Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The need for a 'green base' in politics

Anyone who says it doesn't matter who we elect is wrong. Okay, it may not matter as much as some would like, and in some areas it may make much difference not at all, but overall it still matters. If we did not have our current government the green political landscape would look very different. There may still have been changes to green levies, but there would be less bile. The consensus on tackling climate change might still be intact. We would not have a badger cull. We might well have a decarbonisation target. These are not small differences. No one can give you all you want, but they can take things in the right direction.

So if politics matter, it follows that elections also matter. Not just national, but local, regional and municipal. In Bristol for example, a pro-environment Mayor is pushing solar across the city. Of course he is far from perfect, but he is still advancing a green agenda. Whatever you think of UKIP, their European successes have influenced policy. Who wins makes a difference.

Getting involved in elections and party politics is something that traditional NGOs are very reluctant to do, and with good reason. They need to build a broad base of supporters. They need to work with whoever wins. It might also be harder for them with the new gagging bill.

Despite this, someone needs to get involved. We need an organisation which helps voters identify green(er) politicians, from whatever party, and at whatever level. We need a place for environmentally minded voters to turn to find out about the green background of prospective candidates. We need to turn green intentions into a powerful political lobby.

Now, I must be honest that this makes me uneasy. I dislike the idea of pressure groups drawing up US-style hitlists of politicians, interfering in selection processes and dragging up perceived opinions from the past. It is division politics and the other side may well be better at it. But there still needs to be a way to mobilize environmental voters to become a more effective force, and encourage politicians to think seriously about their green intentions. After all it is often one of the things they can do most about at a local level, but about which they are challenged on least often. Many elections, particularly at local level, are decided by an embarrassingly small number of votes. A few hundred either way. It may well be possible to swing those with green voters. If councils go green it affects the MPs that will be selected for an area, and the tone of local politics. We need a Green Base to help get this vote out.

What exactly this organisation might look like is unclear, but I'm working on it! Advice welcome.