3 Nov 2006

Green politics the real alternative to climate chaos

“A move towards a sustainable way of life, conserving the earth’s capital, learning to rely mainly on those resources which can be renewed or recycled.
A move towards a stable economy, ensuring basic material security and prosperity for all.
A move towards economic self-sufficiency in terms of the basic necessities of life, particularly food and energy.
A move towards a decentralized way of life, so that people become more responsible for themselves and others.
A move towards seeing things in the long-term rather than settling for convenient short-term measures.
A move towards a society which places less emphasis on material values, and more on personal development and achievement.”

this is from The Real Alternative, Ecology Party manifesto from 1979, it still makes sense, may be even more so today.

See you on the climate change march tomorrow, there is more to climate change than Stern, although Stern provides a clear and well referenced account of the dangers, here, we are going to need more than Green Value Added Tax to solve this crisis.

We need green politics...on that note here is some more history!

Green Party history, ch2, pt 1.


The party is rebranded as 'Eco' and puts up 53 candidates for the 1979 General Election, when Mrs Thatcher was first elected.


Chapter Two: ECO and the Old Cheshire Cheese

The 1977-80 National Executive meetings remoulded Party ideology and organisation. Fleming introduced a house style based on the “Euro style medium extended” typeface and “ECO” logo – “Eco is a short word, easy to say, easy to combine with other words, less academic sounding than ecology, more usable in speeches, interviews and articles, free of the cumbersome suffix ‘ology’. ECO can become a nickname even more important to the Ecology Party than the ancient nickname ‘Tory’ (or brigand) is to the Conservatives. We have chosen a modern typeface – which is based on the shape of a softened rectangle”. The more promiscuous sunflower was to come later; adopted by the German Greens from the poet Allen Ginsburg, it was far from the clean and efficient image Fleming hoped to project. “Most people will be expecting the Ecology Party to have a nice comforting typeface, appropriate for what one critic recently described as “muesli politics”. The Microgramma has modern associations and is appropriate for a Party that looks ahead to the imperative of building a society with a future” [1].
Discussion of type style revealed a deeper ideological project: Porritt and Fleming sought to show that ‘ECO’ was a serious professional Party, a Party able to govern. Doomsday was no longer on the agenda. By 1977, the PEOPLE founders had largely disappeared. Between ’77 and 1980, the new generation of ‘leaders’, including Fleming, Porritt and Tyler, transformed the organisation, moving it from a situation of near collapse to that of a national political party. Their efforts to distance the Party from both Goldsmith and the Left, from Conservative and Communist Anarchists, without offending either grouping too greatly, had largely paid off.
In 1978, though, hardly anyone had heard of ECO. The Times even suggested, ignorant of the efforts of Fleming, that the actor Peter Ustinov should create an ecology party. Meanwhile, the Party gained some respect in the anti-nuclear movement by opposing the Windscale plant. Goldsmith and David Taylor argued for the adoption of civil disobedience against the nuclear programme. John Tyme, the anti-motorway campaigned who had spoken at the 1977 Party Conference, noted that the public enquiry process allowed politicians to exploit the trust of environmentalists. “They seem to be talking themselves blue in the face at no small cost only to be brushed aside when the big decisions are made. Meanwhile, time rushes on”. The Ecologist asked:

“Should we keep on going over the same polite dialogue, in the hope that bit by bit the message will get through before too many more environmental monstrosities have reared their heads or become environmental revolutionaries set upon overthrowing the establishment…?” [2]

Tom Burke, later an SDP candidate and, at the time, director of Friends of the Earth, advised the Ecology Party not to let Goldsmith speak at the Trafalgar Square Rally against Windscale. In the event, Jonathon Tyler, gave a rousing speech on behalf of ECO, while the late Petra Kelly spoke for The Ecologist and their strategy of non-violent direct action. John Luck arranged for the distribution of a leaflet to demonstrators, boosting membership. Electoral activity continued, with the new Party paper reporting the success of Guy Woodford, “a distinctive character – top hat, long hair and an open, ancient car”, who received 35% of the vote in a rural Malvern Hills ward.

By 1978, there were nearly 650 members and active groups in Bath, Birmingham, Cornwall, Edinburgh, Exeter, Hertfordshire, Leeds and London. Growth was to accelerate for the no-growth party with the forthcoming General Election.
A decision was taken to stand fifty candidates in the election. While Tyler had argued for caution and suggested targeting a dozen strong constituencies, a bold motion, supported by Goldsmith, Rushworth and Tony Whittacker, was passed at the Autumn Conference.


This target of 50 seemed almost as ridiculous as PEOPLE’s initial plans for 600 in the 1974 contests: in a party of just over 500 members, one in ten would have to be a candidate. £500 had to be raised for election deposits (all were lost) and money spent on campaign materials. Some feared that a poor set of results would kill ECO. Rushworth and Goldsmith noted the benefits of a Party Political Broadcast on television, only possible if 50 seats were contested, that would allow millions to hear the message. Luckily, Prime Minister Jim Callaghan held out until May 1979; an early contest would probably have robbed the blessed Margaret Thatcher of victory and the Ecology Party of a broadcast. An attractive election manifesto, The Real Alternative, was written largely by Porritt and Fleming, advocating six fundamental points:

“A move towards a sustainable way of life, conserving the earth’s capital, learning to rely mainly on those resources which can be renewed or recycled.
A move towards a stable economy, ensuring basic material security and prosperity for all.
A move towards economic self-sufficiency in terms of the basic necessities of life, particularly food and energy.
A move towards a decentralized way of life, so that people become more responsible for themselves and others.
A move towards seeing things in the long-term rather than settling for convenient short-term measures.
A move towards a society which places less emphasis on material values, and more on personal development and achievement.”


The campaign was “well and truly launched” at a lunchtime press conference at ‘The Old Cheshire Cheese’, a haunt of Dr. Johnson and many Fleet Street hacks before the Wapping exodus. The Press made much of “a top table” including an ex-Liberal sympathiser (Porritt), a former anarchist (Econews editor Pete Frings), a past Labour “intellectual” (Tyler) and ex-Tory Jeremy Faull. “The Evening Standard confirmed their journalistic puerility by being more interested in the contents of our sandwiches than of our documents” [3]. Porritt, in a mailing to candidates, argued:

“It must be clear by now that the whole future of the Ecology Party is at stake on this issue. Quite frankly, I don’t believe there is any other way. A campaign of fifty, and the resulting media coverage, will totally transform the nature of the Ecology Party, in terms of its national credibility, its overall strength, the calibre of its membership, its range of influence and its whole future. PS At the very least, please send back your candidate form!” [4]

Fifty-three candidates contested seats from Gillingham in Kent to Edinburgh Pentlands; an independent Oxford Ecology Movement stood in their city. Gaining an average of 1.5%, ECO became the fourth Party in UK politics, ahead of the National Front and Socialist Unity. Results were particularly good in the South West, with candidates in Bath, Bristol West and Torbay polling over a thousand votes. Porritt and Guy Woodford, in the seats of St. Marylebone and South Worcestershire, did best with 2.8%. The gamble worked and new members flooded in, boosting the Party tenfold by 1980 to over 5,000. Porritt noted:

“By an reckoning, the gestation period of the Ecology Party has gone on long enough. Conceived in 1973, in the fervour of Blueprint for Survival, this funny little political foetus has resolutely hung onto life, and is now beginning to show distinct signs that the womb of oblivion, which has for so long succoured it, can contain its growth no longer. Just what will happen when it bursts forth into the big, bad world of national politics in anybody’s guess” [5]

2 comments:

Douglas Coker said...

Derek, I'm really grateful you are posting the GP history. It's absolutely fascinating and helps explain lots about past luminaries. More .... !

Douglas Coker

PS Was pleased to see A.C. Grayling's letter in the LRB!!!

Anonymous said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Thanks,
Karim - Positive thinking

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