Leadership candidate: the Green Party should accept the EU vote and move on

Leslie Rowe argues the Greens need a radical agenda - rejecting the EU and progressive alliances, and supporting a 'de-growth' agenda.

What is the role of the Greens in the current political context? I know what I would like it be.

Like Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece and the Five Star Movement in Italy, I want GPEW to achieve electoral success by giving their citizens hope: for a green socialist future for this country.

Unfortunately, more than one person has said to me that the Green Party of England & Wales (GPEW) is virtually indistinguishable from the Liberal Democrats – especially after the ‘progressive alliance‘ we saw in the 2017 election. We are almost invisible to the average voter, except in a few target wards.

I believe that the Green Party has lost its identity, its connection with its roots – its members.

Reconnecting with the roots

We can start by giving policy making back to ordinary members like me.

Replace party conferences with online debate. Give local branches a topic each month to discuss and respond, building up our policy through engaging the whole membership – not just the few hundred who can afford the time and money to go to conferences. Conferences that are increasingly being manipulated by pressure groups.

Second, I want the Green Party to focus on climate change, on localism, democracy and economic de-growth and not on the EU.

Prior to the 2016 EU referendum, in our 2015 General Election manifesto, we promised to accept the result. We should do that now and move on – look forward, not back.

The 2013 Warsaw climate change conference told us that “if the world wishes to avoid exceeding the 2°C rise in global temperatures that will trigger non-reversible climate change, then the wealthiest countries, including the UK, have to adopt a de-growth strategy.”

That was five years ago. A de-growth economic policy is long overdue. The UK could become a beacon of hope for the rest of the world to follow by adopting de-growth.

The EU is part of the problem

Green Party policy EU100 says “In our Green vision for Europe we seek to replace the unsustainable economics of free trade and unrestricted growth with the ecological alternative of local self reliance and resource conservation, within a context of wider diversity.”

This is at odds with the declared aim of the EU for continuing economic growth. In his opening statement laying out his vision for the single market, the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker put economic growth as the main goal.

There is no evidence that EU policy will change in the foreseeable future. Indeed Greece has just been locked into austerity measures until the year 2060. 

Economic policy in the EU is controlled by the unelected and secretive Eurogroup. As Yanis Varoufakis said in his book ‘Adults in the Room’, democracy died the moment the Eurogroup acquired the authority to dictate economic policy to member states, without anything resembling federal democratic sovereignty. It is the Eurogroup who continue to force privatisation on Greece and other EU states.

De-growth over ‘free’ trade

We in the UK now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-model our society, our economy. But only if the Green Party embraces its principles once again and adopts de-growth.

We would hold a unique position by opposing all UK free trade agreements (including the EU single market) and focus on reducing the out of control UK trade deficit by supporting sustainable UK manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries. The aim to re-balance the UK economy, re-nationalise transport and utilities and end austerity.

We can renew and invigorate GPEW by following this more radical agenda.

Leslie Rowe is running to be leader of the Green Party. He was the Green Party’s parliamentary candidate in Richmond (Yorkshire) in 2005, 2010 and 2015.

This piece is part of a Left Foot Forward series on the Green Party’s current leadership election. Voting opens on the 30th July and closes on the 31st August, with the results announced in September.

Got a story or take on the leadership election? Contact [email protected]

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