voting Paper. Some are enormously long, and often, if someone disagrees, they can be festooned with amendments.

Here is a weakness: It is possible for a person to join the party, propose a motion in his or her local party, form a Working group, push the paper through (shrill rhetoric often works well) and then, having laid his or her egg, can leave the party. This is not a good arrangement. Maybe when someone leaves the party, their policy leavings should be automatically reviewed.

So there we have it - a bit of background to Green Party policies.

In conclusion: democracy and democratic procedures can be cumbersome and awkward. The Green Party's policy making procedures could do with a review. Paradoxes can arise if you are trying to present new political ideas in a conservative political environment.

* is not working at the time of writing (28.1.15). Let me know if it continues not to work.

1 comment:

mumasu said...

Before Christmas I heard Braintree's candidate being interviewed by Essex radio. The interviewer was fairish to him which made a change and actually made it better to listen to as you could actually hear his uninterupted answers.

The candidate (cant remember his name I was driving) said they wanted to save money by scrapping Trident, I turned up the radio, when quizzed he pointed out that over the past decade the wars we have been involved in (although he thought we shouldn't have been) had been in the middle of a dessert and it was of no use in that situation. I was quite impressed by this as he only had 20 minutes for the whole interview and obviously didn't want to get hung up on the nuclear issue so side stepped it neatly with clever reasoning meaning he could justify scrapping it saving billions of pounds with which to fund they other things he was talking about. I was impressed.