By Julia Wynter
This article is a response to Sam's article about why you shouldn't vote Green, which can be found here.
It is fair to comment that the newfound strength of the Green Party has come about because of disillusionment with centrist Labour. However, in response to Sam's use of the word 'idealistic', which is commonly used by the centre ground to express distaste for new ideas, I recognise this attitude as a sign of the distancing of principle in mainstream politics. Accepting that radical change is needed despite the sacrifices our current systems and society will have to make, and to be willing to make those sacrifices like the Greens are, is actually very realistic. The stance of self-described realism used by the more established parties is simply used to justify unjustifiable short term-ism. In the past we may have been able to afford to make it up as we go along, but as global crises of energy, overpopulation and environmental damage loom and we are able to fully recognise them, there is simply no more of a realistic view than the Green view.
As is evident, the Greens are not yet ready to form a government. Green supporters understand this, but they also understand that without their support the party will never have the opportunity to improve and become as competent as the main parties. Considering the hypothetical nightmare we'd have if the Green's won this election is therefore a largely useless exercise. A vote for the Greens is a principled act of enabling change, rather than feeling forced to bow to an archaic electoral system and having to vote strategically just to keep the Tories out. That's what people are 'getting into'. Moreover, a vote is not an endorsement of every single policy a party has. Sam himself supports tactical voting, so why not respect one on principle, be it anti-establishment or single issue, or indeed simply a show of support for a principled party.
Scrutiny of policy has been very much welcomed by the Green Party. One reason for this is because seeing as policy is democratically voted for by the whole party membership, wider debate of policy only enhances the Green's inclusive approach to policy formation. Many changes are likely to be made in light of the country's response to the manifesto, although I hope not in a way that pushes us too far to the centre as other parties have let happen to them. The Green Party holds fast in its ideology, but is flexible in its approach to solving issues. Concerns over costing are valid, but often not formed in awareness of the Green context of rebalancing the entire mixed economy to enable more public sector control. Naturally, something like the Citizens Income would not work if simply thrown into the current system.
Sam's response to Green penal policy is extremely reactionary to a very vague policy outline. A failure to note that all Green policy towards the penal system, not just this one, is in line with the idea that 'prison doesn't work' is detrimental to the criticism. The belief that there are more efficient social solutions to crime would actually mean the use of prisons would be kept to an absolute minimum. Recognition of specific women's issues is not a dismissal of men's issues; it is a mistake to equate these. The human right of equality under the law does not mean individual circumstances should be ignored and not taken into account, the examples given by the policy of such circumstances are past sexual abuse and on-going child care, these being circumstances most commonly endured by the female prison population.
The idea that the opposition to nuclear power is an 'obstacle' in the progress towards a greener energy market has been falsely perpetuated by those with a priority of profit, not sustainability. A transitional period that caters to a profit focused energy industry may 'require' the use of nuclear, however it is entirely possible to transition with the phasing out of carbon based fuels and the phasing in of renewable sources if the industry can commit to renewables with even half the enthusiasm they have for oil. Energy needs to be approached in a sustainable way that sidelines capitalist thinking. We need commitment in industry and culturally. Prolonging 'convenient' energy does nothing to help this, which is why the Greens would work towards nationalising the energy industry. As for the safety of nuclear power production, it is ridiculous to defend the Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents as minor sacrifices. People who lived in and around Chernobyl at the time of the incident and those born locally afterwards have suffered a greater risk of cancer and other serious health issues, and both disasters misplaced tens of thousands from their homes, as well as ruining surrounding land by contaminating the water and poisoning the air with radiation. There is also the nuclear waste problem, and the fact that nuclear plants are not cost effective because of short plant lifetime. With obvious and worthwhile energy alternatives, who but a beneficiary of short termism would advocate nuclear power?
I can only comprehensively recommend the Green vote from my own perspective, which is highly environmentally focused. It is understandable that those who do not prioritise the environment will not see much point in voting Green, especially where the fear is that the Green vote takes away security for Labour in marginal seats. Yet I would ask anyone who finds themselves taking this position to seriously consider what it means to sideline environmental issues for what only appear to be more immediate and urgent issues. A vote for the Greens is a message to the established political scene that the public are coming to understand the gravity of our situation and responsibility as habitants of this planet. Just because our current systems may work in certain individuals' immediate favour to some extent does not mean that they are at all sustainable. So if you have ruled out voting Green, I would urge you to think again.