4 Sep 2009
Green Party conference 'Where next for the Green Party?' asks Derek Wall
This is from my monthly newspaper column at the Morning Star.
The Green Party is meeting for its annual autumn conference in Brighton and I think this provides a good opportunity to look at the party to see where it is going and assess its potential for bringing real political change.
There is a growing ecological crisis on this planet. While climate change might grab the headlines, it is part of a wider set of problems.
Nature is being chewed up at accelerating rates to fuel economic expansion - and it cannot be sustained.
Green politics is about far more than the environment. Key Green values include social justice, grass-roots democracy and peace. Britain is failing on all these fronts.
Since Margaret Thatcher's election victory in 1979, neoliberal governments have rolled back trade union rights, promoted privatisation and inequality has grown.
There is a democratic deficit, with voters having less and less say, and the political class morphing into a group of policy-light careerists.
There is a huge amount of work needed to promote progressive politics in Britain and without proportional representation, it's tough for the Greens to introduce the necessary transformation.
We need major constitutional change, real powers for local authorities and a trade union freedom Bill to start rolling back the democratic deficit and giving citizens rather than corporate interests a real say.
We really need a constituent assembly to debate, design and implement a new democracy for Britain. Modest constitutional progress in Scotland and Wales has not been paralleled in England.
From rail nationalisation to higher top-rate income taxes, the Green Party has a range of progressive economic and social policies.
Strong trade union policies are also important.
Time is slipping away on the environment and, what with the government using carbon trading - where we can buy supposed cuts from another part of the world, rather than reducing emissions in Britain - real action is needed.
Green Party policies such as the Green new deal, based on a massive roll-out of renewable energy, have the potential to create jobs and cut greenhouse gases.
Our autumn conference is going to see a renewed emphasis on our policies of social justice, with leader Caroline Lucas calling for action to curb the bankers who are still threatening economic stability and funding eco-destruction.
For example, RBS, despite being government owned, is investing in the highly polluting Canadian tar sands.
There will also be important policy debates on childcare, the Afghan war and a rally where Green Party MEP Jean Lambert will call for stronger opposition to right-wing anti-immigration politics in Britain.
The party has a strong and dynamic eco-socialist wing based around the Green left.
In the European elections, the party pushed its vote above 8 per cent. We have over 100 principle authority councillors and membership has risen by 1,000 this year.
The party needs to put its energy into electing Lucas as its first MP in the coming general election. Showing that the party can win parliamentary seats, even without a fair voting system, is of great importance.
However, electoral success is only part of the process and even at this level, the Green Party cannot succeed alone.
The direct action work of the Climate Camp, where 1,000 activists gathered under a banner of "Less capitalism, more future," is another inspiring example of Green politics.
Greens need to put their energy into electing Lucas and other potential Green MPs. But to break the neoliberal stranglehold, it is important that other candidates from the left win seats.
The Green Party is a decentralised political party - it does not have bosses at the centre barking orders.
But I hope that local Green parties can talk to other progressive candidates such as Salma Yaqoob, who is on course to be a Respect Party MP in Birmingham.
British parliamentary politics is set up to make it difficult for parties outside the neoliberal big three of Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives to win seats.
With a rise in populist politics, the press are diverting voters to UKIP and even the far-right BNP.
Those on the left of British politics need to talk and work together, even if this is sometimes difficult.
Democracy, social justice, peace and ecological sanity are vital issues and we must put aside relatively small differences to work for their realisation.
Derek Wall is former Green Party joint principal speaker.