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Artillery Row

The Greens are worse than useless

Their reputation for being nice if a touch naive is far too generous

With Starmer’s Labour Party engaged in Stalinist purges against its left-flank, the Green Party has grown in prominence as the natural home for fair-minded progressives. Their promise is to “create a greener, fairer country together — one in which we are all safer, happier and more fulfilled”. What is not to like? Sure, the Greens may sometimes be a bit idealistic, but their hearts are ultimately in the right place.

But a modicum of scrutiny at the Green Party’s platform reveals that behind the benign façade lies a movement that is fuelled by a dangerous mix of resentment and idiocy. The reaction of one Green Councillor to getting elected of shouting “Allah Akbar” and claiming his local election victory as a “win for the people of Gaza” is a sobering reminder that there is more to the party than tree hugging and animal welfare, as is the growing number of endorsements the party has received from crank Corbynistas and perennial political losers like Owen Jones.

When Green candidates do receive any attention, their contributions are either too dull to be remembered or reveal a worrying incompetence and lack of political acumen. The spotlight given by television leadership debates is spent hectoring other parties for not committing to spending more money on everything and then repeating overwrought platitudes. 

The party’s manifesto launch yesterday shows that rather than being a credible progressive alternative to Starmer’s lacklustre Labour Party, the Greens remain the party of wishful thinking and dangerous naivety.

The whole program is predicated on the widespread leftist outlook that views the role of government as dictating exactly how the wealth of the country ought to be properly distributed. It assumes that just as the Sun will always rise from the East, Britain will always have a certain amount of wealth. As for growing the wealth of the country, the Greens chastise how other parties “argue that endless economic growth is the answer to all our problems”. The goal is not to grow the economy, but to transform it from “an ownership to a usership model”. At the moment, “a small number of people hoard obscene wealth”, so the Greens propose seizing a good amount of that wealth to spend in areas they have decided would be more appropriate.

The whole manifesto therefore retains a repetitive dizziness, where the answer to every problem is to throw more money at it. Healthcare, education, social care, public safety, farming — all issues seem to converge into one as the Greens call for billions of pounds to be spent anywhere and everywhere, the supposed solution to every sector’s malaise. With a cargo-cult-like conviction, it is hoped that just one more big injection of cash will finally render the NHS vaguely functional. No major institutional reforms are needed — just pay staff more and the waiting lists will take care of themselves. And, of course, never let anything that has even a sniff of the evil private sector get close to our NHS.

As for the policies that extend beyond spending hikes, they are a smorgasbord of radical-sounding ideas with a track record of abysmal failure. To solve the housing crisis, the Greens propose introducing rent controls, a policy already implemented in Scotland to disastrous effect. Alongside this, there is a commitment to add 150,000 social houses per year, though given the habit of Green Councillors to oppose developments in their areas, it is not clear exactly where these houses will be built. One way to get around this difficulty is to meet the yearly target by buying up existing private housing and turning it into social housing. In practice, this would mean that some private renters would have their own tax money used to evict them and be replaced with social tenants. A fairer Britain.

most unforgivable of all is just how woefully misguided the Greens are on the big environmental issues of the day

The Greens also used their manifesto to boast about their “holistic” approach to public safety. In Bristol, Green Councillors introduced a motion that sought to tackle knife crime with “simple but vital steps to save lives”. Instead of “simply calling for more policing”, the Council provided “emergency bleed kits and staff training for night-time venues” alongside more street lighting and CCTV. The Greens therefore favour discontinuing more traditional and empirically effective approaches, calling for an end to “traumatising tactics like stop and search” and the use of facial recognition software. So police will be stopped from searching for and seizing knives, but when you do get stabbed you can rest assured that the first aid will be excellent.

Yet perhaps most unforgivable of all is just how woefully misguided the Greens are on the big environmental issues of the day. The party’s very raison d’être is to secure a greener, more environmentally friendly Britain, yet they oppose the most effective way to achieve this — nuclear power. The Greens argue that building new nuclear capacity simply takes too long, an argument eerily reminiscent of Nick Clegg’s argument back in 2010 that investing in nuclear was pointless as new projects would only come online by 2021 or 2022. If only!

But the Greens go further. They indulge in superstitious thinking over the “unacceptable risk” nuclear poses to “the communities living close to facilities”, as well as claiming that civilian nuclear energy generation is “inextricably linked with the production of nuclear weapons”. This may come as news to the dozens of countries with nuclear reactors and no accompanying weapons program. They claim that nuclear power is ultimately a distraction and a waste of money from the true solution to decarbonising Britain’s energy, which is an enormous investment on grid storage capacity and reliance upon wind for 70 percent of electricity generation by 2030. Let’s hope the next few years are windy ones! 

The Greens recognise that transport is another key sector for leading the way to a greener Britain, and could have used their manifesto to outline a bold vision of grand public transport infrastructure investment to transform mobility in Britain. A vision that could have included an expansive network of high-speed rail connecting every corner of Britain, dozens of new metro and tram systems for Britain’s notoriously underserved towns and cities, and new plans for sustainable local mobility. The enormous costs of these projects ought to be no barrier for the Greens — they decry the “obsession with fiscal rules [that] stop us investing in public transport”.

The whole platform of the Green Party reads like the ramblings of a student politics group

But their plans are remarkably unambitious. They indulge in one of Britain’s political class’s most beloved policies — subsidising demand instead of making big capital investments. So buses and rail are to be gradually nationalised, and subsidised by £10 billion of taxpayer money, but investment in improving services goes little beyond electrifying tracks more rapidly and maybe reopening some disused stations. Meanwhile, anyone wishing to avoid the dismal state of the railways by taking to the skies will be banned from doing so, and for the flights that are still permitted, passengers will have a levy imposed if they fly too frequently. In light of the Green’s ambition to decimate Britain’s aviation industry, one might expect a commitment to invest in building alternatives, perhaps a high-speed railway that connects the country’s three biggest cities and delivers much-needed extra rail capacity. Yet no such commitment is forthcoming.

The whole platform of the Green Party reads like the ramblings of a student politics group. Every issue can be solved by spending more money, and there is an endless pot of money currently hoarded by the rich which can pay for it all. Anything viewed as a social good is declared a “right” and to be made freely available, whilst things seen as bad will simply be banned and “ended”. There will be no need to worry about violence against women under the Greens, as they will have made misogyny a hate crime and have committed to ending gender-based violence. How? Who knows; maybe by asking abusers if they could kindly cut it out please. Behind the grand veneer of radical thinking and societal transformation, there is remarkably little of substance to indicate exactly how change will be brought about. 

A party with pretences of mainstream respectability and serious ambitions for Parliament ought to receive proper scrutiny, especially if they are to be continually platformed alongside the leaders of other major parties. Though the Greens have long complained about a lack of media coverage, a limelight on the party may well elucidate to the public that the Greens are little more than cranks and cretins. 

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