Green Growth

Given our current low poll rating, a number of fellow Liberals have expressed concern that we might soon be overtaken in popularity by the Green Party, some have even taken an interest in joining them. We certainly face competition from the Greens for the votes of those looking for an alternative to the old Conservative/Labour duopoly so they cannot be ignored but how much of a threat are they really? Well, internationally Greens have been making progress in a number of countries in the wake of the accelerating climate crisis, in places like Germany, Australia and New Zealand they are the third party in parliament, helped of course by the fairer voting systems that are used there. So what is the position here in the UK and should we be worried? On the face of it, we are well ahead with 11 MPs to the Greens 1 and our local government numbers at 2,500 dwarfs theirs which stands at less than 500. The only place where they have built a significant base in Brighton where they have their single MP and a sizable council group which has included a spell running the authority. A period that was not without controversy, including as it did a confrontation with its workforce and a failed attempt to fight government funding cuts.

The Brighton experience is interesting because it is a living example of what happens when a party of protest finds itself in a position of power. It wasn’t always like this, following a strong performance in the 1989 Euro elections the Green 2000 group were instrumental in attempts to bring the party into the mainstream. This group of ‘Realos’ were soon ousted though, and the ‘Fundis’ took charge. From then on the pathway has been to an explicitly anti-capitalist force with many of its leading figures happy to describe themselves as socialists. Pre Corbyn they were comfortable positioning themselves to the left of Labour, now he is gone they are likely to return to that territory. In this situation, our task must be to present ourselves as a radical Liberal option with strong environmental policies not as revolutionaries; I am pleased that we saw signs of that in the recent leadership election debates.

We also have a further clear advantage in that in many of the countries where Greens have achieved third party status; they faced no significant social Liberal party to rival them. Going forward, I believe we counter the Green challenge here by keeping our proposals for tackling the climate emergency right at the top of our agenda. We are offering to decarbonise capitalism rather than seeking to overthrow it. To any of my fellow Liberals who might be considering a switch, I would say you won’t find many of your ilk amongst the ranks of the Green Party if you want to see Green Growth let us do it together as Liberal Democrats.

* David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats

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  • Thank you for this. I suggest we need to review our model of politics in the light of the behaviour of the present government. The concept of austerity appears to have been abandoned, and yet the country has borrowed record amounts.
    Where does this fit on ant socialism – capitalism axis? Unemployment is likely to hit record levels. As a political party we need to react to this in a way which people will find sensible. AAt the same time we need to realise that further crises await us and the changes in our environment will drive these.
    People are looking for leadership. Do we have the courage to consider all options and find a way of showing how we can control our environment?

  • “So what is the position here in the UK….?” asks David Warren.

    Now, David, given you live and operate just about as far south “in the UK” as it is possible to be without getting your feet wet, would you like to have a think about that and re-consider your article ?

  • David Warren 9th Sep '20 - 1:21pm

    @DavidRaw How does where I live have any affect on my ability to see what is happening in our country?

    I have written about Australia and New Zealand in the past. However I have never been to either.

  • Paul Barker 9th Sep '20 - 1:59pm

    It seems to me that Polls persistently overestimate The Greens, they tend to average 4% but get half that in General Elections; that is partly down to not standing everywhere but there also seem to be some Voters who say they will Vote Green but dont.

    We have enough in common with a lot of Greens (outside Scotland) to be able to work together, at all levels; we should be doing that now, not waiting till the run-up to 2024.

  • @ David Warren “How does where I live have any affect on my ability to see what is happening in our country?”….

    I’m afraid, unfortunately, that it appears that it does, David. Think about what “the U.K.” consists of and what it implies when you write about ‘Greens Growth’ in the UK. It’s called ‘unconscious bias’.

    Unfortunately there’s a lot of it about in one part of the UK, namely England… that what happens in England must correct and the case in other parts of the UK… which is probably why the long term existence of the UK is on such a shaky nail just now. In many ways de Pfeffel Johnson epitomises this and that’s why he’s such a gift that keeps on giving to the SNP.

    If you want to talk about ‘The Greens in the UK’ please remember the Scottish Green Party has more MSP’s (and of a high calibre) at Holyrood, and more party members, than the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

    To be fair, Brighton Green Councillors don’t seem to have damaged the popularity of the much esteemed Caroline Lucas….. but there’s more to the UK than whatever happens with the Brighton & Hove City Council Green Party when you discuss ‘Green Growth’.

  • Thank you, Mr Raws; I was on the point of writing a similar reply but you have done it much more eloquently. It’s like the Robert Louis Stevenson journey on a train with an English lawyer who did not realise that the laws of England did not pertain to Scotland. Thank you.

  • David Warren 9th Sep '20 - 10:39pm


    I am fully aware of the fact that in the Scottish Parliament the Greens have MSPs as a result of a fairer voting system there. I am also aware that they do much less well in Wales.

    The article could have been a lot longer but LDV have a word limit which I try to adhere to. I used the Brighton example because the Greens have an MP there and ran the council.
    The fact that it is close to where I now live is a pure coincidence.

    In the event that York, Cardiff, Edinburgh or indeed anywhere else in the UK seen similar Green success I would have mentioned that.

    P.S. You appear to have missed the whole point I was making

  • John Faulkner 10th Sep '20 - 9:57am

    This article sums up why after joining the Libs and Lib Dems in 1972 I am tempted to join the Greens. This belief in “green growth” shows that the party has failed to recognise the enormity of the ecological crisis facing this planet. We have to reduce our claims on the planet not increase them.

  • David Warren 10th Sep '20 - 1:06pm

    @JohnFaulkner Have you actually read the article?

  • John Faulkner 10th Sep '20 - 1:27pm

    @ David
    I did read the article . In your last sentence you invite everybody to join in support of green growth . To protect the planet we need degrowth supported by greater equality and to not measure progress by GDP.

  • John Faulkner 10th Sep '20 - 4:03pm

    I do not accept your premise that Green Growth (David’s words) is possible and desirable. The world is already extracting more materials from the planet than is sustainable. To address the problem we have to decrease supply and distribution of goods. It’s not just about producing green energy. That is only one element. We have to decrease the extraction of all resources not just fossil fuels. That can only be achieved by degrowth. We hould turn our attention to the welfare of the entire population, not GDP growth.

  • David Warren 10th Sep '20 - 4:21pm

    When I wrote ‘Green Growth’ I meant support from the electorate for policies that help the environment and tackle climate change not economic growth.

    I want our party the Liberal Democrats to be the main recipients of that. De-carbonising capitalism not seeking to overthrow it.

  • David Garlick 10th Sep '20 - 4:26pm

    Defining ‘Growth’ is not easy as it means different things to different people.
    ‘Green Growth’ is similarly fraught with difference.
    If green growth means moving towards sustainable food production, sustainable energy production, doing less damage to the natural world and the improvement in general ‘well being’ , amongst other environmental improvements, then I am all for it . I do believe that it is possible to achieve that alongside the modern economy and sustaining employment too.
    The key to our future depends on those prospering knowing when enough is enough and sharing the benefits of that modern economy more equally. Another article there for someone…

  • Peter Hirst 10th Sep '20 - 6:48pm

    I feel we should be working more closely with The Green Party. We share many common interests and concerns. Until we have PR, minority parties need to share resources and as far as is possible not compete for the same space.

  • The problem our party faces isn’t Green growth or should we work with them. It isn’t SNP growth, Conservative power, Plaid consolidation or Labour rebuilding. Our problem is Lib Dem collapse and drift.

    So many Lib Dems here want us to *do* the right things, as if we were still a strong third party. The truth is that once again we are back to being a small party, like we were in the 1960s and 70s, but worse we are no longer the third, but the fourth party in the House of commons.

    On a national stage we can’t achieve anything anymore. We can talk about things, urge and support, but nationally we are now a very minor player. Many people who like to discuss how they want to fix the world will hate being told this, but the fact is that as far as the vast majority of voters are concerned (and it their votes we need to recover) we are totally irrelevant now. Survival and rebuilding is the only game in town.

    What we need is a strategy for the centre to support, maintain and strengthen local parties where we have MPs to make sure we hold and even when the incumbent stands down, we hold again. We need to build and strengthen those local parties that control or are at least serious players in their local council (say one third of the councillors), and we need to identify a small number of seats where we can see an opportunity to recover.

    Apart from that anything other than not making another total mess of things nationally would be appreciated.

  • Its worth noting that after the fuss about turnout in The Libdem Leadership Election at 58%, turnout in The Green Party (GPEW) was 16%; it helps if we have a sense of perspective about these things.
    I dont say this as some sort of attack on The Greens, I believe that Our Parties can & should work together.

  • @ Paul Barker and David Warren

    It may be of interest (away from the pebbles of Brighton beach) that the latest Survation poll in Scotland (a country with a Parliament – not a City Council with a Council Chamber) makes interesting reading :

    On Holyrood voting intentions, 53% of likely voters said they would choose the SNP candidate for their constituency vote, up by 2% from January. The Scottish Conservatives were on 20% (-3) and Scottish Labour polled 18% (+1).

    And a reminder that unlike Westminster the Scottish Parliament is elected by a form of P.R.

    On the regional Lists, the SNP vote share was 42% (+3), the Scottish Tories came in at 18% (-3) and Scottish Labour also polled 18% (-1). The Scottish Greens recorded 10% and the Lib Dems polled 8%.

    This would increase the Green MSPs from 6 to 10…… the number of Lib Dem M.S.P.’s is problematical given a current representation of 5….. nearly all in the constituency section)

  • @ David Warren, you say, “In the event that York, Cardiff, Edinburgh or indeed anywhere else in the UK seen similar Green success I would have mentioned that.”

    But you didn’t did you ?

  • John Potter 12th Sep '20 - 6:47am

    I don’t dismiss the threat from any party but the Greens have plenty of troubles including getting less than 3% at the general election and only 15% of their membership voting in the latest leadership race.

  • David Warren 12th Sep '20 - 3:05pm

    @DavidRaw You have missed the point again! I didn’t mention those three cities precisely because they haven’t seen a level of Green success to that achieved in Brighton.

    Brighton is the only city in the UK to have returned a Green MP and a Green run council.

  • The “Green” Party aren’t as green as they make out to be. Unless you mean “green” as in inexperienced! In Brighton and Hove they:-
    – Wasted £40Million of Public Money on the loss making waste of resources known as the i360 Observation Tower.
    – Opposed Park and Ride schemes.
    – Have a dreadful record on recycling. The rate of household waste recycled FELL to below 25% under their Council Administration.

  • David Warren 28th Sep '20 - 10:14am

    Thanks for that Rob. I haven’t heard those figures.

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