Posts tagged Green Party
22 Feb 2013
The Green Party is celebrating its 40th birthday this weekend in Nottingham at its party conference. I'll be there (from tomorrow). It will be my first ever political party conference, so I'm quite excited. Here are some of the things I'm hoping to get out of it…
- I've been in the Green Party for almost 18 months, but I still don't feel I really know how the party actually works. I'm looking forward to learning more about that.
- I might even get to vote on things that might even make a difference to what the Green Party does in the future!
- I'm looking forward to meeting other people in the Green Party and learning what makes them tick. I'm sure there will be plenty of fascinating people there.
- I'd like to learn more about how the party sits with respect to Christian faith. On the one hand, green politics seems to fit very comfortably with Christian faith, not least in its care for the world in which we live (and here and here and here). But, on the other hand, the Green Party seems quite anti-Christian on various issues (such as abortion [and here] and a view of human identity that has nothing to do with biological gender, hence the party's strong views on same-sex marriage). It's probably not possible to answer the question of what the party as a whole thinks of Christian faith. But I'd at least like to hear a few individual perspectives, to see if there is anything approaching a general consensus, and to figure out which issues are influenced by this. I'd certainly love to see the party making a more conscious effort to appeal to people of various faiths.
- I'm sure there will be quite a buzz at the conference, and I'd like to pick up some enthusiasm!
- Finally, I've given in to pressure from the surrounding culture, and I now have a (second-hand) "smart" phone. So I'm looking forward to feeling cool by tweeting from my gadget during the conference sessions and adding a few pence (and only a few pence!) to my mobile bill with The Phone Co-op.
Maybe see you there!
29 Dec 2012
Halfway through reading the second of my Christmas present books, The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Politics, by Derek Wall (2010).
Derek Wall is an economics lecturer and writer (and blogger and tweeter) and a prominent member of the Green Party. His book gives a brief introduction to green politics. So far it's packed with detail but still very readable.
Chapter 1 looks at the history of the global green political movement. Wall identifies four pillars of green politics:
- Ecology: "Green politics is first and foremost the politics of ecology; a campaign to preserve the planet from corporate greed, so we can act as good ancestors to future generations" (p.12).
- Social justice: "Greens argue that environmental protection should not come at the expense of the poor or lead to inequality" (p.13).
- Grassroots democracy: distinguishing "greens from many traditional socialists who have often promoted centralized governance of societies" (p.13).
- Nonviolence: "Green parties evolved partly out of the peace movement and oppose war, the arms trade and solutions based on violence" (p.13).
All of which seem eminently sensible to me.
Chapter 2 looks at the ecological crisis. Safe to say there is one. Green politics could exist without an ecological crisis, but the crisis has led to huge growth in the movement in recent decades.
Chapter 3 looks at the philosophy of the green party. Summarising it in my own words...
- Green politics is based on the belief that everything matters. All people matter, and they all have valuable contributions to make to the ordering of society. Non-human life matters. The world matters. The ecosystem matters. "While other political ideologies have generally viewed nature as a quarry—something to be dug up and exploited for short-term gain—greens put the environment at the center of their concerns" (p.47).
- Green politics is based on the belief that everything is interconnected. Green politics is thus holistic politics. It stands in opposition to all kinds of reductionism. Human society and the non-human world are deeply interconnected.
These principles resonate very strongly with me as a Christian. All things have been made by God, all things hold together in Christ, and all things are being renewed by the Spirit. Everything matters, and everything is interconnected. (Note that I'm standing very consciously against a spiritual reductionism, which sees human souls as being the only things that really matter in the present created order.)
The rest of the book looks at some more practical implications of all this... Stay tuned!
26 Oct 2012
Natalie Bennett has been the leader of the Green Party for around 52 days. She's travelling around a lot, and visited York on Wednesday. I managed to catch her that evening, when she gave a talk at York University.
I'm not planning on writing a summary of the talk. But, as an alternative, here's a short video about Natalie Bennett...
2 Aug 2012
The Green Party—of which I am a member—has a clear commitment to equality. It's a commitment that resonates with me as a Christian. But what does "equality" mean in practice?
The "hot potato" of the year is the issue of same-sex marriage: whether, in the interests of equality, the definition of the word "marriage" in law should be changed so that it can include couples of the same sex. Does the Green Party's commitment to equality entail a commitment to same-sex marriage?
This question is being put to the test at the moment in Brighton and Hove. My good friend Christina Summers is a Green Party councillor there. Now, city councillors usually concern themselves with the administration of the city council. But sometimes, apparently, they decide to vote on things that are completely unrelated to this. So it was on 19 July that the councillors voted on whether they supported the Government's proposals on same-sex marriage. To be honest, I can only think that the councillors decided to vote on this issue in order to make themselves look good (but do correct me in the comments if there was a real reason). But it seems to have backfired for the Green Party, as Cllr Summers voted against the motion as a matter of conscience, much to the disappointment of many within the party. Has she shown that she is opposed to a core principle of the Green Party? Should she be expelled from the Party? In fact, is traditional Christian belief fundamentally at odds with the philosophy of the Green Party?
I think not.
As I've just commented elsewhere, I think we need to distinguish between sameness and equality.
It is possible to believe that men can be distinguished from women, but that they should be treated equally, except in those few cases where the difference between a man and a woman is a relevant difference. It is not a denial of equality to use the word “man” to refer only to half of the human race.
It is possible to believe that heterosexual attraction is distinguishable from homosexual attraction, but still to believe that those who have the former should be treated the same as those who have the latter (or both), except in those few cases where the distinction is relevant. It is not a denial of equality to use the word “gay” to refer only to those who experience homosexual attraction.
It is possible to believe that an opposite-sex, enduring, exclusive, sexual partnership is distinguishable from a same-sex, enduring, exclusive, sexual partnership, and to use words to make that distinction. It is not a denial of equality to say that the word used historically for one of those kinds of partnership (“marriage”) should continue to be used in the way it has commonly been used.
What may be a denial of equality is if the law treats people differently in a way that is not justified by the difference in reality. It is contrary to equality if a man is denied an office job simply because he is a man. Or if a life-partner is denied access to her partner’s hospital bed simply because her life-partner happens to be a woman. Or the argument could be made (and I would tentatively make it myself) that whether an enduring (etc.) partnership is between people of the same sex or between people of opposite sex is not a relevant distinction for anything that the state needs to concern itself about, and therefore that the word “marriage” could safely be removed from law altogether. (I commend this proposal for the consideration of a party that isn’t afraid to be radical!)
But simply using a word like “man”, “gay” or “marriage” to refer to something and not to something else is not a contradiction of equality. It’s just using words in the way words are used—to make distinctions between things.
According to its Philosophical Basis, "The Green Party values the diversity of ways in which people relate to each other and the natural environment." But does it really value this diversity if it insists that two different things should not only be treated equally, but also demands that they should be declared to be the same?
We need to understand that it is possible to stand for equality without denying the existence of real diversity.
13 Sep 2011
Yesterday I joined the Green Party. I said a bit about my journey from political indifference to to political ... difference (?). Today I want to say a bit more about why I chose the Green Party.
There are Christians in all the major parties (see the resources at SUSA). I see this as a good thing, and I can see many positive features in the other parties. But for me, the core values of the Green Party resonated particularly strongly with my Christian beliefs, as I'll show below.
But first, here are a couple of other Christians who explain their own involvement in the Green Party:
- Stephen Gray has a post on why he joined the Green Party. It's a very good post so go and read it now. Welcome back.
- Andrew Basden describes his own spiritual journey into Green things, and has written plenty about the topic.
In what remains, I'll quote the core values of the Green Party in full, interspersed with my comments.
Our core values
Green politics is a new and radical kind of politics guided by these core principles:
1. Humankind depends on the diversity of the natural world for its existence. We do not believe that other species are expendable.
Absolutely. But Christianity takes this even further: part of the purpose of humanity is to care for the natural world.
2. The Earth's physical resources are finite. We threaten our future if we try to live beyond those means, so we must build a sustainable society that guarantees our long-term future.
3. Every person, in this and future generations, should be entitled to basic material security as of right.
4. Our actions should take account of the well-being of other nations, other species, and future generations. We should not pursue our well-being to the detriment of theirs.
These chime very strongly with the central Christian value of love for one's neighbour. And this is something that is not limited to the people living next door: my actions have direct effects on the other side of the world, and for generations to come.
My only quibble with point 4 is that it reads as though we should not pursue our well-being to the detriment of the well-being of other species, which could lead to some extreme interpretations (it might well be detrimental to the well-being of the ant species if we destroy one of their nests to improve access to a hospital, for example).
5. A healthy society is based on voluntary co-operation between empowered individuals in a democratic society, free from discrimination whether based on race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social origin or any other prejudice.
This point sounds very nice, but it's difficult to know exactly what it is saying. I would say that democracy is my preferred means for a state's politicians to be selected, that it is nice when people get on with each other, and that the law should ensure that—except when it is directly justifiable—people are not treated detrimentally because of any characteristic (or prejudice!) they may possess.
6. We emphasise democratic participation and accountability by ensuring that decisions are taken at the closest practical level to those affected by them.
Believing in the importance of meaningful relationships (flowing ultimately from the relationships between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), I very much agree with this.
7. We look for non-violent solutions to conflict situations, which take into account the interests of minorities and future generations in order to achieve lasting settlements.
Seeing mass-armament as one of the greatest evils on the planet (and the pernicious arms trade at the heart of that), I'm in strong agreement with this.
8. The success of a society cannot be measured by narrow economic indicators, but should take account of factors affecting the quality of life for all people: personal freedom, social equity, health, happiness and human fulfilment.
As above, on relationships.
9. Electoral politics is not the only way to achieve change in society, and we will use a variety of methods to help effect change, providing those methods do not conflict with our other core principles.
This is a very important point. I see a political party as an engine for change in society, focusing on, but not limited to, the work of elected politicians. The state is but one part of society, and there are many, many things that do not fall within the remit of the state. However, a political party can have a coherent vision for society, encompassing what the state should do (in terms of making laws and enforcing justice) and what individuals should do (in their economic activity, for example). How this works in practice, I'm not yet sure.
10. The Green Party puts changes in both values and lifestyles at the heart of the radical green agenda.
As above, I strongly agree with this: the green agenda cannot (and absolutely should not) be enacted by a green dictatorship, however democratically elected. You and I need to be the driving force, and Christianity strongly emphasises the need for a deep change of heart and attitudes.
12 Sep 2011
Apparently, "In 2005, only 1.3% of the [UK] electorate [44 million] was a member of one of the main political parties", with a few tens of thousands in the smaller parties.
As of today, I'm one of them, having just signed up for the Green Party.
What this will mean in practice, I'm not sure. Being a party member needn't mean more than £2.60 leaving my bank account each month. But hopefully I'll find some way to be involved. (However, joining the Green Party doesn't mean that I hate everything about all of the other parties, or that I will from now on act merely out of tribal loyalty, in case you were wondering!)
I chose the Green Party because I found that its core values resonate with my Christian beliefs. I'll say more about that in a future post. In addition, my personal contact with the Green Party has left good vibes.
In this post I want to indulge in a bit of introspection, and trace out some of my journey towards this point.
I suppose that 10-15 years ago, as a new Christian, my views would have been something like this: the only thing that really matters is hearing the gospel, believing in Jesus, and waiting for Jesus to return (maybe tomorrow). As such, I had no particular inclination to do anything to help tackle the structural problems with the world. In fact, I was very cynical: if Christians put much effort into political issues, then they clearly had their priorities mixed up, and if non-Christians were pushing an agenda for change, then clearly that was contrary to God's will. So I defaulted to a (small-c) conservative position, combined with general indifference and apathy.
So what happened?
- I came to appreciate that everything on this world has significance. This came largely through my contact with L'Abri, first through reading some Schaeffer around 1998, and then, from 2002, through hearing L'Abri speakers giving occasional talks at Calvary Evangelical Church in Brighton, and a couple of stays at the English L'Abri in Hampshire, including a week in the summer of 2006. At L'Abri there is a strong emphasis on the whole of life being under the lordship of Jesus Christ, and that being a created human being with a bodily existence on the earth is a good, significant and meaningful thing.
- I came to appreciate that everything on this world has enduring significance, in other words, that the Christian hope is to spend eternity on the earth (not in heaven), and that there is deep continuity (as well as a discontinuity) between the present age and the age to come. Moreover, I came to appreciate that through Jesus Christ and his resurrection, the age to come has entered the present age, bringing (partial) healing and transformation to this present world. These emphases came largely as a result of reading and listening to things by N.T. Wright, starting in 2005 with What St Paul Really Said.
- I suppose those two factors led me to pay a tiny bit of attention to political matters, and I eventually found myself thinking that politics is important and interesting. My church in Brighton was seeking to serve the local community, and this led to contacts and constructive relationships with people involved in local politics. Being part of that church as we wrestled together with the issue of Christian involvement in politics helped me greatly in shaping my own views. (One friend from that church who was very involved in that is now a Green Party councillor in Brighton.) The 2010 General Election was the first that I really paid much attention to, with stimulating discussions on Tom King's blog, with the help of the Jubilee Centre's Votewise Now! book, and with the Green Party being very strong in Brighton, going on to win their first ever seat in Westminster in the constituency I was living in. Since then, I paid significant attention to the referendum on the Alternative Vote in 2011. And a couple of WYSOCS events in Leeds helped me considerably: a talk on the arms trade by Alan Storkey in October 2010, and a day in March 2011 on The Gospel's Green Light: Motives for Environmental Care.
23 Mar 2010
Right, I'm going to do something very countercultural, so hold tight. No, don't worry, I'm not going to leave Facebook or switch my mobile phone off. More radical than that: I'm going to tell you how I'm planning to vote in the next election.
Brighton Pavilion constituency, in which I live, is a three-way marginal between the Labour, Conservative and Green parties. I'm backing the Green Party candidate. Here's why.
- Like many, I find myself disillusioned with Labour and the Conservatives. Nothing excites me less than another parliamentary term under one or the other. I want to see real change, and for me that means a hung parliament after the next election, with greater representation for the smaller parties, and a gradual shift of power away from the Lab-Con establishment (or, more likely, a serious reform of one or both of those parties).
- The Green Party is a significant force in British politics, with numerous Green councillors and two Green MEPs. However, of the 646 seats in the Commons, not one is occupied by a Green Party representative. This is a consequence of our silly "first-past-the-post" voting system. Now, even though I don't agree with all of their policies, I'm not a Green Party member, and I don't think I'd want a Green Government, I do want there to be a Green voice in the Commons. That can happen only if they get a majority of the votes in at least one constituency. Brighton Pavilion is their best chance yet, and a very realistic chance at that.
- There are many things I like about the Green Party. I've been very impressed with the local party, its members and councillors, and think they are doing a great job at making Brighton a better place. There's a certain freshness, authenticity and transparency to the way the party functions. Their policies are much wider than environmental issues and I like the sound of a lot of them (for example, they don't idolize the free market economy).
- Caroline Lucas MEP, the party leader and their candidate for Brighton Pavilion, has been on the BBC twice this week, and has confirmed what I thought already, that she is an able, intelligent and articulate politician with great integrity. But you can judge for yourself: Question Time (available for ages), and Straight Talk (available for the next few days).
Anyway, enough of this crazy political stuff...
5 Feb 2010
I'm quite excited about this General Election thing. For one thing, struggling to overcome my very British apathy and cynicism, I'm beginning to find politics vaguely interesting. And I find myself in one of the most interesting constituencies for the coming election. A Conservative stronghold from its creation in 1950 until 1997, the Brighton Pavilion seat was gained by Labour in 1997. With the current MP due to retire, many people consider the frontrunner to be Caroline Lucas MEP, the leader of the Green Party. And, for the first time ever for a UK parliamentary seat, the shortlist is going to be all female, with the four major parties all fielding female candidates. Here's a video about the situation from the Guardian's Comment is free pages: