On the night of the general election in 1997, hundreds of thousands of young, bright-eyed left-wingers went to bed hoping that they would awake to the first Labour Prime Minister since Callaghan. They got their wish, but over the course of the premiership of Tony Blair, many were left with a bitter taste in their mouth, and what they thought was New Labour really seemed more like Diet-Tory. Since then, there has been a very mixed reception to the Labour Party on the left, and many of those who likely would have voted for Labour in 1997 (if they could have), are planning to vote Green in the 2015 election. Tired of the two main parties, the idealistic youth (on both sides of the political spectrum) look to the fringe parties who aren’t tainted by lacklustre records in government, and the Greens appeal to many on the left.
Although it is impossible that anybody will wake up on May 8th to discover that Natalie Bennett is Prime Minister, I would suggest that if, somehow that did happen, people would be a lot more disappointed in the Greens than they ever were in New Labour. Many of the Green policies have been swept under the rug, and while we should look to see what exactly the Green manifesto consists of (it will likely be launched at some point next week), I think it’s important to shed some light on some of the wackier Green policies to know exactly what people are getting into if they vote Green.
The first policy worth highlighting, and it is one of the few that has had at least a degree of scepticism cast upon it in the public domain, is the introduction of a Citizen’s Income, in other words, a payment of £72 per week to every citizen of the United Kingdom. Estimates for the cost of the Citizen’s Income have reached up to £280 billion. For comparison, the current total expenditure on welfare per year is only about £168 billion. This means that the Citizen’s Income would cost over £100 billion more than the whole of the current welfare state, while not being means-tested, and while not covering the whole remit of welfare. If this weren’t bad enough, The Citizen’s Income Trust has all but denounced the Green’s proposed implementation of the Citizen’s Income, and has estimated that about 35% of households would lose out from the proposed Citizen’s Income, and the bulk of those losing out would be the poorest households. Malcolm Torry, director of the CIT, said: “I am not sure the Green party has yet taken on our new research or the need to retain a means-tested element. We have only just published the new work”.
Another policy that many potential Green voters may not have heard about is the catchily titled CJ381 which states “Recognising the nature of the female prison population, with high levels of mental illness, experience of being a victim of crimes such as sexual assault and domestic violence, and caring responsibilities for children, the only women who should be in custody are those very few that commit serious and violent crimes and who present a threat to the public.” The Green Party website goes on to state that for women, prison sentences are not a good idea and Community Sentences are much more appropriate. These all come under the subcategory of prison reforms. While I would hugely support a look into the evidence as to whether community-based punishments are more effective than prison (and I highly suspect they are), the idea that women are somehow not able to handle prison whereas men are is unfair to men and patronising to women. It’s also quite a big contradiction of the idea that we are all equal under the eyes of the law, and to give one punishment to a certain class of people and another punishment to another class of people actually goes against article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”.
Finally, while many are attracted to the Green Party under the belief that the Green Party are the most environmentally friendly party, their opposition to nuclear power is a huge obstacle in the path towards a zero-carbon economy. While an ideal society might run solely from renewable sources of energy, a transitionary period requires the use of alternative low/no carbon energy sources. For many, the perceived dangers of nuclear power are just too much of a risk to be worth putting up with, but the reality is that the case studies that are often cited when talking about the dangers of nuclear power are much less dangerous than you might imagine. The Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear disaster in human history caused 31 immediate deaths, 19 delayed deaths in emergency workers and 15 children who died from thyroid cancer. The Fukushima Disaster has killed nobody. The environmental case for nuclear power is strong, but the Greens reject nuclear power on the basis that it is unsafe, despite the fact that more people die a year because of candles than because of nuclear disasters.
If you are considering voting Green on May 7th, at least read through the manifesto after it has been released and decide as to whether you really agree with all the policies it offers. When I have examined the policies, it has seemed that for every seemingly sensible policy, it is outweighed by a policy that is unfundable, undoable, or just plain ridiculous.