The Green Book – new directions for Liberals in government

green-bookYesterday saw the launch of a book project that I’ve been working on with colleagues over the last year. Between us, we persuaded 27 authors to put pen to paper and say what should be in a programme for government, one that’s fit for the world we live in today. Some 70 people from business, NGOs, academia, think-tanks and political parties joined us in Westminster for the launch.

Our choice of the title “Green Book” is a very conscious nod towards the Orange Book of a decade ago and indeed Lloyd George’s Yellow Book – really authored by John Maynard Keynes – 85 years ago. Last week I wrote how times have changed since then.

Each author has a specific point of view but all were united in saying we can’t go on as we are, both as a country and as a party. As editors, we were clear that the LibDems are now a party of national government; we need a programme to put before the voters that’s frank about the challenges Britain faces: the first industrialised nation that has largely exhausted its natural resources and now has to compete for energy, food and raw materials with the burgeoning economies of India, Brazil and China.

As a party of government, now and after the next election, we have to change the narrative too if we are to succeed. More and more austerity, explained as paying off Labour’s debts, is neither an economic strategy nor a persuasive political proposition. At stake is not just a ‘lost decade’, bad though that is, but any chance of a prosperous economy and fair society into the foreseeable future. Oil at $100 a barrel and commodity prices more than doubling over the last decade represent fundamental changes we’re not yet facing up to.

This means we need to be the party of long term investment – in houses that are so well insulated they stay warm in winter and cool in summer, in transport that doesn’t rely on burning expensive fossil fuels, in ‘knowledge’ jobs that can’t be off-shored, in a ‘local economy’ with shorter food miles and greater resilience to global shocks, and above all in an energy infrastructure that doesn’t rely on the Russians for gas to keep the lights on.

We need to be the party of responsible big business, and challenge them through fiscal and regulatory incentives to be partners in investing for a sustainable economy – everything from fair wages and training new staff to spending their growing cash piles on R&D for hyper-efficient new products and services that literally don’t cost the earth.

We need to be the party that gives hope to ordinary citizens that the future can be better than the current reality – a future they help create, one where we grow in our well-being as humans, rather than accumulate yet more ‘stuff’ as consumers.

We call this programme ‘green liberalism’. In the book we’ve grouped our authors’ ideas under five themes:

  • modernising the economy and building long term resilience
  • rebuilding infrastructure and regenerating communities
  • putting citizens and consumers at the heart of green liberalism
  • combating market failure and taxing pollution
  • reforming national government and making best use of international alliances

Read more about it here www.green-book.org.uk and come to our fringe meeting with Nick Clegg and Ed Davey at Brighton on Saturday lunchtime, 9th March.

The Green Book: New Directions for Liberals in Government, edited by Duncan Brack, Paul Burall, Neil Stockley and Mike Tuffrey, published by Biteback price £12.99, was launched at the House of Commons on Monday 4th March.

 

* Mike Tuffrey is chair of London Region, co-edited the Green Book and is a former London Assembly member.

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10 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Mar '13 - 1:15pm

    Green policies? Yes. Green Party? No. Green policies cost money and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If it paid for itself the private sector would be all over it and the government wouldn’t even need to get involved.

    The inflationary crisis is far more to do with global “money printing” than any depletion of the earth’s resources.

  • Richard Dean 5th Mar '13 - 1:27pm

    Well I hope that “directions” means “potentialities” or “opportunities” rather than “commands”.

    I can see that a knowledge-based economy has attractions for clever people, who presumably believe it is good for them personally, but it has problems too – one is that it requires a population that has knowledge. So education needs to be more of a priority, and health in mind and body, but everyone can’t be Einstein. Most of us probably use most of our knowledge to progress our private lives, rather than in the service of an employer. Does a Green Book approach risk impoverishing people who mobilize less cleverness at work?

    Investing in things that save money may be problematic, because it reduces future demand! And that causes recessions, as we well know.

    So, would it be correct to conclude that, although Green Book may be a start, there’s a long road ahead, of hard thinking and learning and changing?

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Mar '13 - 7:51pm

    Hi Geoffrey, I agree it is an issue, just not one that is large enough to redefine liberalism.

  • Liberal Eye 6th Mar '13 - 2:51pm

    Costs have already come down far more than many have realised. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance unsubsidised wind in Australia is now substantially cheaper than coal or gas for new capacity even without pricing the carbon content of fossil fuels. Older plants still have an edge but only because they are fully depreciated. Intrestingly. Bloomberg also thinks that PV solar will be competitive by 2020.

    http://about.bnef.com/press-releases/renewable-energy-now-cheaper-than-new-fossil-fuels-in-australia/

    Meanwhile MIT reports that in Texas new wind costs the same a new gas. This is remarkable given that gas prices in the US are at near record lows as a result of a boom in fracking which most analysts regards as highly unsustainable. The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas now expects most new generating capacity added over the next 20 years to be wind.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/news/510481/novel-designs-are-taking-wind-power-to-the-next-level/

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Mar '13 - 4:58pm

    Understood Mike. I’m sure the book exposes new insights and arguments.

  • Ray Cobbett 13th Mar '13 - 9:08am

    I welcome the decision to publish a book devoted to a greener economy that is not from the Green Party or academia. As most greening activist know these things are always easier to write about than impliment. I’m also glad Chris Huhne contributed to it.. Last yearI heard a contribution from him on renewable energy at a school in his old constituency and thought it was one of the best on the subject

  • Richard Shaw 13th Mar '13 - 12:56pm

    My copy arrived first thing this morning (yay) from Amazon (boo-hiss-tax-avoiders, etc.) and I look forward to reading it over the coming days. Judging from the size, contents page and the cover it is a hefty 370 page volume that looks chock full of ideas to consider and good value for ~£12. Related essays by different authors are also helpfully grouped into themed-sections for ease of reference.

    Am I right in thinking it is made from recycled material (the paper that is, not the ideas)? The quality of the cover is a little pixellated but otherwise the book looks as sound as other Biteback publications. :)

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