Saturday 9 May 2015

Where now for the greens and leftists?

Well, what an interesting election night. The Labour wins in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke Central perfectly illustrated the sentiment that "a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour". But in the end, it made no difference nationally — UKIP has been crushed along with Labour and the Lib Dems.

Even the Greens appear to have flopped, in terms of actually electing people. They campaigned on a manifesto that failed to even mention practical grassroots issues like litter, favouring instead an ideological mish-mash of complicated and untried proposals. These floated high above the heads of ordinary voters, who merely chuckled at the wilder policy ideas. The Greens have only managed to keep their one MP in Brighton. In the local councils the Greens squeezed out a mere 16 new local councillors across the whole nation, and lost control of the council in Brighton after heavy losses there. They have effectively failed to break out of toe-holds in Bristol and Brighton. Millions saw their often scruffy and eccentric candidates standing sheepishly on stages during the election TV coverage, thus confirming the public stereotype of the greens. Their overall vote was only up by 2.8%, despite their standing vastly more candidates this time. So it was hardly the grand national surge they had hoped for.

So the Greens are now damaged goods. Will that mean the Green Party becomes a leftist lifeboat, as the smooth-suited Blairites and Mandelsonian managers emerge from their bunkers to take back the Labour Party? Somehow I doubt that most Labour refugees could stomach the economic illiteracy of the Greens. Not to mention their wibbly-wobbly eclecticism on drug legalisation, group marriage and other issues of interest only to old hippies and naive students. But a sprinkling of the hardiest and most distraught Lib Dem local activists may well head to the Greens, if they haven't already crossed over.

The Greens may also be a tempting option for some as they're effectively the only micro-party still standing after the election. They appear to have taken the student vote, and the old socialist hard left traditionally loves nothing more than getting its paws on passionate young students. So I suspect there might just be some kind of organised attempt from leftist refugees to hijack the weakened Greens, possibly even leading to a civil war with the extreme leftists who are already said to have infiltrated the party. Just my guess.

But the Greens will now be facing a re-invigorated Conservative Party that is likely to reclaim neglected genuine green conservation issues such as: countryside management; ecology and wildlife; forestry; dog control; litter; parks and allotments; footpaths; energy and water conservation. The Lib Dems have now lost their claims to a localist legitimacy on such grassroots issues. UKIP, if it ever was a party of the countryside, has effectively been booted off the national stage for now. The Conservatives will need a strong presence on green issues to counteract the inevitable media and activist pressure around fox-hunting, new airports and roads, HS2, cuts in subsidies to wind-farms, fracking, badger culling etc.

Into a revivified green mix the Conservatives could sprinkle big headline items like new major overseas conservation reserves (already underway), and big global wildlife crime measures (William Hague is apparently headed that way, in his retirement) both in terms of policy and technology, plus a continued broad commitment to a sensible de-carbonisation of the economy.

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