“Ten Green Bloggers sitting in a Room”

Last Monday, 2nd June, a group of ‘ten green bloggers’ assembled in my office at Westminster to plan to take over the universe. Or if not that, perhaps at least to save the planet.

I have been aware for some time that the Lib Dems’ Facebook campaign on getting the Climate Change Bill toughened up hasn’t really caught fire in the way that I hoped. So I was delighted to be able to bring together a cross-party group of people who share the same commitment to the environment, but also have expertise online / in communications, or who are well networked in the online green world.

The ten of us (plus me) agreed that we would prioritise a campaign to get ‘real people’ to go and see their MP, explain why 80% cuts in C02 by 2050 are needed, and then report back to a new website – www.canvassyourmp.com – which goes live in ‘beta’ version today, 9th June, to coincide with the Second Reading of the Climate Change Bill. We will report on whether the MPs committed to back 80% or not, and will keep the site regularly updated.

To make this happen has involved a lot of teamwork:

• more than a dozen volunteers have spent time this weekend looking up MP contact numbers and surgery arrangements to go on the site; one was an American I have still never met who looked up 30 MPs for me!
• a contact of the 10 bloggers – Jez Swinscoe – generously offered to design and host the site – on a wind-powered server no less!
• people have already started blogging about the meeting and spreading the word:
> http://beingunchained.blogspot.com
> http://greenormal.blogspot.com
> and of course here: http://webbsteve.blogspot.com

The group are kicking around all sorts of ideas to promote the campaign – one suggested MPs wearing “80% less” for a day… – so it will be exciting to see if this really takes off.

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74 Comments

  • asquith wrote:
    “Geoffrey Paine, I tend to be on the economic liberal wing of the party (if there are “wings”, which I doubt) and you can rest assured that I for one am as committed to environmentalism, internationalism and liberalism as anyone.”

    When I try to work out what’s happened to this party, it’s posts like this that shed a glimmer of light.

    You’ve just told us on another thread that you didn’t even support the party until 2005 – before that, you’d have voted Conservative – and even since then you’ve had a “flirtation” with Cameron.

    But we can “rest assured” you’re as committed to liberalism as anyone (!). All I can say is that it must be liberalism with an extremely small ‘l’ …

  • “Anon, if you don’t want anybody in your party who has rejected the Tories, then you should join the Tories.”

    Bravo! Marvellous the way you twisted what I said beyond recognition!

    Saatchi and Saatchi would be proud of you.

  • Sticking up for Asquith.

    People arrive at politics from all angles, but what’s important in democratic politics is that more people are encouraged to participate in any way that they can and that every contributions is valued.

    None of the debate should be taken personally, because it is the more civilised choice to replace the battle of people with a battle of ideas.

    I get really annoyed when commenters occasionally lower themselves to attacking the messenger rather than the message, unless they can show some divergence in aims (like the resident Tories, who don’t always discuss here as a purely intellectual pursuit).

    I also get really annoyed when someone sparks up and says ‘the party’ (as if we are a huge centrally monolith) is neglecting their pet topic.

    Frankly, it might seem that things go quiet for a while on all sorts of fronts, but there are a myriad of ways to get involved, channel your passions to satisfy your urge or curiosity, so complaining about ‘the party’ is nothing more than an excuse for one’s own frustration – we can all do more, individually as well as collectively.

    This is the case and it will always remain so, because politics is there to deal with, focus and act as a conduit for the positive force of our seething mass of discontent.

    As it is environmental topics are at the heart of our DNA because, from a basic philosophical standpoint, there is a massive liberal crossover in ecologic and economic thinking which shows our relevance in both areas. On a practical level the environment is one of the most common concerns which I hear on the doorstep in my local area, whether it is saving a green space from development and getting tree preservation orders upheld through to concerns about traffic emmissions and pollution or something more technical.

    Party meetings are simply full of ‘green’ concerns because the environment is one policy area which undeniably effects us all and does so in some of the most visible ways.

    Try getting a decent discussion going about the details of our taxation policy and you’ll soon realise this is too dry for many members to get excited about, even though it can suddenly have huge impacts when we see the results in our pockets.

  • I was particularly impressed with Nick Clegg’s line that ‘liberalism is the thread which runs through society’, becasue it is absolutely true that liberals are at the forefront of all contemporary debates – from the environment to the economy, to law & order and equality issues, across the arts and academia through to contitutional reform and the question of standards in public and private life, creating the link between what are sometimes unrelated concepts such as health and sport – we have never been more relevant to the state of politics than we are today.

    My view is of liberal democracy is as the only political philosophy which is able to provide a holistic analysis, offering rounded answers with real solutions for both the short-term and the long-term, so evaluating one area of interest as relatively more important than another can’t but fail to address the totality and consequential combination of all questions.

    I admit I was slightly diappointed that the Cleggster then went on to call himself an ‘economic liberal’ instead of a ‘liberal democrat’ but that shouldn’t detract from the validity of our critique and the unity of purpose in the diversity of our interests.

    It is impossible to disentangle profitability from viability and sustainability and it would be foolhardy to diverge the focus upon both by arguing they are incompatible and setting one side against the other when we all gain by their mutual engagement, interaction and our human exchange. Even though we must accept weaknesses exist on all sides this has the benefit of strengthening our foundations by freeing us to distinguish the positive points which every offering provides.

    We have something to say on every issue and we have plenty worthwhile discussing with every faction or lobby group, provided, of course, we recognise the parameters of acceptable disagreement.

    It is therefore a bit disingenuous to identify an ‘anti-green’ movement when it would be more accurate to describe a rebalancing of the weight of debate where these issues are concerned – that kind of language hints at a tendency to one-sided green extremism and suggests a partiality in one’s personal liberal perspective.

  • asquith (and others)

    You might try reading what I actually wrote, before you waste too much of your time responding to imaginary arguments.

    And you now tell us you’ve only acquired “pro-EU” and “pro-immigration” views “from January to May”.

    Forgive me, but weren’t you also lecturing people on liberalism here during that period?

  • 1. you do not have to be pro-eu to be a liberal, we have MP’s that are actually euro-sceptic just that have voted against things like maastricht, etc. (you probably do have to be pro-immigration but surely its a good thing that he know sees ourside of the argument, surely he should be praised not hounded at)
    2.Geoffrey Payne, i have this sneaky feeling that you might actually be anti-capitalist?if so, its relay ot out party you should be in, probably labour?(well not them any more either). to act like our party should be against people being able to own property and make profits and live nice lives is silly. Keynes, who everyone sees as this anti capitalist economist of the liberals wasnt, he admitted that it was the “animal Spirit” or entrepeneurs that pushes us forward to having better lives and he did beleive in free markets, but just realised that there were many market failures of which needed to be addressed!he wasnt anti-capitalist and no-one relay should be if they’re a liberal.
    3. there are many “economic liberals” who are at the fore-front of the green movement, economists were telling governments in the 70’s that we needed to get off oil, coal, plastic, etc because its unsustainable, the term in economics is resource depletion. many also argue against pollution, etc, this is called resource degradation.There are numerous economic theories on the subject, i know because i study them so please don’t say that economic liberals don’t believe in green issues its politicians who are too scared to
    P.s. you quite right about listening to the adam smith institute etc, they aren’t just economic liberal they are highly right-wing ones(and there is a difference between a right wing and a centre economic-liberal) and have alot of business backing, this is why they are often anti-environment becuase they’d loose backing from (some) big businesses and right wing tories who only care about private costs not social costs!

  • Geoffrey Payne at 7:59,

    I really think many of the self-styled “libertarians”, especially those affiliated to the right-wing parties, are just bustin’ out for big corporations, and are not true liberals. I doubt whether Adam Smith or John Stuart Mill would have had a good word for the corporate economy.

    But these corporations are allied to the state. When economic liberalism was first forged, it was seen as a radical & challenging force which threatened the existing order. It was against artistocratic privilige at the time, because it’s against all privilige.

    Well, it still is.

    By extending opportunity, empowering people, decentralising power to bring it closer to individuals, and leaving the delivery (as opposed to funding) of public services to professionals working with those who recieve said services, we can quite easily reconcile a market economy & globalisation with what all of us want in terms of social outcomes.

    Obviously the market has its limits, but it is a force for good & shouldn’t be vilified. We are all about the same thing, the last thing we want is for the parasite media to suggest we are a riven party.

  • well said

  • Oranjepan wrote: “I admit I was slightly diappointed that the Cleggster then went on to call himself an ‘economic liberal’ instead of a ‘liberal democrat’”

    Actually, if you read the original speech, you’ll find out that he called himself ‘an economic, as well as a social, liberal’.

  • On green policies state vs. business. I think it is extremely naive to think that state is always good an green and business always bad and anti-green. Business works for profit, and that means greater efficiency. The greater efficiency doesn’t always mean consuming more, sometimes it means consuming less resources in order to achieve the same outcome than before.

    The state can sometimes do things to harness the self-interest of business to serve greener goals. However, if the state is working alone, it usually doesn’t have the interest (or imagination!) how to spare (natural) resources. Just look for instance what the Soviet Union did with its natural resources. Because of its wasteful use of its natural resources for example the once alive Aral Sea is now a dying pond in a middle of a wasteland.

  • The term “libertarian” was adopted by American classical liberals in order to distinguish themselves both from the so-called American “liberals” (who actually are social democrats or even socialists) and conservatives. With many of the Americal “liberals” the libertarians usually the objetive to a greater personal liberty, and with many conservatives the obejctive to a greater economic liberty.

    If we look how the term “libertarian” is often used in the UK, it seems to mean just a synonym to ultra-conservative, without necessarily any kind of support for a greater personal liberty. This is clearly in contradiction with the intention of those people who introduced the term in the USA.

    However, the libertarians in the USA seem to often have more sympathy for the economic liberals in the Lib Dem party than they have to the self-proclaimed “libertarians” in the Conservative Party, like for instance this article in Reason, the most important libertarina magazine, proves (though it is addmitedly a bit old).

  • “I am an economic, as well as a social, liberal.

    I am a proud inheritor of a British liberal tradition that has stood up, through the centuries, for free trade, and against protectionism.

    That supported entrepreneurialism as well as laying the foundations for the protections of the welfare state.

    That understood you can only deliver on progressive aims with the money delivered by economic growth.

    In the past, while Labour was enthralled by socialism, and while the Conservatives were getting periodically carried away by economic nationalism, the Liberal Democrats have always supported competitive markets”.

    Well, I could have written that myself, if it weren’t for the fact that I ain’t clever enough 😉 Some brilliant stuff in that link.

    12:15- strawman alert! We are arguing over the balance between the market and the state, no one is saying one or the other should have all power.

  • “12:15- strawman alert! We are arguing over the balance between the market and the state, no one is saying one or the other should have all power.”

    No-one? I was trying to answer to this text by Geoffrey Payne at 7:59 am: “it is the private sector, backed up by their advertising campaigns, that are relentlessly trying to manipulate us into consuming more.”

  • Yes, it was a good speech, because Clegg used it to unify the divergent factions that almost theatened to break out during the period running up to and during the leadership election, but I still don’t think he did enough to identify with the party – maybe he should have said “I’m an economic, as well as a social and democratic, liberal.”

    I find it hard to get away from our belief in plural democracy as the means for balancing opposing forces – be that social or economic demands – as it is also the means by which we unite them and ourselves.

  • Geoffrey Payne wrote: “no one so far has argued against the substance of the point I was making.”

    I thought I did, but in the case you didn’t notice, here it is again:

    “On green policies state vs. business. I think it is extremely naive to think that state is always good an green and business always bad and anti-green. Business works for profit, and that means greater efficiency. The greater efficiency doesn’t always mean consuming more, sometimes it means consuming less resources in order to achieve the same outcome than before.

    The state can sometimes do things to harness the self-interest of business to serve greener goals. However, if the state is working alone, it usually doesn’t have the interest (or imagination!) how to spare (natural) resources. Just look for instance what the Soviet Union did with its natural resources. Because of its wasteful use of its natural resources for example the once alive Aral Sea is now a dying pond in a middle of a wasteland.”

  • no you are quite right that they do try to persuade you to buy more and more but if a government tried to intervene to stop people from buying things they wanted it would inevitably fail and black markets would occur everywhere (hence one of the liberal arguments for liberalisation of light drugs).
    A change like this might be needed within our society but is it relay likely to happen, however we can try and get people off their addiction to non-renewble resources and use stuff than can be recycled(or re-grown) we need to use more wood in houses, less plastic (or atleast non-renewable plastic) and to stop throwing away stuff quite so much but governments alone cannot do this, society must demand it from business. This is why markets work if people want them two and if they have the right information, its the governments job to help make sure they’ve got all the information available not to tell them what to make of the information

  • Geoffrey, I think the lack of debate here about what it means to be green is down to the fact that it is answered by what it means to be liberal.

    Your original comment about the halcyon days of 80’s green liberalism fails to contextualise the long history of liberal concern for the environment evident as early as in victorian days and it also fails to acknowledge anything individual members have done since that time – it seems you’ve forgotten our contribution to the green tax debate and our efforts in campaigning for a switchover, to name but one recent initiative.

    Anyway I’m not sure what you mean by it being no longer ‘fashionable’ to argue an environmentalist case when it comes to economic matters – in fact I don’t know what ‘fashionable’ means at all.

    Perhaps you have lost touch with the cutting edge in the intervening period and are seeking to get more involved again, if so, there are ways and means and I’m sure it couldn’t be too hard to navigate your way to the main party website and start there, especially having found your way here.

  • but we do actually have regulation, health & Safety laws, consumer protection laws, (basic) workers rights, the Compation Commision, the OFT……..if you read blogs etc from libertarian websites they always have ago at us for having stuff like this….im not syaing that these things are bad, they are needed due to market failures which exist but they way you seem to be talking about regulation is as if you want to actually regulate them i.e. tell them what, how and where to do stuff!i may have misunderstood you though Geoffrey Payne?

  • well i dunno i think some people probably do quite enjoy introducing new regulations:)you are quite right though a degree of intervention is needed in economies but the way you have been arguing it just seems like your calling for nationalisation of all the “key” industries…….also wasn’t this debate meant to be about environmentalism?

  • Geoffrey, is advertising always ‘pernicious’?

    Surely you are ignoring the beneficial aspects of advertising for consumers and companies alike, whether it is in discovering suitable products for our needs or for gaining custom to enable companies to prosper.

    I think here it is imprortant to distinguish good advertising from bad advertising as a means of highlighting the difference between good capitalism and bad capitalism.

  • …and progressive environmentalism from anti-capitalism.

  • quite right Oranjepan, not all businesses do act wrongly becasue the market would punish them for it and he’s right to say that you do relay sound anti-capitalist Geoffrey Payne, i mean you can’t realy be anti-capitalist in a party that advocated it from the beggining

  • or she, didnt mean to offend:(

  • careful Declan, you might be reading too much between the lines.

  • Geoffrey Payne wrote: “Where you say “I think it is extremely naive to think that state is always good an green and business always bad and anti-green.” I agree. You are arguing against a point that I did not make. I suppose it is easier to argue against something you invent and which is deliberately silly rather than what I actually wrote.”

    No, you didn’t wrote it, but it seems to me you meant it. Perhaps you could express yourself more clearly, because you make an impression that you are opposing private sector without exception and uncritically saying that anything that comes from the state is good.

    “I think it is very unusual to see a TV ad that encourages you to consume less. The vast majority try to persuade you to consume more, and more often than not things that you do not need to consume. Now is someone going to seriously argue that this is not so?”

    I have seen ads, not perhaps so much in tv, but at least in the labels of products, that are marketing a product with green values. For instance detergents that are straining the environment less. These ads aren’t actually trying to persuade people to consume more (or less) detergent, they are actually trying to persuade people to consume products that are more environment friendly instead of products that are less environment friendly.

    Actually, many ads are trying to persuade people to choose one product instead of another, which they would consume in any case, not to consume more.

  • I’m amazed: Geoffrey is slightly critical of capitalism and gets accused of being a socialist who ought to be in the Labour Party. Well, I’m pretty critical of capitalism too, despite being a capitalist (employing people and paying them less money than they make me – well, that’s the idea though it doesn’t always work in practice!) State ownership of the means of production is not the only alternative to capitalism. There was a time when the co-ownership of industry was a central Liberal Party policy; I seem to recall that about the only thing the Lib-Lab Pact in the late 70s achieved was the installation of workers on the board of the Royal Mail. Workers co-operatives were also once supported by the Liberal Party, there was a point where the Young Liberals declared that “we are all anarcho-syndicalists now!” Have we become such a ‘narrow church’ that we can no longer accommodate people who are critical of the way that capitalism operates?

  • i thought co-operatives were supported by the lib-dems, some of our affinity deals are with them:)i don’t think to be a capitalist intails being anti co-op, surely its what ever works and is efficient:)but i get your point about our old policy, but we have moved on since then. and no we are not such a narrow church we were simply arguing with what he said! i don’t think anyone denies that (our) capitalism has its problems, but it still works better than anything else:)

  • let’s be honest, this thread is turning into “three green(ish) lib-dems with too little work to do”…

    I firmly believe that the state’s role is to protect the freedoms of individuals, and that includes making sure that they are safe, healthy and educated so they can enjoy those freedoms. I don’t believe that corporations should have the same rights as people. Does that make me a socialist too?

    On that note, I’m surprised that Geoff didn’t mention Joel Bakan’s “The Corporation”… I think it very eloquently sums up the reasons why business cannot be trusted on the environment.

  • Alix wrote:
    “you might wish to consider that Asquith is an uncompromising debater who admits regularly that his thinking is constantly evolving on all topics. This is a thing to be prized”

    Yes – I’m coming to the conclusion that I’ve been far too ossified in my support for the party over the last few decades.

    Right now my own thinking is “evolving” in the direction of giving myself a break from spending my free time delivering leaflets whose contents I don’t agree with any more.

    It may also be worth remembering that party membership fell by 10% during the period of Campbell’s leadership. It will be interesting to see whether the trend continues.

  • Geoffrey Payne wrote: “I believe that freedom of the individual is a very noble political aspiration, but I do not conflate that freedom with the freedom of markets to do whatever they like. Often the 2 freedoms conflict.”

    And according to my experience, often people who think that personal and economic freedom conflict are actually socialists. What would be for instance the freedom of expression, if one doesn’t have the right to found a press? (Or perhaps nowadays a website would be a better example). Freedom to express oneself is a theoretical one, if state owns all the medias.

    And actually I think that the division to “economic” and “personal” freedom is an artifical one.

    “The bottom line is that I support capitalism, but there is a lot about it I do not like.”

    I don’t see you supporting capitalism, though you say so. You can be critical, but your criticism would be more constructive if you offered alternatives. Simplifications like “advertising aims to increase consumption, advertising is bad” aren’t very constructive. You are criticising advertising, yet you say you don’t want to ban it. Then what do you suggest?

  • The other Anonymous (are you Geoffrey Payne?) wrote: “It may also be worth remembering that party membership fell by 10% during the period of Campbell’s leadership. It will be interesting to see whether the trend continues.”

    – I have been told it has fallen all time since the founding of the party. It should be a challenge for the party leadership (and why not the whole of party) to stop.

    But it is true that no party can please everybody. You win some, you lose some. I agree, that if you have spent decades in politics, maybe it is time to get the stale views an airing and think about something else for a change.

  • Anonymous

    No, I’m not Geoffrey Payne. Why should you assume that? Are you so arrogant you think that only one person in the party disagrees with you?

    Or just so arrogant that you characterise the views of those who have been in the party longer than the right-wing parvenus as “stale”?

    And yes, the membership of all the parties has been dropping. But under Campbell, it plummeted. We’ll see quite soon whether Clegg’s lurch to the right has slowed the haemorrhage, or accelerated it.

  • “you have the sodding audacity to call me a “right-wing parcenu”, just because I think the society we all want can just be achieved by liberal rather than socialist ends”

    Oh, please spare us the histrionics. You’re the one who said you’d have voted Tory before the last election (that’s before the Tories went liberal, after all – we’re talking Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith here). And that you’d flirting with the Tories even since 2005.

    To say nothing of developing “pro-immigration” views only in the last few months! What was it before then – “England for the English”?

    But maybe that kind of thing doesn’t even count as right-wing in the Lib Dems today. “Lurch to the right – what lurch to the right?”

  • Give it up anon, Libdemmery isn’t a genetic inheritance – we try to win people over with reasoned arguments rather than slagging off any previous mistakes – so why complain when we are successful at it, unless this provides an explanation for your anonymity?

  • Oranjepan

    If your idea of “winning people over” is getting a lot of Tories to join the party, it’s hardly surprising it’s moved so far to the right!

  • The other anonymous wrote: “Are you so arrogant you think that only one person in the party disagrees with you?”

    No, you just sound like Geoffrey Payne and I remember he has made similar remarks to yours before, so I thought it was possible that he had just forgotten to write his name in the Name box, though he used it earlier in this thread.

  • The fact that Clegg has said that we will “focus all our attention on cutting taxes”?

    I know I’m about to be told that there’s nothing right-wing about cutting taxes, and perhaps even that there’s no such thing as left and right anyway. But I wasn’t born yesterday.

  • Anonymous is starting to sound like the worst imaginable type of Tory, the one who demands an unbroken record of ideological purity, forever. It was people like that that made me wake up to the fact that Cameron is a liar when he claims his party has changed. Is it your intention to make this website an embarassment to the party like Conservative Home, or are you just doing it by accident?

    And I was in my teens before 2005. Having grown up in a Daily Hell-“reading”, working-class family, I didn’t know any better. Now that I’ve tried to, and largely succeeded in, educating myself I’ve realised that my earlier brainwashing was wrong but my reward is to be sneered at by anonymous cowards.

    Did you actually deign to read the link provided? I defy you to read it, analyse it and then turn round and call me right-wing.

    I fought back against the “love bombing” campaign, and instead of being glad you do a Neil Craig and bitch about everyone and everything. Perhaps this is the real secret of why you’re alienated from the party.

  • Anonymous – what makes someone a tory? Is it who they vote for, their reasoning (or lack of it), or what their background is?

    The way I see it nobody *IS* a tory – either they are liberal or they are wrong and I welcome all supporters and members of the party alike in the promotion of liberalism.

  • Joe Otten

    The source of that _quotation_ will be left as a (very easy) exercise to the reader.

  • Anon – it provides an interesting insight to be able to read you thinking aloud, but your aloofness and habit of generalising doesn’t convince me you have something positive to offer.

    I’d like to be convinced, but I’m immune to your titillating and teasing, so put up or shut up.

  • Joe, don’t bother – any one line quote can be taken to fit with any preexisting agenda the audience desires (just look at cinema advertising), so it’s not compatible with both what we know and what anon wants us to impute.

  • *not incompatible

  • Mark Pack

    OK. I’ll consider myself officially shut up, then.

  • Anon – it’d be more productive if you put up, but if you’ve got nothing to say…

  • Oranjepan

    What do you mean, “put up”?

    Put what up? And put it up where?

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