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Showing posts with label green. Show all posts
Showing posts with label green. Show all posts

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Can the Greens retain their first and sole Westminster seat?

Photo © 2011 Patrick Duce

With May 2015 just over a year away, battle lines are beginning to be drawn between political parties in marginal seats around the country and many seats are likely to swap hands. One such seat is Brighton Pavilion where Labour is hoping to win back the seat gained by Parliament’s sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas.

Many constituencies across the UK are losing their ‘safe’ status and becoming far more marginal, and those that have long been considered marginal are now split among several parties. The result is that small parties have a far better chance of gaining seats in Westminster than they did do fifty years ago. As the share of the vote for Labour and the Conservatives continues to decline, parties like the Green Party, UKIP and local Independent candidates can begin to feel more of a chance of their victory.

However, a small party with little experience in a position of authority is incredibly likely to come across difficult hurdles when trying to enact their political agenda for the first time. This is something we have seen in Brighton and Hove Council, made worse by the fact that the Greens, although the largest political group, do not have overall control. Hence, the Conservatives and Labour have bargaining power and they have both made sure to use it. Having coincided with the necessity to respond to Government cuts, this has left the Greens in an extraordinarily unpleasant situation: to be forced by Westminster to make unpopular cuts but to also build a popular reputation for a party that has just gained its first position of authority.

The political situation in Brighton has undoubtedly left its electorate confused. They have a council where an unlikely coalition of Labour and Conservative representatives has co-conspired to defeat Green bills. They have a council where the Greens are being forced to do exactly the opposite of what they stand for – make cuts. They have a council dominated by a party that has an MP of the same party protesting against it. Each of these is noticeable to the electorate and, in politics, it is the decisions that you see that matter. When rubbish collected on the streets and pickets of refuse workers formed, the electorate noticed and vowed never to forget, forming a negative image of the Green council from then onwards.

Competition for the Westminster seat, therefore, is going to be heavily fought. A three-way marginal between the Conservatives, Labour and the Greens in 2010, it is likely that at the next general election it will be a contest solely between Labour and the Greens. And, dishearteningly, it is looking like it will be a tight win for the Greens at best. With the Conservatives suffering massively in the polls and Labour retaining a strong lead, the national swing plus general dissatisfaction with the local authority will likely lead to a strong surge in Labour support in the area. A swing of only 1.2% is needed for Labour to regain the seat and, thus, it is featured on their list of target seats.

So, if Caroline Lucas is to remain an MP, the Greens have a lot of work to do. Somehow, the party must simultaneously defend the city council’s record whilst also explaining why Caroline joined the picket against her own party. She will undoubtedly be put under immense scrutiny and pressure by the electorate as soon as campaigning gets underway. She must also respond to Labour’s increasing presence in the area and fight against the replication of the national swing. She must find a way to work with the party’s local councillors that show that internal factions do not adversely affect the party and demonstrate that the visibility of these factions can only be good for a democracy.

Running such a campaign would also likely use up the majority of Green resources for the election, negatively affecting the efforts of other candidates. For example, in 2010, the candidate for Norwich South doubled the number of votes from 7.4% to 14.9%. If such an increase were to be repeated in 2015, the seat would be considered a four-way marginal with the Green Party in the running for a second MP by 2020. Pouring a considerable amount of resources into this secondary constituency could make this far more successful.

Before any decisions can be made, a number of questions need to be answered. How successful will the Green Party be in the European elections this year and will such a success reinspire some confidence in the party? Will the referendum on council tax prove beneficial for the Green Party’s image? Will Caroline’s popularity as an MP trump over the negative perception of the council that has grown? Will the national swing to Labour feature heavily in Brighton? We have just 16 months until the election and, as we know, in the political sphere, anything can happen.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Cull is About Killing Badgers, Not Scientific Evidence

The controversial badger cull trial has failed to meet its targets, so Tory logic says that the trial should be extended by three weeks in order to ensure those targets are met.

Widely condemned, the six week badger cull being piloted in West Somerset and Gloucestershire attempts to discern how effective, humane and safe a cull would be if later implemented across England. Working on a quota, those who have been granted a license to kill the badgers in Somerset are now to be given an additional six weeks to make sure they kill the right amount.

This is a ridiculous move by the Government. The trial cull has already been riddled with failure, uncertainty and inaccuracies and the questions the government want answered have most definitely been unanswered. Only a short amount of time after the cull was initiated, the Government revised their figures on the number of badgers in the area, reducing them. How can any experiment be undertaken if the full facts aren’t known?

Ludicrously, the government is attempting to blame the badgers for their failure with Owen Paterson saying that the badgers ‘moved the goalposts.’ How have they done this? By doing what nature tells them to do: responding to the weather, moving away from danger and breeding. These are hardly unexpected moves from the enemies, with scientists already having warned the Government of these complications if they were to press on with this disgusting policy.

Yet, the Government believes that this is reason enough to extend the cull, ignoring the fact that it is factors like these that help to determine the effectiveness of their trial. The Government are ignoring the difficulties that a cull faces and are only concerned with the number of badgers are killed. It is more than apparent that when this quota has been met, the Government will claim the cull a success, as they already have done despite not reaching the numbers, and will begin rolling out the programme across England on the basis of this ‘evidence.’

In addition, protest groups in the area have noted that not all badgers have been killed humanely (using the Government’s definition), with some being trapped in cages before being shot at point-blank. The cull requires that badgers are killed while freely roaming. This highlights that another of the requirements of this cull has already been failed, in a closely-monitored trial, suggesting that if it were to be reproduced nationally there would be many more instances of badgers killed by inhumane methods. Furthermore, one of the arguments against vaccinating badgers against bTB was how difficult they are to capture, but if the Government is catching badgers in cages to shoot them, then they can catch badgers in cages to vaccinate them.

The Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, rightly called out Owen Paterson and Defra for continuously 'changing the rules' and preferring 'a scribbled on the back of an envelope, ignoring the facts approach.'

It can only be concluded that the badger cull is a dangerous move for the Government that goes against the will of the public and the expert recommendations of the scientific community. It does not fulfil their requirements and is simply a token gesture to farmers who are worried about losing a bit of capital. Hence, the Government should begin looking at alternative measures to tackle Bovine Tuberculosis, such as the vaccination, which have helped Scotland to achieve its Bovine TB-free status.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Greens Challenge Labour in Brighton


The Greens and Labour are engaging in war this week as both parties choose the city of Brighton as the host for their party conferences. 

Presenting a formidable challenge to Labour, the Greens' sole MP, Caroline Lucas, will be welcoming the party to her seat and attempting to garner support away from the party. 

Criticism of the Labour party is only fair. Having helped the UK into economic crisis, the party lost a lot of support, allowing the Conservatives into power. With their horrible policies, the Tories have now forced people up and down the country into increasingly detrimental positions, where families struggle to make ends meet and the most vulnerable are treated like a burden on the state. Of course, the Labour party can't be blamed directly for the introduction of these abhorrent policies but their recklessness in government played into their opposition's hands, causing the coalition we have today. To add salt to the wound, however, it appears that the Labour party have few plans to end this reign of terror enforced by the 'nasty party' and seemingly want to continue with the timetable of austerity, reversing few of the Tories' cuts and policies if they were to gain control of Government in 2015.

Additionally, the Labour party seem to be on the path to destruction in the General Election. Despite their high polling levels, a parliamentary majority still remains dependent on their ability to connect with voters, but it's hard to do that when you have no, at least public, policies. Whether it's a tactically slow release, or a case of developing policies at the last minute, Miliband's party are sending their support packing as people struggle to understand what the party stands for. Far from the certainty of receiving the support from their original voter base, Labour seem to be only pushing away votes rather than drawing new ones in. 

In the three-way marginal that is the constituency of Brighton Pavilion, Labour are hoping to win the seat from the Greens, as part of their bid to reassert themselves as the people's party. Yet, it will not be a surprise if they lose the seat again, as they continue down the path they are taking. Despite the public spats the Greens have had in the council and some of their lesser appreciated policies by local residents, Caroline Lucas continues to hold strong support, if only by a margin. With their conference having ended this week, the Greens have voted for policies that the public want, but the Labour party doesn't (yet) offer: no to fracking, nationalised railways and the reversion of austerity policies, for example. It is on this basis that the Greens will remind Labour party members of an alternative as they challenge the official opposition to the status of de facto opposition. Labour party members will be greeted with this billboard, which criticises their lack of policy and position on the right of the political spectrum, on their way to conference this week:

Although the Greens would be extremely pleased to gain support on the basis of their policies and establish themselves as a true party in Westminster, what is more important is the introduction of their policies. Hence, this argument attempts to work in two ways. The first is that it will persuade Labour members to realign with the Greens. The second that will prompt Labour members to ask their party to introduce these policies to their manifesto.

In order to ensure success and stop the demise of Labour majority governments (which may not necessarily be a bad thing), Miliband and his party members need to reconsider their strategy and begun introducing policy promises that will get people back on their side.