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Artillery Row

The case for bullying hippies

Green Party ideas are not just wrong but dangerous

Britain is set to lose a modernising visionary next election. At least, that is what I gather from The Guardian’s coverage of Caroline Lucas stepping down. Neil Lawson even ventured to suggest the Green MP is “the best PM Britain never had.”

As someone who does his best to ignore the Green Party, I’ll concede I found these interpretations a surprise. Locked away in my own social media bubble, I was under the impression that Ms. Lucas was a silly, if harmless, hippy. Perhaps my closed-mindedness had led me to miss something? Ashamed, I resolved to venture beyond the comfort of my echo-chamber. What I found surprised me. 

I’d had Lucas down for a soft tree hugger, but it turns out she’s as hard-nosed as a gargoyle

I’d had Lucas down for a soft tree hugger, but it turns out she’s as hard-nosed as a gargoyle. Want houses, kids? Tough cookies, empty fields need protecting. Think high-speed rail sounds cool? Wrong – the trees in its way are cooler! Convinced nuclear energy provides the only reliable source of carbon neutral power? Lights off for you, buddy – nuclear is what they make weapons with. Excited by genetically engineered rice which promises to save millions of children from dying with vitamin A deficiency? Sounds unnatural to me…

(On the upside, Tom Harwood has detailed the MP’s extensive record of leading NIMBY campaigns against solar farms, which I — unlike Caroline Lucas — consider an expensive waste of space.)

Official Green Party literature takes the cold, utilitarian calculation up a notch. The Party’s energy strategy pledges to reduce UK energy consumption “to 900TWh/year by 2030 and to 600TWh/year by 2050 – reductions of approximately 40 per cent and 60 per cent on 2012 final energy demand.” In reality, those targets represent a 62 per cent and 75 per cent reduction in consumption. Indeed, the 2030 target would cut the UK’s per-capita energy use below that of (notably sunnier) Algeria, whilst the 2050 target would put us on par with Botswana (70 per cent of whose residents are subsistence farmers). Given Europe’s 3 per cent drop in energy consumption caused around 68,000 excess deaths during the unusually mild winter of 2022/3, such a policy demonstrates an impressively unsentimental dedication to progress. 

But how to do What We All Know Needs To Be Done without the pesky public getting in the way? Fear not, for the Green inner circle have crafted an elegant solution: shut down the grid. Party policy entails switching entirely to intermittent renewables, almost immediately, with plans for only 3 GW of backup (a fraction of what is required). Such a move would irreversibly collapse the National Grid — insuring against any public pressure for a u-turn. Talk about vision.

Under “the best PM we’ve never had”, then, we’d have collapsed the electric grid, reduced energy consumption to African levels, banned genetic engineering, and given up attempting to build houses and infrastructure. Sort of makes one wonder what life would be like under the second-best PM we never had…

Of course, for all the suffering and death Lucas’ vision entails, it’s hard to be mad at her. Perhaps it’s because she seems quite nice. I personally find that her hippy aunt vibes mute my appropriate revulsion. This is an experience I’ve had with many green activists. For all the insane, antisocial antics of the Just Stop Oil crowd, my repeated experiences of talking to them (I work in Westminster) have, by-and-large, been quite pleasant. Yes, roughly 10% of them have personality disorders, but your average foot soldier is a friendly, slightly eccentric granny — a character I find hard to hate. Most appear passionate about crocheting (an invaluable skill), share a sentimental love of the English countryside, and will talk fondly of their grandchildren. I once defused a heated standoff by asking an old dear about her homemade jumper, upon which I discovered the septuagenarian in question had set up a crochet class for young activists after being distressed to discover none had the skills needed to knit scarves to wrap around trees ahead of HS2.  Indeed, there’s a peculiar Tolkienian conservatism to most eco-protesters; a vision of the last flickers of a gentler England, whose fading many of us regard with great remorse.

All of which begs the question: is this enough of an excuse? Can being a charming old dear, eccentric aunt, or idealistic young naturalist exculpate someone for trapping thousands of people in their cars? How does it stack up against the interviews, meetings, holidays, family visits, birthdays, weddings, hospital appointments and funerals missed? When a person advocates for a policy which — if pursued globally — would starve (more than) half the world’s population to death, and reduce the remainder to pre-industrial poverty, how are we supposed to weigh such obstinate ignorance and/or malice against their colourful habiliments?

The tragedy of the eco-left is that our instinct to go easy on them facilitates the laziness of their leadership, just as the world is crying out for good ideas. For over a decade, Caroline Lucas has had a unique opportunity to contribute meaningful solutions to 21st century’s myriad of problems. With an open-eared press and no party whip to worry about, she could have set herself to mastering the complexities of her chosen subject — teasing out unforeseen hurdles and clever solutions; using her unique platform to help progress the thinking of her parliamentary colleagues. Instead, she opted for cosplay activism and trade-off denial; a strategy that suggests she cares more about being popular at protests than safeguarding the future. This is rather easy to get away with when no one takes you seriously enough to be mean to you. My solution: be mean.

The Green Party of England and Wales is a doomsday cult that advocates for turning the UK into a third world country. Were a party with similarly destructive objectives motivated by right wing ideology, its members would be deemed déclassé, and its leadership would likely be harassed by the police. If we want the Greens to shed their lunatics and demagogues and take up the mantle of responsibility, it’s time we started treating them like grownups. 

In the meantime, mourn not the departure of a loveable hippy. Instead, breathe a sign of relief as you ponder the Prime Minister we never had.

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