Opinion: Britain’s Greenest Party, the Green Party and Environmentalism

Green Lib DemsThe Green Party, which I was a member of briefly in the late 80s, has hard left socialist roots and is widely considered both anti-capitalist and paradoxically authoritarian and localist. It has a wide range of policies, all of which take note of environmental concerns (which do not begin and end with climate change, any more than ours do) but only reference those concerns where necessary. Lately it has been adopting a less hard line approach and on many matters, such as human rights, is decidedly liberal.

However in many cases their authoritarian command economy habit overrides any nascent liberal instinct, and their antipathy to technological and/or market solutions means that they throw away over half the toolbox before they even start. Dogma comes before evidence, and articles of faith remain unchallenged and therefore unproven.

I have recently heard the claim from those few UKIP supporters who accept scientific reality that climate change is a global issue, so little old UK can’t do anything about it. This is patently false. With first Chris Huhne and then Ed Davey in the lead, the UK has taken the lead in shaping the EU response to international negotiations, and by doing that had a significant impact on how those negotiations are progressing. The UK has a key part to play, being linked in to the EU, US and Commonwealth like no other country. It also has a part to play in leading by example, showing that a developed country can not only survive and go low carbon, but thrive, with rapid annual growth in green jobs.

At the local level, reducing emissions goes hand in hand with reducing fuel bills and fuel poverty – something every council should be committed to. Tackling pollution of all kinds leads to cleaner, quieter streets and fewer health problems for our children. Preserving biodiversity with local nature reserves allows us to take our kids out for a day, usually free, to explore and become familiar with nature. These are the kinds of things Lib Dem councils and councillors have always done.

The Green Party get all this, up to a point and, thanks to the Lib Dems breaking the two party duopoly of national power, are in with a shout at more MPs and a greater say in national decision-making. I’m hoping that more people vote Green than UKIP (who have shown repeatedly an ignorance of and opposition to environmental issues). But if you really want action on environmental issues, vote Lib Dem.

We are, by our record and instincts, #BritainsGreenestParty




* Simon Oliver is the chair of Green Liberal Democrats

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  • The main point is that no one in the tv/radio media picks up on their appalling local govt record and the fact that their recycling rates are abysmal. If they can’t get that right what can they get right?

  • Our case for environmentalism isn’t helped by dropping it as a front page manifesto commitment, if the ‘leak’ is anything to go by.

  • For a little light relief, here is the Green party approach to setting a council budget.

    Firstly propose the budget.

    Secondly the local party resolves to oppose their own budget and deselect any councillors who support it: http://greenleftblog.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/brighton-green-party-passes-motion.html

    Thirdly, they call for their own council leader to stand down, just for fulfilling legal duty to propose a budget.

    Not a good sign for the Greens ability to deliver on their intentions

  • Phil Rimmer 19th Jan '15 - 2:31pm

    Sorry Simon but, speaking as a Liberal Democrat who spent time in the Green Party in the early 1990s, I do not think that judging the Green Party based on their extreme green wing is any more valid than judging the Liberal Democrats based on a rampant free market Economic Liberals such as David Laws.

    As a Radical Liberal, I was just as uncomfortable with the fundamentalist wing of the Green Party as I am with Economic Liberals. Both parties could do without them but I suspect neither will.

  • Simon Oliver

    “..The Green Party … ..,has hard left socialist roots ”
    So what?
    The Liberal Democrats / Liberals have hard line roots as well. We are direct political descendents of the people who smashed up churches and fapught against King and eventually executed him.

    ” The Green Party … … is widely considered anti-capitalist…”
    So what?
    The Liberal Party for decades has preached the need for industrial democracy. — read Jo Grimond, or read Paddy Ashdown who as leader of the Liberal Democrats spoke out for workers “hiring” capital instead of the other way round. Hardly capitalist in tooth and claw!

    Instead of writing an article denigrating those people who clearly have a great deal in common with us why don’t you devote your attentions to the entryist Thatcherites in our party who would be much more a home with the original party of Thatcherites!

    As for propaganda about the record of Greens in local councils. How long do you think it would take to it together a similar list of appalling examples of Liberal Democrats failing at local level. I think I could do you one in five minutes.

    If you are impressed by the record in office of Chris Huhne and Ed Davey as the Secretary of State for Energy then I can only assume you are setting the bar unusually low. There are not many serious writers or commentators on things environmental who would give either of them more than three out of ten for achievement in the last five years.

    I note you are chair of the Green Liberal Democrats. I have never been a member of that group. I do not know how many members you have or if that has increased or decreased in recent years. But I am curious to ask you — if as you claim, our party is the Greenest Party in town, why does it need a internal group called the Green Liberal Demorats?

  • paul barker 19th Jan '15 - 3:23pm

    The Green Party has complex roots of which refugees from The Far Left are just a part. Local Parties can vary enormously, even ones right next to one another.
    As far as the current membership boom goes, they have been here before & the effect was disastrous- it took them two decades to recover from the boom of the late 1980s. I was in the Green Part(ies) through that whole period, joining as it peaked & leaving when the recovery started so I had a birds-eye view.

  • John Tilley
    You appear to ignore the fact that the Non -Conformist craftsmen created the Industrial Revolution which led to the Free Trade Manchester Liberals.

    The ability of people to freely trade without the need for patronage , permit or consent of the state was an early part of Liberalism.

    Industrial democracy accounts for little unless all those making the decisions understand the changes in trade and technology. The EETPU was probably one of the fews unions which understood the impact of advances in technology which was why it had it’s own training school. The print unions failed to understand the consequences of computers being used in newspapers and therefore they are largely extinct.

  • Alex Sabine 19th Jan '15 - 3:47pm

    Well said, Charlie. The Greens are not only hostile to the forces of capital, which can sometimes be justifiable. They are hostile to trade, free exchange and the market mechanism – which, though flawed as are all human creations, are the best engines of economic, technological and social progress known to man and the best way of allocating resources in large-scale societies in conditions of freedom.

  • Ashcroft poll today Greens 11%,

  • Charlie 19th Jan ’15 – 3:29pm

    Always interesting to read one of your historical insights.

    My one sentence reference to the English Civil War was not meant to be a comprehensive work of record of the entire history of Liberalism in the UK.

    You are of course quite correct to point out other things that have happened in the more than 300 years since .
    You could equally have mentioned the Chartists or JS Mill or H Taylor or quite a lot of other influences and events.

    I do not think I have ever seen EETPU mentioned in a discussion on industrial democracy or co-ownership. Do you have knowledge of them in this!

    You are right to say that people running organisations should be well informed. That ought to apply to the people supposedly running the Liberal Democrats today – but the evidence seems to point the other way.

  • Simon McGrath 19th Jan '15 - 4:51pm

    @john tilley : “The Liberal Party for decades has preached the need for industrial democracy. — read Jo Grimond, or read Paddy Ashdown who as leader of the Liberal Democrats spoke out for workers “hiring” capital instead of the other way round. Hardly capitalist in tooth and claw”

    you seem to be confusing capitalism with ownership. John Lewis is an entirely free market firm, successfully competing with firms with more conventional ownership.

  • We need to expose the Greens for what they actually are – a bunch of nasty, vicious, communists who have very little respect for liberal values. One thing I completely disagree wit the article is there respect for human rights – this is a party that let us not forget supported a one child policy.

    They want to live in a society where they dictate what people can and can’t do. Furthemore they cannot exactly be called internationalist – note Nathalie Bennet’s “India” remark.

    The Liberal democrats “exist to safeguard a fair, free and open society” so we must fight expose a party that wants a less free and a less open society (and in my view a less fair society).

  • Stephen Campbell 19th Jan '15 - 5:05pm

    Ahh, so we’re all “a bunch of nasty, vicious, communists “, according to Rob. Very kind of you to smear so many ex-Lib Dems who are now Greens. How we’ve resorted to insults so soon!

    First the Lib Dems were worried about UKIP and spent countless hours attacking them. Now you’re worried about the Greens. Maybe you find it hard to understand why people are abandoning the three main parties and looking for solutions elsewhere. The fact is that there are only superficial differences between the three main parties. All three of you (as well as UKIP) are wedded to Thatcherism and ever-increasing globalisation which is driving our living standards and wages down. All three main parties (and UKIP) fall head over heels to do whatever the rich and their high-paid lobbyists want. You support the TTIP. You’ve resisted giving the public a referendum on the EU (funny, considering you have the word “democrat” in your party name). In coalition, you’ve hammered the poorest and most vulnerable all for the sake of pleasing the money men. You broke your pledge on tuition fees. You pushed through the unwanted disaster which is the NHS reforms. You’ve further impoverished people who already had little by bringing in the Bedroom Tax, even applying it to people who have nowhere else to move to, even if they are willing. And now, here you are, regularly polling in 5th place, wondering why nobody supports you any longer and why you’re a national joke.

    So the Greens haven’t had the best start when running their first council. Well, I’m sure the first Liberal-run council was a 100% success, right? Every political movement learns as it grows, and we in the Greens are only just beginning.

    Surprisingly enough, it isn’t environmental policy that is driving people to the Greens. It is our economic policy and the fact we are radical (remember when you lot used to be so?) and offering massive change, which this country needs. 30 years of Thatcherism and globalisation has bled us dry. Yes, many of us in the Greens are indeed hostile to the forces of capital, and proudly so. We’re proud to put the needs of everyday people before the needs of the super-rich and global corporations.

    I recommend the recent BBC2 series “The Super Rich and Us” for a damning indictment of the past 30 years of Thatcherite economics. And then ask yourselves: are you on the side of the super-rich or are you on the side of everyday people? Based on your record in government, it’s plain as day which side you’re on.

    You can attack us all you want, you can call us names, you can fret that nobody is listening to you any longer, but until you (and Labour and Tory) start offering something radically different, start putting the needs of people before the needs of capital, you’ll continue to go nowhere. This party needs a long, deep look into the mirror. I am ashamed to say I voted for you for almost 20 years. I’ve always been a social democrat. Social Democracy was once mainstream in this party, but it is obviously that the Clegg Coup has eradicated all radicalism and lust for social justice from your ranks. Now you’re nothing but a bunch of hollow suits who ask “how high?” when the super-rich and global corporations ask you to jump.

    And, yes, most of our new members are ex-Lib Dems and ex-Labourites. Decent, caring people who find their views haven’t changed, but that the centre-left parties they used to vote for have morphed into Thatcherites. Again, maybe that’s something for your leaders to think about.

    I say this with a straight face: if the Lib Dem, Conservative and Labour parties all merged together, nobody would notice the difference much. That is how rotten our politics have become.

  • You know we are in big trouble when we are debating who’s better – us or a micro party such as the Greens.

    Nick Clegg had maybe a once in a century opportunity to transform the Liberal Democrats into a major party that could rival Labour and the Tories in number of MPs and he totally missed it.

  • John Broggio 19th Jan '15 - 5:17pm

    Exactly, SC.

  • Simeon McGrath
    If you read the words in my comment they are quite easy to understand.
    If you are having a problem with the concepts I suggest you read what Jo Grimond and Paddy Ashdown wrote.
    You have been a member of the party since the 1970s so I am surprised that you have not picked up on this subject before now. Or have you always disagreed with the fndamenals of the party?

  • The have just filled the gap vacated by Labour and the lib Dems. When you have a lot of students, disabled and low income people voting for you then you will lose them if that’s who you hit. What are they supposed to do vote on good faith? The lost vote is the direct result of alienating people who actually voted Lib Dem in favour of chasing an imaginary demographic of people who might vote Lib Dem.

  • That last sentence should have been –“..Or have you always disagreed with the fundamental beliefs of the party?”

  • Nothing can be done about these things but I find it extremely sad that important subjects like health, education and the environment become politicised. That is when practical, constructive long term solutions are replaced with dogma, stupidity and initiatives that cause more damage than the problems. I blame politicians of all colours.

  • Stephen Campbell 19th Jan ’15 – 5:05pm
    ” I recommend the recent BBC2 series “The Super Rich and Us” for a damning indictment of the past 30 years of Thatcherite economics. And then ask yourselves: are you on the side of the super-rich or are you on the side of everyday people? Based on your record in government, it’s plain as day which side you’re on.”

    Not all of us Stephen, I devote quite a lot of my time in LDV to exposing the Thatcherite lies and distortions.

    The irony of Liberal Democrats (whose party has spent five years propping up Old Etonian Thatcherites in government) knocking verbal lumps out of the Green Party will not be lost on any rational person reading this thread.

    They can apparently be all “nicey, nicey” with the Tories but pour venom on the Greens?

    Is it panic or is it displacement activity?

    As Liberal Democrat HQ has written off hundreds of seats in the coming General Election I wish the Green Party luck in those seats.

    Give me the Greens rather than Conservatives or Blairites any time.

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Jan '15 - 5:45pm

    ‘ Dogma comes before evidence’

    I don’t think that’s true I’m afraid. As a result of the pie in the sky education pledge the Lib Dem party issued over the weekend, I felt minded to check out the Green policy on education.

    I was surprised to learn how much of their policy chimed with my own thinking – returning schools to local authority control and abolishing standard assessment tests in primary school. They seems to take a very holistic view of education. Indeed, the policy read like Lib Dem policy of old.

    So if the Greens are dogmatic then I guess we were too until we aligned our thought-patterns with the Tories.

  • Simon Shaw

    There are some people who say our party has been taken over by a bunch of scheming Thatcherites and dubious hedge-fund millionaires.

    Indeed some of the people who criticise these Thatcherite Entryists come from your local party. 🙂

  • Stephen Campbell 19th Jan '15 - 6:03pm

    @Simon Shaw: “For example there is the report about the nasty, vicious goings-on in Brighton given at: ”

    I don’t see anything nasty or vicious in that link. I see a party standing up for what it believes in and refusing to implement even more cuts that are being imposed on them, partly by Lib Dems in government. So the party has decided democratically to refuse to make more cuts and expects its elected representatives to vote in line with party policy, voted on by its members. And if they don’t respect the democratic wishes of the party and people who put them there, they get the sack. Sounds sensible to me. I remember when Lib Dems leaders used to do what the members voted for at conference.

    Or do you consider a party’s elected representatives free to vote however they want, even going against the wishes of their electorate and party (as you lot have done countless times in government)? As an elected councillor, I’m sure you need no reminder that we, the public, are your boss and that you are there to serve us.

    Remind me again how many times your leadership voted, in Parliament, in a manner which is completely opposite to what your members voted for?

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Jan '15 - 6:16pm

    Simon Shaw

    From the Lib Dem manifesto 2010 :

    Local authorities will not run schools, but will have a central strategic
    role, including responsibility for oversight of school performance and
    fair admissions. They will be expected to intervene where school
    leadership or performance is weak.

    So on this we agree or should I say agreed with the Greens. Admissions will be overseen by the LA.

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th Jan '15 - 6:18pm

    Stephen Campbell 19th Jan ’15 – 5:05pm

    Well that’s us told!

    But now you have got that off your chest Stephen, I do hope that you would still accept that many in the Liberal Democrats and particularly some of us posting here are every bit as anti-Thatcherite/corporate feudalism as yourself … and also that many of us are actually long term Liberals rather than social democrats in the party political sense.

    I would also challenge that anyone in any party could be more radical and anti-establishment than some of our friends here on LDV. I have no problem with most of your points but would ask you not to write us all off as being supporters of the blue scum or the economics supporting the super-rich at the expense of everyone else.

    I’m sure you already have done but if not could I ask you to skim through the “The Greens: the Lib Dem fightback begins” thread and I believe you will find many of us supporting shared Lib Dem – Green values, using similar terms and recommending the same television programmes!

    The attainment of shared values for the common good should be more important than simple party loyalties!

  • Stephen Campbell 19th Jan '15 - 6:46pm

    @Simon Shaw: “If you’re saying that you support the Trot-tendency who seem to have taken over the Brighton Green Party, then I admire your honesty.”

    If voting in line with a) a Party’s democratically agreed policy and b) the wishes of the people who elected them makes the Greens a bunch of Trots, then I am indeed a proud Trot, tovarishch.

    We truly know we now live in a very right-wing country when a party, which is simply following the wishes of its members and voters, is compared with Trotsky for this.

    I’d list what I find hypocritical of the Lib Dems since the Cleggite entryists took over your party, but it would be a very long post indeed.

    @John Tilley: “Not all of us Stephen, I devote quite a lot of my time in LDV to exposing the Thatcherite lies and distortions.”

    I know you do, John. Let me state, for the record, that I have a lot of time and respect for you. You speak like the Old Lib Dems used to speak, back in the days when I gave my time and votes to your party. I’d even come back to the Lib Dem fold if the party went back to those days where Social Democracy was not equated with Trotskyism and Thatcherism was still a dirty word, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

  • @Simon Having scanned the Green Party Education Policy you linked, I think their admissions policy it isn’t quite as clear cut as you make out, although the policy does allow for your interpretation (which could be how the policy actually would be delivered). From what I can determine the relevant admissions policy statements are: ED112 and ED114.

    I find ED112 interesting with the first sentence being against selection and the second being for selection with the clear implication (in both this sentence and ED114) that such selection would be bases on the criteria ruled out in the first sentence!

    What I found interesting in looking at this document, is that whilst it reads quite well, it doesn’t stand up well to considered reading… The problem is that many I suspect will vote for the Green Party because of their historical ‘green’ credentials without looking too closely at their wider policies which have in the main been grafted on as the party moved from being one of protest to one more seriously looking to run for office.

  • Leekliberal 19th Jan '15 - 7:44pm

    @Stephen Campbell ‘So the Greens haven’t had the best start when running their first council’
    Let’s not mince words Stephen ….The Green Leadership of Brighton has been a complete shambles! For details see the link below –

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Jan '15 - 7:56pm

    Simon Shaw

    That is your interpretation of the policy. The Green policy on fair admissions is in line with the Lib Dem policy in 2010 ie: Local authorities will oversee admissions and ensure it is done fairly.

  • But the Greens membership keeps growing and they may hold Brighton and take Bristol. So if they’re a shambles. they’re a popular one.

  • As things stand and given an opportunity, I give my 2nd preference to the Greens. But as an internationalist, personal libertarian and a believer in opportunity , I could never seriously contemplate giving the Greens my x or 1st preference. Coalition Government was always going to be very difficult, the Tuition Fees debacle was handled extremely badly, but I have very little else to complain about given we have 1/6th of MPs the Tories have. Nothing the refugees in the Greens have said on here convinces me they would ever support a party serious about government.

  • For the record, I’m a very proud member of the team supporting Liberal Democrat Mayor Dave Hodgson on Bedford Borough who have kept open every library, opened new rural lower schools and improved bus services, all after suffering over £73m of Eric Pickles cuts in funding. I bet no Green or Labour member can point out a similar record………………Brighton, Liverpool and Sheffield, nuff said !

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Jan '15 - 8:58pm

    Simon Shaw

    So the key principle and top priority in admissions for you is parental choice. That is an idea introduced by the Major Government, who were obsessed with market choice (and of course, the Tories still are). I think the LEA should have strategic control of education in the locality and it should be done fairly.

    The Green understanding of the curriculum is holistic and less prescriptive, as well as less tied into target-getting, especially early years as the Lib Dem manifesto seems to be. This is what really appeals to me. It is quite important for children aswell, I think.

  • Ideas of “choice” in public services are also prominent in the policies of Liberal Future, and other right of centre liberal groups. It would be very easy to juxtapose the deep scepticism I and others on the radical side of the Lib Dems have for “choice” in public services with a Stalinist denial of choice. I speak as someone who spent several years of my working life trying to train, develop, and encourage more customer responsiveness in a variety of local government staff (and having some success) so my motivation is very positive here, whereas I can see many advocates of “choice” simply trying to destroy public service by providing such a plethora of options, that it reduces overall quality, while driving up unit cost. If the Green Party have come to a similar position, good for them, I say.

  • Brighton isn’t really the disaster area that some of the hostile commentators have made it out to be. It’s still as filthy and rubbish-strewn as it ever was, and the administration seems to have lost control of grafitti, but its public transport and cultural life are both excellent. Had it been a first time LibDem administration we would be lauding many of its achievements. Having said that, though, I’m afraid that it has given enough ammunition to its opponents to ensure that an unpleasantly cynical Labour Party will boot it out in May, and that will be to the detriment of British politics which needs the radical ideas and idealistic energy that we used to supply.

  • Simon Shaw has quite rightly highlighted the hostility to parental choice that runs like a stick of Brighton rock through the Greens’ education policies.

    Their instincts here are not so much radical as traditionally Fabian and statist, albeit substituting local for national government: evidently the ‘gentleman in the town hall’ is much better equipped than humble parents to decide which children go to which schools.

    There is another, less obvious, aspect of their programme which those signing up to Green Party education policy might wish to consider. Namely their ambivalence towards economic growth, and willingness to sacrifice it in the utopian pursuit of their environmental goals, means there would be less money to spend on education as on other things not just for a year or two but indefinitely.

    Even if they decided to prioritise education over the rest of their policy wish list, an ever declining national product would make it tough even to keep education spending constant.

    Naturally it would also make it harder to tackle the deficit, though as we know this is not a matter that bothers them greatly. (Here, as Simon says, we find much confusion: they claim austerity has killed off growth, yet simultaneously complain about our society’s “dependence on growth” and flirt with the idea that a smaller economy would be more sustainable… It seems they would square this circle by forcing the rich people whose presence in the UK they dislike so much to stay just long enough for the pips to be squeaked and the ‘tax gap’ to be closed. That’s sorted then.)

    I’d contend that a long-term reuction in GDP and the trend GDP growth rate would be the least bad outcome we could expect from Green economic policies. But don’t take my word for it. They actually state that it might be “necessary” to contract the economy in order to realise their environmental goals.

    I refer to Clause EC201 of their policy document: “To this end, the Citizens’ Income would allow the current dependence on economic growth to cease, and allow zero or negative growth to be feasible without individual hardship should this be necessary on the grounds of sustainability.”

    The implications of this aspiration are not trivial. Given the compounding effect of modest annual GDP growth, over time they would be momentous, marking a decisive break from the upward trend in living standards since the Industrial Revolution. And the result would be not only lower consumer incomes but fewer resources for public services for any given ratio of spending to GDP.

    They would then have to hope that their other aspiration of halting and reversing population growth had been successful enough to compensate for the smaller economy.

    In fairness, this might well happen if their economic policies were given full effect, in which case I imagine the current angst about immigration would give way to more justified panic about a brain drain and large-scale emigration. But if they still regarded the population as too large to be ‘sustainable’, no doubt further high-minded if authoritarian measures would be pursued that they would assure us would not lead to ‘individual hardship’.

    Odd, isn’t it, that some of the people who constantly decry ‘market fundamentalism’, ‘dogmatic austerity’ and so on – and claim to see it in the most unlikely places, such as the Liberal Democrats – are quite taken with the most dogmatic UK party of the lot. For all their faults, none of the four main parties (as I suppose we must now call them) actually aspires to put our centuries-long experiment in economic, social and tchnological progress into reverse in the name of its creed.

  • John Tilley,
    The EETPU’s negotiation over Wapping. There is another aspect. When running a factory , there tends to be two aspects , the electrical run by electricians and the mechanical run by th mechanics. For someone to be a supervisor , one needs t be understand the electrical and the mechanical. A friend who was an electrician who became a factory manager found out that electricians tended to find learning the mechanical aspects easier than the mechanics learning the electrical aspects: consequently far more electricians were promoted to the role of supervisor than mechanics which caused problems. If one looks at buildings 30-40 years ago 70% of cost was the structure and 30 % the contents , now it is almost the other way round. Consequently, one makes more more money working as an electrician than a bricklayer or a steel fixer. As trade and technology evolves, the skills needed change. The AEU and the EETPU understood this, the unskilled and semi-skilled unions largely did not- a skilled union is one where members have completed a 5 year apprenticeship.

    When it comes to increase in wealth what people ignore is the following
    1. Trade barriers have fallen , increasing size of markets.
    2. London is half way between London and Tokyo and so can do business with cities in the same day.
    3. English is the language of business and much commercial law and insurance is based in london. Many foreign companies chose to do business using British law.
    4.The internet allows vast amounts of high speed dealing.
    5. London manages much of the wealth funds of oil rich countries.
    6. Britain is politically and economically stable , so many business people have UK assets.
    7. Britons have the skills required to work in finance, law, insurance and other foreign companies find the situation in London favourable for business.
    8. Top universities producing numerate graduates.

    All the above factors have come together to make London a success. By increasing the size of markets it enables people to increase their income: we could introduce the trade barriers of the 1930s, which would reduce the size of markets and therefore reduce peoples wealth.

    Many of people working in The City have highly numerical degrees from Russell Group universities which makes it meritocratic : we could return to pre big bang when many firms were partnerships owned by families who largely educated their sons at Eton, Charterhouse and Dulwich. Of course if one attends a comprehensive which does not teach Further Maths A level ( only 60% do ) or does not do single science GSCEs or does not encourage people to take Maths , Physics or Chemistry A levels ( twice as many pupils at public school take Maths and Science a Levels than those at comprehensives), then one is unlikely to be recruited by a City firm wanting a highly numerate graduates from a Russell Group university.

  • Surely, Alex Sabine, it is not “dogma” that encourages (has for many many years) Liberals, and Liberal Democrats to support environmentally conscious policies? Surely it is realism about an uncertain and probably unsafe future? Before the Green Party, nay before the Ecology Party, nay before “People” as the Greens’ earliest incarnation in this country was known, Liberals were putting forward ideas of greenness, and ever since have held and implemented ideas which sometimes, and in some places have been practical and green. As a party, of course, we have never been consistent or full-hearted in our commitment to this, as we can see from this discussion.

    I would ask Alex and others here how they intend to face the future without some way of recognising limits of consumption? Without reviewing our economic indicators and measures (which our esteemed then leader of the Party, Paddy Ashdown was very keen on in the 90s) we risk going further down a supercharged growth road leading us nowhere. It is also worth considering that Citizens’ Income was a Lib Dem policy for part of the 90s, before it was overthrown by the neoliberalism coming to dominate Lib Dem thinking. An important feature of any sustainable society is going to be how you redistribute to those with little – our current obsession with paid employment and how it is the only way to a reasonable living standard is clearly off-beam.

    It would seem.however, that real physical restraints are more important and less moveable than the human created financial systems we work with, and where there are conflicts, we need to discuss how to change the financial and economic systems, which are not as immutable as people tend to think, rather than wishfully thinking that the physical world might change or our technological superman tendency might reimagine things without dangerous side effects.

    The reason 2015 is important is that we have an opportunity in December (at the Paris summit) to actually lay down international principles that will move us away from some of the worst damage. I think the message for Alex and others who think like him / her is that the Greens’ Clause EC201 which is quoted is actually pretty optimistic. We already see, in the massacres in the Middle East and West Africa, the deaths in boats of refugees in the Med, the Pacific and elsewhere, the early consequences of resource wars. The West cannot, ultimately wrap itself in a fortress-bubble and pretend GDP growth-based goes on in a fundamentally unaltered way.

  • >”if you really want action on environmental issues, vote Lib Dem.”

    I did, over and over again. What it’s got me is the scrapping renewable subsidies, the Green Deal, the biggest energy price hikes in history, the dismantling of local planning procedures and a government that completely ignored the National Trust’s calls to protect ancient woodland. You’ve had my time, money and the opportunity and you’ve failed me, so in the words of Vicki Anderson, “if you don’t give me what I want, I’ve got to get it some other place”.

  • Neil Sandison 20th Jan '15 - 11:00am

    Stephen Campbell
    There may well be a few Ecologist and Environmentalist left in the Green Party but what we have seen at a local level is that it has become a refuge camp for the politically disposessed or those kicked out of the mainstream because of hard line or dioctrinal views .Perhaps the liberals now in your ranks will begin to modify and rationalise your policies as you progress if they dont you will go the way of most hard left groups into schizism and implode on devisive in-fighting and beleive me you have some experts at doing that within your ranks.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Jan '15 - 11:09am

    Simon Shaw

    My warmth towards Green policy on education – as I said before – is primarily curriculum-related, especially early years.
    I am not going round the houses with you again on the issue of LEAs. I was clear that I want a strategic role for LEAs rather than the mess we have now. If the Greens are suggesting that LEAs allocate pupils to schools without any preferences at all from parents, I wouldn’t agree. For me though, that is less important than the curriculum, my main interest.

  • @Simon Shaw
    Read the other Green thread – it explains my position. I suspect I’m a great deal more serious about this than you are, I’ve done a great deal about it and will continue to do so. I should of qualified “history” as the past 50 years, because the graph only goes back to 1965 – our energy costs have nearly doubled in a decade.

  • Simon Shaw – having made my contribution, I was trying to stay out of this pointless debate. However, as a Liberal Party activist on Merseyside for most of the Militant Tendency period, I witnessed at first hand the threat of violence, actual violence, sexism, homophobia and racism of these fascist thugs at first hand. To even hint at comparing them to the Green Party is, in my view, a disgusting debating ploy unworthy of anyone taking part in a liberal forum.

  • To summarise, it seems to me the Green Party’s ‘offer’ on education – though naturally they will not advertise it as such – is to end parental choice, a big shift towards monopolistic local authority control, and permanently lower spending (as a result of their stated economic policy aims). Not an appealing combination.

    Presumably a greater proportion of the diminished schools budget will have to go to the beefed-up LEAs to ensure they have “adequate funding” (ED015) to carry out their new responsibilities, but there is little prospect of abolishing or downsizing the Whitehall education department though they do promise to “review and reduce the powers of the Secretary of State”.

    In the smaller budget plus greater LEA control scenario I think what they planned for the curriculum would be a bit of a sideshow, frankly. I agree with you Helen that the current national curriculum is flawed, but the laundry list of ‘learning entitlements’ the Greens plan to replace it with seem to be just as prescriptive in their own way. Many of the aspirations are harmless enough in themselves, but I’m not sure school heads need to be served motherhood and apple pie by Green Party professional politicians.

  • Charlie 20th Jan ’15 – 9:32am

    Charlie, interesting though your comment was – I am trying to work out how it related to the question I asked you about EETPU.

    I will make one observation about something that you said. From first-hand experience I can tell you that some bricklayers earn a great deal more than many electricians. Not only did the bricklayers I worked for earn more than the electricians on the same site, I earned more than the electricians as well even though I was completely unqualified.

    I was lucky to be working for some highly skilled and commercially very astute bricklayers but the fact is we were banking twice what the average spark was taking home every week.

    Lots of things have changed in that industry since my time but I can still point you to bricklayers who have retired early with their investments taken care of by their accountant.

  • Hello Simon,

    As I said before, read what I wrote in the other Green thread, I’ve written extensively on this topic recently. Low energy costs don’t help the environment, but lower energy consumption and renewable energy is great for it – it’s completely possible to reduce costs, use less power and get more from renewables, in fact, it’s the current direction of travel.

    By more serious about it I mean I’ve changed every facet of my families life to adapt to these things, I’ve crushed needless household consumption, electricity usage, I have no car (I walk and use public transport, which is hard in the country), we grow a lot of our own food, we partially generate our own power, we’re vegetarian, we cleanup public spaces at weekends, etc. If you’re on a similar tip then let’s hear about it – what do you do to protect the environment Simon? If that’s your bag then the Lib Dems could really do with your input right now, because people like yourself seem intent on driving supporters to the Greens.

    Falling petrol price = bad for environment; falling PV car price = good for environment. It sounds as if you’re trying to make the argument that Lib Dems kept the nation in fuel poverty in order to look after the environment?

  • Andrew Colman 20th Jan '15 - 1:22pm

    Some are calling the Greens a “hard left/trotskite” party. Don’t see any examples of this

    I am not a green, I am a liberal democrat, but I do see that the greens are making an important contribution
    the deb ate on the role of the free market v regulation in the light of the credit crunch.

    Some, led by our corporate sponsored right wing press play down the importance of the credit crunch and just
    blame Gordon Brown, public sector workers, benefit claimants and immigrants for our current economic difficulties.
    I call these people “credit crunch deniers” as they at least imply that the model on which the western worlds financial markets is perfectly okay.

    I disagree. The credit crunch revealed a fundamental flaw in the financial model currently being used, a model where TBTF banks are bailed out by taxpayers and able to continue to make absurd profits as before (see latest Goldman Sachs bonuses) whilst ordinary businesses are struggling, working people are taking wage cuts or losing their jobs.

    We need a fundamental review of how our financial system, works, how credit and deb t is managed and who makes the big investment decisions of the future eg fracking v renewables. The credit crunch showed that investment bankers cannot b e trusted with these decisions. We also need to take on board the fact that maximum economic growth can only be achieved when there is equality. Allowing small numbers of people to have most of the wealth restricts jobs and puts a cap on growth. It is this inequality that helped trigger the economic crisis through huge imbalances in the world economy and is likely to trigger future crisis unless there is fundamental change.

    I do not accept my views expressed here as anti-capitalist. Bailing out the TBTF banks was hardly capitalism, Its about creating a capitalist model with suitable regulation that serves the people as a whole. The greens may not have all the answers to this, but they are kicking of the debate whist the leadership of other parties seem to frightened of the corporate establishment to join in.

  • Andrew Colman 20th Jan '15 - 1:32pm

    See the discussion about education and parental choice above.

    Parental choice is a myth in many areas as parents only have one choice of school to use, particularly in rural areas.
    What the majority of parents really want is for all schools to b e “good”.

    Calling this “statist” is a bit rich from a supporter of a government who fines parents for taking their children on holiday or sends parents of truants to jail.

  • John Tilley
    Electricians have become important due to computer controls of machinery – someone has to wire the building. The EETPU made sure their members had the skills which kept them employed. The EETPU managed to negotiate very good deals for it’s members in part through making sure it’ s members had the skills( rules change frequently for electrical circuits), accepting new technology and I think, no strike agreements.

    Industrial democracy is irrelevant if there is no industry. There are very few publications which old fashioned printing presses so there is hardly any need for printers. When CAD was introduced those draftsmen who ad previously were highly skilled in using pens and pencils, who did not learn how to use the new technology, were out of a job. The most resistant people to the technology which came in post WW2 were mostly the leaders of the un and semi skilled unions. Red Robbo did not support the introduction of robots !

    All electrical work has to be certified as safe .by someone who is NICEIC accredited
    NICEIC is the UK’s leading voluntary regulatory body for the electrical contracting industry. It has been assessing the electrical competence of electricians for over fifty years and currently maintains a roll of over 26,000 registered contractors.

    Prior to recession NICEIC electrician could earn £250/day and a bricklayer £180/day. As buildings include more electrical /building services work , the role of the electrician/controls technician becomes more important. In London a bricklayer is on about £40K/yr today: I doubt many earn more than a NICEIC electrician . Bricklayers who made good money tended to run gangs. Many house building/construction industry tradesmen who became developers appeared to have come from a bricklaying background.

    Anyone who has good 5-6 good GSCES including maths, physics and English is fit and has a adequate head for heights cold do well by looking at any apprenticeship which involves working with electricity. Wiring up wind and solar farms will require large numbers of people who have most likely come through the National Grid apprenticeship scheme.

  • Andrew Colman 20th Jan '15 - 2:43pm

    Simon Shaw; I expect many parents in urban areas do not have a real choice either, perhaps because they can’t afford to buy a house within commuting distance of a preferred school.

    And what do parents base their choice on, league tables which are misleading because they ignore quality of intake.

    I have witnessed the detrimental effect of “parental choice” in my home town where one school which was less popular had several empty classrooms, recently built at cost of £3millions whilst a more popular neighbouring school was packed with temporary classrooms.

    I return therefore to my original point. “All schools should be kept to a good standard”, after all how many parents want to send there children to a “bad” school

    As a matter of interest , did you support the 2013 act which removed head teachers discretion and resulted in fin es for parents taking children on holiday in term time, even for a few days. There is no better example of state knows best than this

  • Andrew Colman 20th Jan '15 - 2:47pm

    Re Brighton Budget

    I don’t know all the details about this, but I don’t think is unreasonable for a council to make a stance against cuts, given they believe along with many constituencies that the government is passing the buck about making difficult cuts to local authorities..

  • I really do not get the point of this attack on the Greens, It’s counter productive, much like the one with SNP is counter productive. The voters left because of policies enacted by the coalition, tuition fees, bedroom tax etc. These policies lumbered youngsters with huge long term debts and made a lot of people who voted Lib Dem poorer. Further more the Lib Dems were big on Green issues. So it’s not actually surprising that a party that is big on reversing cuts in spending and Green issue benefits from the collapse in the Lib Dem vote. Maybe people are turning to the Greens because they ARE STATIST not despite of it. The rise in zero hours pay, part time work and such as like breeds an atmosphere financial instability which inevitably means that some of those most effected and some of those can see a problem with Small-State thinking actually want the government to do something..

  • Andrew Noblet 20th Jan '15 - 2:51pm

    Some of the insults being thrown at the Greens used to be thrown at the Lib Dems. We shall soon be told that a vote for the Greens is a wasted vote. Just what the Tories and Labour used to tell the electorate about the Lib Dems ! In Chippenham that turned out to wrong.

  • Alex Sabine 20th Jan '15 - 2:59pm

    @ Andrew Colman
    What the majority of parents really want is for all schools to be “good”.

    No doubt they are all in favour of motherhood and apple pie, too. There is no argument over the objective. The question is what makes a good school, and how to replicate this and spread best practice so that there are more of them and standards are driven up across the education system. A related question is why there are big differences in the performance and quality of different schools even when you control for the socio-economic background of the pupil intake.

    Where parents do have the opportunity to exercise choice, the evidence is that they take it – whether by paying for private education (which of course only a small minority can afford to do, but see the polling results when people are asked whether they would do so if they could afford it), or by seeking out high-achieving academies, comprehensives or faith schools, sometimes by moving catchment areas or discovering new-found religious convictions…

    If parents do not value choice it is a wonder why some state schools are massively over-subscribed and others under-subscribed.

    It strikes me as patronising, to say the least, to imply that only those well-off enough to send their kids to private schools care about choice, and the majority don’t. The truth is that people vote with their feet when given the chance, and the Green Party wants to stop them and presumes to know what is good for them.

  • @Andrew Colman
    “What the majority of parents really want is for all schools to b e “good”.”

    Yes, parents do want all schools to be “good” – but not identical, because their children are different!

    Which goes back to your first point, namely “Parental choice is a myth”. I happen to live in a ‘rural’ area and yes we do have a choice, albeit more limited than those living in our neighbouring towns. The key here is as Simon indicates, currently parents can and do express a schools preference that is taken into consideration by the local authority when allocating places, under the green manifesto, as Simon indicates, the absence of parental input/involvement in their policies is loud and clear.

  • Glenn 20th Jan ’15 – 2:49pm
    “..I really do not get the point of this attack on the Greens, It’s counter productive, much like the one with SNP is counter productive. The voters left because of policies enacted by the coalition, tuition fees, bedroom tax …”

    Yes, Glenn, you are right to react in this way. I can only assume that some of the Liberal Democrats in this thread are suffering from the delusion that free-market Thatcherism is liked by the voters. Maybe that is why we got less than 1% in the most recent parliamentary by-election and why our leader is less popular with the voters than Ebola.

    You are also right to point out “Maybe people are turning to the Greens because they ARE STATIST not despite of it. ”

    Opinion poll evidence indicates that 60% plus would like railways and utilities re-nationalised. The public do not like the free-market because it is the public, the ordinary voters, who suffer every time the free-market fails (which is just about every week).

  • Simon Shaw
    Are you saying that you supported the Militant Tendency in the early 1980s ?

  • Simon Shaw

    There were some things that the Militant Tendency favoured that Liberals also favoured.
    They both shared a real dislike of the old rightwing Labourites that had once dominated the City.

    I cannot honestly remember what the Mlitant Tendency policies were on insulation of homes, opposition to nuclear power, investment in renewable sources of energy or recycling of domestic waste. Do you remember?

    These are the sort of policies that The Greens have today which I find very attractive, but I cannot remember the Militant Tendency saying too much about these priorities. Do you ?

  • Stephen Hesketh 20th Jan '15 - 7:17pm

    Seven questions for Simon Oliver!

    Simon, I consider myself to be a green egalitarian Liberal. When I first joined the Liberals in 1980/81 my driving reasons were the party’s radical commitment to the environment, the redistribution of power and wealth and its view that people and their communities were important irrespective of their class, colour, nationality etc. So, as one Green Liberal to another I would like to ask seven fairly straight forward questions regarding the stance of the Green Lib Dems themselves:

    1. Do the Green Lib Dems agree with the abandonment of the party’s long-term opposition to fission nuclear power?
    2. Do the Green Lib Dems believe that the earth’s resources are mostly finite?
    3. Do the Green Lib Dems believe that economic growth is a desirable end in itself or only when it is sustainable?
    4. Do the Green Lib Dems believe that global population growth can continue unabated?
    5. Do the Green Lib Dems believe we should replace Trident?
    6. Do the Green Lib Dems believe that it is right that so much of the earth’s resources are controlled by so few people?
    7. Do the Green Lib Dems believe that free markets will cause those who presently control these resources to share this wealth and power or that national and international government intervention will be required?

    I am genuinely interested in your response to these because I believe it is through our stance on questions such as these that over the next parliament we may be able to challenge the Greens. If we can’t then we really have become a party anchored firmly to the centre and economically and environmentally little different to Labour and the Tories.

    The questions are in no particular order and I appreciate that I have missed out many vital core Lib Dem values and restricted myself only to green/sustainability questions so would ask fellow posters not to bounce me for not mentioning other issues such as parental preference and the 1980’s history of Liverpool’s Militant Tendency 🙂

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 21st Jan '15 - 8:14am

    @ Stephen Hesketh and others
    Thank you for reminding a few that LD and Green principles overlap considerably. We are the left-of-centre that the right-of-centre wishes to rubbish or dismiss. Though deciding which tactical vote to cast will be difficult for left-of-centre people to assess, in the coming GE, I believe that is what many of us will try to do.

    Though I am clear that Mr Clegg is some sort of LD, like me, his constant agreement and support in public of Tory policies [not like me] makes it easier to decide how to vote.

  • Simon Oliver —
    ” There is no such thing as a free market. It’s an illusion that continually fools those without a good grounding in reality”

    I am delighted to see you say this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Jan '15 - 10:11am

    I feel the Green Party SHOULD be a bit authoritarian. After all, it’s a Green party, not a Liberal party. In fact one of the the things I dislike about the Green Party is the way it seems to spend too much time trying to be a sort of social liberal party at the expense of not pushing the straight Green message.

    In some way the challenge that destruction of the environment and running down of natural resources poses is so great that in order to face it properly one has to forgo some of one’s liberalism. I would like to see a Green Party that is putting that message in order to make points that need to be made, even though I wouldn’t want such a party to be dominant in government and I would certainly want it balanced by those such as us, who argue the side of liberalism.

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st Jan '15 - 11:08am

    Simon Oliver20th Jan ’15 – 9:46pm
    Simon, a quick thank you for your reply. I will comment more fully later (I’m tied up at work today)

    Tony Rowan-Wicks21st Jan ’15 – 8:14am
    Thank you and exactly!

  • nvelope2003 22nd Jan '15 - 3:06pm

    Interesting that the Greens want to bring back nationalisation and state control while the last remaining Communist states, Cuba and even North Korea have decide to bring back private enterprise in order to improve living standards and avoid having to depend on the no longer available subsidies from Venezuela and Russia. Where are the subsidies for a Socialist Britain going to come from ?

  • David Allen 22nd Jan '15 - 7:50pm

    A helpful memory from the distant past. When David Owen took the leadership of the SDP, he had an ambition (secret then, admitted since) to bust up the alliance with the Liberals. What did he do? Well, he started campaigning vociferously in favour of nuclear power – Despite the fact that at that time, nobody had the least intention of building more nuclear plant in the UK in the foreseeable future. So why did Own pick on that issue? Simply because it was just about the only issue on which he thought that SDP activists would relaibly jump one way while Liberal activists would jump the opposite way.

    Now, we see attention being directed toward Green policy on parental choice in education. Not a trivial issue, granted, but hardly an area of policy in which the Greens would claim to have their greatest interest, specialist expertise, or dogmatic commitment to a particular position. So why are some people making such a fuss about it? To draw attention away from more important issues, and to stoke up unnecessary conflict, that’s why!

  • David Allen 22nd Jan '15 - 7:56pm

    Simon Oliver,

    Thanks for a well argued and inspiring series of answers to Stephen Hesketh’s seven questions. I will pose you one more question, if it is not too embarrassing. To what extent are you content with the actions of Liberal Democrats in Government on these questions?

  • nvelope2003 22nd Jan ’15 – 3:06pm
    ” ……… the last remaining Communist states, Cuba and even North Korea ”
    …..Where are the subsidies for a Socialist Britain going to come from ?”

    How many Reds have you got under your bed? Do you have room for Greens under there as well ?

    You seem to be stuck in the mind set of 1950s McCarthyite smears in the USA. Do you really believe this stuff?

    Will you be calling for a Select Committee to cross question people in public life with questions like — ” Are you, or have you ever been someone who recycles domestic waste? “

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Jan '15 - 8:40am

    Simon Oliver 20th Jan ’15 – 9:46pm

    Firstly apologies for the delay in responding – busy couple of days. Thank you for your responses and also for raising the profile of the Green Liberal Democrats. I have tended not to be a member of our associated groups but will be signing up to the GLD’s.

    I know this is not a place for extended debate so make just a few brief comments:

    1) Fission nuclear – for me the risk arising from any accidents renders this technology as it stands and as proposed by Ed Davey a huge potential environmental threat, an economic waste of money, terrorist target etc. That we can consider reopening the programme when we haven’t developed clear scientific and, crucially, socially and politically acceptable methods for safely storing high and medium level waste from the last phase of this industry is completely beyond me. With its associated issues – no one can claim them to be unknown or unexperienced – I can’t see how this technology can reasonably be considered on any small relatively densely populated island. I am interested though in the better technologies you touch upon – thorium?

    Absolute agreement re renewables!

    2. Fully agree re your zero waste ethic and I certainly like your comments regarding ‘mining’ of old land fill sites.

    3. Regarding the desirability of economic growth and maintaining this within sustainable limits, I would agree that our psychological dependency on the natural environment is frequently under estimated – even as simple as enjoying bird song while delivering Focus as someone, possibly John Tilley, observed in a previous thread. Regarding our physical dependency, the importance and health of pollinating insects and coral reefs as fish nurseries show that we are ultimately as dependent on the earth as we always have been. Finally, we regularly talk about passing on financial debt to future generations – my concern is that non-sustainable growth is every bit as bad, if not worse, should it result in us passing on an ever more stripped out earth and poisoned biosphere to future generations.

    4. Concerning unabated global population growth, as a Liberal I agree with your points but I also fear it is a little like believing in ‘trickle-down’ economics – things can get an awful lot worse before you discover it hasn’t worked. In a world facing global warming and its associated problems of water, food and land shortages, an expanding population could very easily result in unthinkable and extremely illiberal consequences.

    5. Trident … sounds good but that is an awful lot of oceanographic study!

    6. Regarding the rights and wrongs of so few people controlling so much of the earth’s resources, OK, in terms of posing an environmental question I can agree that sustainability is the better word than my ‘is it right’ but in terms of ethics (and hence sustainability), I regard 1% of the population owning 50% of the wealth to be bordering on the grotesque – and not to mention unsustainable.

    7. The Green Lib Dems, free markets and the need for national and international government intervention to ensure this wealth and power are shared. I like your “There is no such thing as a free market. It’s an illusion that continually fools those without a good grounding in reality.”
    Using government (correctly priced) subsidies for renewable energy and abolishing those on fossil fuel exploration and development … to which I would also add fission nuclear! is obviously sensible. Also with the need to intervene to educate but this is proving painfully slow when opposed at almost every turn by our ‘any story for a profit’ media.
    I particularly like your common sense idea of dropping interest rates on green deal loans to zero, allowing multiple project feed in tariffs on individual properties and with your ideas to make it compulsory for all landlords to improve the energy performance of their properties.

    As I say, I will be signing up!

  • Simon Oliver

    1. Failsafe – zero chance of going critical
    2. No long-lived highly radioactive waste products
    3. Zero plutonium – we don’t need it and it’s the main security risk
    4. Zero subsidies – with the exception of support for genuine scientific and engineering innovation

    1. nothing has a 0% chance of going wrong
    2. long lived radioactive products are actually safer than short lived ones
    3. We do, it’s not.
    4. Why specifically zero subsidies for nuclear, why not zero subsidies for all other forms of power generation?

    Why not just come out and say you don’t want nuclear power, ever, rather than pretending you do and setting impossible conditions?

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Jan '15 - 12:07pm

    g23rd Jan ’15 – 10:35am

    G – I am particularly interested in your points:

    3. We do [need plutonium], it’s not [the main security risk]
    4. Why specifically zero subsidies for nuclear, why not zero subsidies for all other forms of power generation?

    Re 3 – I do actually agree that it in not necessarily the main security – or crucially environmental – risk but I would love to understand just why Britain needs more plutonium?

    Re 4 – well for a start that is the policy of our party, albeit somewhat compromised by Mr Davey but also because had alternative technologies benefited from the levels of subsidy and investment the nuclear industry has, the UK would now very likely be self sufficient in renewable energy and be exporting these commonly smaller scale technologies globally instead of importing highly capital intensive nuclear technology at great expense (and subsidy) from abroad!

    As Simon states the British people have proved very good at innovative science and engineering. We should return to working to our historical strengths of inovation and manufacturing. Far more sustainable, socially liberal and democratic than concentrating on ‘the city’ I would argue.

  • Alex Sabine 23rd Jan '15 - 7:05pm

    To someone who isn’t (any longer) a member of your party, I’m not satisfied by the party policy that nuclear power should on no account be subsidised but it’s justified, indeed imperative, to shower renewables with subsidies. This looks suspiciously like dogma, which those of us who John Tilley regards as ‘free-market fundamentalists’ are ritually accused of.

    I understand the ‘infant industry protection’ type arguments but if you use those then you can hardly complain that subsidising, say, the decommissioning costs of nuclear waste distorts the market.

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Jan '15 - 8:30pm

    Alex Sabine 23rd Jan ’15 – 7:05pm

    I can see why you left. Thank you.

  • Tsar Nicolas 24th Jan '15 - 11:01pm

    Alex Sabine,

    The trouble with subsidising nuclear power is that given that nobody has solved the problem of radioactive waste, any subsidy must last thousands of years, well out beyond the conceivable lifetime of any civilisation.

  • Alex Sabine 23rd Jan ’15 – 7:05pm

    “….those of us who John Tilley regards as ‘free-market fundamentalists’

    Alex Sabine, other than reading your comments in LDV, I do not know who you are. Should I know you?

    If you are the member of a group of ‘free-market fundamentalists’ I was not aware of that either. It is I suppose a description you have chosen for yourselves and feel comfortable with. So as Stephen Hesketh says it is understandable that you are no longer a member of the Liberal Democrats.

    As for the obscenely massive subsidies to nuclear power, I can and I do complain about UK taxpayers being forced to subsidise privatised nuclear companies to the tune of more than £100 BILLION to decommission their poisonous derelict sites. What sane person would not?

  • Alex Sabine 25th Jan '15 - 2:16am

    It is a phrase often bandied about on LDV comments threads to characterise even centrist Clegg/coalition supporters. Aka “extreme Thatcherites”, “Thatcherite Entryists”, “so-called free-market ideology” and the other sub-Marxist labels that you have peppered around in recent threads. Oh, and not forgetting “blind prejudice” that you also detect in my comments…

    “As for the obscenely massive subsidies to nuclear power, I can and I do complain about UK taxpayers being forced to subsidise privatised nuclear companies to the tune of more than £100 BILLION…”

    Fine, I also don’t want subsidies to nuclear plants. Do you complain about the wind and solar boondoggles too? But as I pointed out in another thread, this figure of £100 billion looks dubious to me – can you substantiate it?

    Rather than subsidising particular forms of energy production and ‘picking winners’, I prefer the approach advocated by The Economist: “Governments have a legitimate role in making sure that energy is abundant, clean and secure. But they need to learn the difference between picking goals and deciding how to reach them. Broad incentives are fine; second-guessing scientists and investors is not. A carbon tax, in other words, is a much better way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases than subsidies for windmills and nuclear plants.

    …Scrapping unfair obstacles to energy investments is just as important as dispensing with subsidies. The more cross-border pipelines and power cables the better. America should approve Keystone XL and lift its export restrictions, while European politicians should make it much easier to exploit the oil and gas in the shale beneath their feet.

    This ambitious to-do list will drive regiments of energy lobbyists potty. But for the first time in years it is within the realms of the politically possible. And it would plainly lead to a more efficient and greener energy future…”

  • John Broggio 25th Jan '15 - 9:21am

    According to http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/n1213630.pdf, the decommissioning costs of Sellafield alone is £36.6bn (NPV), £67.5bn (undiscounted). There are many more nuclear sites that will require decommissioning at our expense and £100bn seems a remarkably low estimate in the context of the NAO report.

  • Colin made a point: “One of the key strategies of the Better Together campaign in Scotland was to suppress the vote”.
    This reminds me that after the post-mortem of the 7 May election we may have to look at the electoral registers used for that election. The LibDem-Conservative coalition seems to have rather bungled the change in the registration process. Burt isn’t it suspiciously convenient for the bCoalition that mainly students, young people, people in privately rented accomodation, etc seem to have dropped off the register?

  • Alex Sabine

    I am delighted you say ” I also don’t want subsidies to nuclear plants. ” 

    You go on to ask two questions —
    1…Do you complain about the wind and solar boondoggles too?
    2…this figure of £100 billion looks dubious to me – can you substantiate it?

    In reverse order — the answer to question 2 is Yes.   —

    The Public Accounts Committee in 2013 established that costs of decommissioning of Sellafield alone had topped  £70 BILLION.   

    “Zarges was forced onto the defensive after MPs quoted extensively from a review prepared by auditing firm KPMG for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the public body charged with overseeing NMP and Sellafield.”


    The Public Accounts Committee put the total costs of decommissioning at over £100 BILLION


    My answer to your question 1 is that I will worry about renewables when we have evidence that there is anything like the dangers of damage to health (deaths and cancers) that the COMARE report published in around 2002 .

    When we have had a disaster of the magnitude of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima resulting from a solar panel or a wind turbine I might give it some consideration.

    Until that time it makes economic sense, public health sense and national security sense to invest in renewables with every penny we have available to us.   

  • OK, I’m glad you have now specified you are referring to the total cost. In another thread when you referred to the £100 billion you compared it to the £444 million budget ‘under-spend’ by the Scottish government, which appeared to conflate an annual cost with a cumulative total. The annual cost of decommissioning Sellafield – the amount the DECC is having to pay from its budget – is £1.7 billion, itself an unacceptably high figure.

    But in any event, there’s no denying these are indeed eye-watering figures. As the Economist observes, “these big sums reflect problems peculiar to Britain” in that it pioneered nuclear bomb-making in the 1940s and nuclear power in the 1950s with an inadequate plan for how the contaminated structures would be dealt with.

    The trickiest decommissioning challenge is of course Sellafield, the cost of which has been exacerbated (according to the public accounts committee) due to mismanagement by Nuclear Management Partners. As we know, the public sector is not great at choosing contractors and probably shouldn’t have awarded it another five-year contract.

    I do think the NDA has ensured that contractors will bear more of the cost of decommissioning at Hinkley Point, Sizewell and Dungeness; but the decommissioning periods are probably still too long and too many of the costs are being shunted into the future.

    I am not particularly an enthusiast for nuclear power. I am ‘agnostic’ as to what form of energy production is best, and I suspect we will need a mixture of all sources to keep the lights on while reducing emissions. I favour an ‘all of the above’ approach including renewables and shale. I just find the lopsided approach to subsidies from some opponents of nuclear power a bit hard to swallow.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th Jan '15 - 5:46pm

    JohnTilley 25th Jan ’15 – 9:33am

    Brilliant post John. Clearly demonstrates why – economic grounds alone – we simply can’t afford a further round of investment in the nuclear industry.

    Setting aside the human and environmental cost, the economic costs of clearing up an ‘accident’ the magnitude of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima would be staggering even compared with the quoted Sellafield/Windscale costs.

    Individuals and communities should be given the facts and be empowered via local energy saving and generation plans. As in so many areas, there is far too much NIMBY-ism regarding the choices society faces as to the methods used to generate electricity and other domestic energy requirements.

  • Peter Chivall 26th Jan '15 - 12:20pm

    Congratulations, Simon on a brilliantly inspiring thread that opened up a very wide ranging debate on, basically, who we are and what we stand for as a Party. As a fellow Green LibDem who often comes up in political attitude surveys as ‘green’ I also know why it is I remain a LibDem – and it is not because of the apparent policies and attitudes of the current Parliamentary leadership.
    I especially liked your clear responses to Stephen Hesketh’s seven questions – I think that Q & A should be posted on the GLD website.
    Finally, as the only Liberal who appeared at the Windscale Enquiry in 1978 – opposing the reprocessing proposals (to extract Plutonium from spent fuel – which subsequently cost over £2bn and turned out to be a total waste of money), I felt that your subsequent mini-thread on subsisdies for nuclear versus renewables stated very clearly why subsidising any future nuclear power would turn out to be just as disastrous a waste of money and danger to our long-term environment.

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