What should we make of the ‘Green Surge’?

By Nicholas Figgis

The world of politics can be confusing. Fortunately we have liberal media commentators to make sense of things.

In his recent piece on the ‘Green Surge‘ John Rentoul of The Independent on Sunday points out that, despite relatively low media coverage, the Green Party has recently experienced an unprecedented boost in opinion polls and membership which shows no sign of abating. Could it be that people like their ideas? Have we become distrustful of the three cheeks of the West Minster rump which clenched together so tightly in the face of an uppity Scottish electorate?

Rentoul says no… “I don’t think the wider electorate wants a radical left-wing ideology”. By “ideology” I suppose he means Green Party policies. A quick look at their manifesto reveals that they do have some interesting ideas. Here are a few:

Public ownership of the NHS

This notion was deemed a bit mental by the establishment when, in 1946, Aneurin Bevan created the health care system which inspired the rest of the world and became the keystone in any British person’s sense of national pride. Since then, New Labour introduced private contractors, paving the way for the coalition’s savaging of the institution and everything it stands for. That’s the three cheeks. What about the wider electorate? According to Ipsos MORI…

More than three quarters of the public (78 per cent) believe that “health services should be run by the Government and public organisations, rather than by private companies”.

Public owned railways

Railways have cost more than double the amount to run in real terms since privatisation, fares have increased by 22 per cent on average and trains are overcrowded. East Coast, which was dumped on the tax payer after two private companies ran it off the proverbial rails, is the most efficient franchise in the UK and is running at a profit for the exchequer.

A poll by YouGov puts support for publicly owned rail at 60 per cent with 20 per cent opposing.

In fact, rather a lot of Green thinking seems to chime with the public. There is broad support for a £10 minimum wage, opposition to fracking, scrapping trident and contributing the money saved to a green industrial revolution which would provide scores of meaningful jobs. Few if any such policies underpin the empty, pseudo compassionate rhetoric of the old guard parties.

Rentoul puts this surge in support for the Greens down to boredom with “politics as usual”. I guess that’s the way we look from the top floor of The Independent Offices: like children who need to be diverted or entertained.

Walter Lipman’s “bewildered herd” who must be governed by “a specialised class whose interests reach beyond the locality.”

There is another possibility. Perhaps the wider electorate are capable of smelling bullshit when it’s served to them. Perhaps they have noticed that the promises made by neoliberal fanatics from Thatcher to Blair have failed to materialise. They see a world where our shared values have been squandered to enrich an increasingly small proportion of the population. They have noticed the gap between rhetoric and action: there is nothing capitalist about tax payers propping up banks; nothing democratic about corporations being given the right to sue governments; there was no respect for international law when Iraq was invaded in our name.

There were no WMD’s. We destroyed a country, humiliated a people and murdered countless innocents on a falsehood.

The ideologues have been running the show for too long. The Green surge may be an opportunity for sane people to get in on the act.

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