Saturday, 3 November 2007

The Liberal Democrats and the Greens

The Lib Dems say that the Greens are Marxists. The Greens say that the Lib Dems are neo-Liberals.
Both are mostly wrong, but have an element of truth all the same. The Lib Dems need to sharpen up their critique of capitalism, even though fundamentally we are a capitalist party and rightly so. As Chris Huhne points out, the private sector is often seriously deficient in running the public services. We need to be clear about that, and we also object to the absurd distortions in wealth allocation and the damaging impact of the “externalities” of businesses that damage the environment and exploit the consumer and the workforce.
Even Green Marxists have a point that the advertising industry encourages us to consume more than we otherwise would, but from a Green point of view we should (generally speaking) consume less.
That said, John Stuart Mill made a similar point when he wrote in favour of the “stationary state”.
There are some Marxists in the Green party. However they did NOT go into coalition with Respect, and culturally they do not fit in with that kind of Old Left politics. The truth is that many Greens are Liberals, and it is because of our electoral system that we have to be competitive with them. And we better watch out. Becuase no doubt it is tempting to dismiss them as Marxists (and imply they are the same kind of Marxists as Stalin and Lenin). But of Lib Dem supporters, 30% say their second preference is the Green party. If we attack the Green party vociferously along these lines, it may imply that we are ourselves not just anti-Green, but also anti-green.
Historically the Greens did take our vote away in the 1990 (I think) Euro-Elections, finishing with 15% to our 6%. This was at the time of the merger between the Liberals and the SDP.
Personally I was worried that with our opinion poll ratings drifting down to 11% history could repeat.
Now that we are about to replace our leader with someone more popular, and with our ratings already drifting up to 18%, I think there is less danger of that now.
However the Greens threaten us more than anyone else, and we need to handle them with care. Not just in national opinion polls, but we also need highly motivated activists to help in our community politics. We need their Liberals to join us.
It is a shame we are in competition with them, but until we have a fair voting system, then the Greens should really join with us.


TAGilbert said...

Yes, here in Norwich the Greens have been ruthlessly targetting us, and us alone, and have taken 10 Liberal Democrat Council Seats - we saved a seat by 1 vote to remain second party on 11 seats in May.
They do have some links to Respect, despite the lack of a formal coalition. In 2005, Adrian Ramsey the Green 'leader' in Norwich (though they don't call him that) stated on TV that people should vote Respect where they had no Green candidate.
Also the Euro Election when they got 15% of the vote was 1989, not 1990. (Euro elections are every 5 years, those ending in a 4 or a 9.)

Left Lib said...

How are the Lib Dems responding? Norwich South was a key target seat last time.

Joe Otten said...

Very few people go into the Green Party as a Marxist or a misanthrope, but many may easily become one or the other, once the vanguard gets hold of them.

I don't think the Greens are our biggest problem by a long stretch. Our recent rollercoaster has been very closely related to the fortunes of the bigger parties and not at all to that of the Greens.

Yes, a great many greens should join us. Quite a few should join Respect, or an old left party (the Marxists, or Labour or the Tories (the misanthropes).

There was a collapse in Green Party membership in the early 90s when people saw the green agenda taking root and that the green party was no longer a useful vehicle. A little significant practical progress from us, and it could happen again.