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Misconceiving the Green Party

Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, addresses the party's conference
Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, addresses the party's conference • Photograph: The Green Party of England and Wales

It is a horrible misconception of the Green Party to take their name literally and assume that they are a single-issue party – that is to say that their policies are always, at the very least, tenuously linked to environmental policies.

However, this is not the case. There’s no denying that the environment is at the core of a lot of Green policies but, despite this, the Greens have a vast manifesto full of policies on education, crime and personal economy. And, unlike other smaller political parties such as UKIP, their policy focus is not one that can easily be solved in one policy change. The Green Party is essentially a left-leaning party with Socialist ideals; hence, similar to the Labour party before it abandoned its roots and repositioned itself under Blair’s New Labour. It’ll be impossible to talk through all of their manifesto points in 600 words, but we can at least look at some of their biggest policy areas.

The basic Green Party policy page alone outlines their attitudes towards the banking system, health and the jobs. The Green Party offer support for policies that attempt to make society a more equal arena, for example, a “living wage” as a new minimum wage which they predict would be around £8.10 an hour. One specific section on young people states “we think it’s unfair that young people are demonised for hanging around on our streets” and then goes on to promise more spending on youth services and free travel on off-peak buses for those under 18 or in full time education. Furthermore, their extended manifesto highlights policies relating to the equality of those who define as LGBTI, women and disabled. They also have a keen focus on further democratising democracy by extending the right to vote to those aged 16 and 17, and changing the voting system to proportional representation for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and allowing a right to recall your MP.

Of course, it would be deceiving to talk through the Greens’ manifesto points without whipping out their environmental policies. As environmental policies make their way into mainstream politics of the three main parties, it is often questioned what more The Green Party has to contribute to the field; some argue that there are only limited, realistic ways of achieving an environmentally friendly society. It is, in fact, the opposite of this; although the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats do offer environmental policies in their manifestos, these are quite often easy to complete and more anthropocentric (to conserve what is for human consumption). In contrast, many of the Green Party’s policies can be interpreted as ecocentric (focused on the welfare and value of nature).

Using the credible source of Wikipedia, we only have to look at the party’s encyclopaedia entry to note that they are not simply an Environmentalist party, but are often attributed the characteristics of being republican, progressive, democratic, socialist and soft Eurosceptics. Upon Natalie Bennett’s successful election in August 2012, she announced that the UK needed “investment in homes, investment in jobs, investment in energy conservation, renewable energy and public transport.” This clearly shows that, although the party does have an Environmentalist focus, they have room to focus on the wider social and fiscal issues that the people of the nation find important.

If you find all of this surprising, visit www.voteforpolicies.org.uk and you will see most participants have discovered that the policies of which they most agree with are those of the Green Party. Try it yourself – choose four policy areas and choose which you most agree with; see what party you should be voting for. The fact that you won’t be able to spot The Green Party’s environmentalism in every area shows that they are not just a single-issue party.

Additionally published by Redbrick and Backbench.

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