What do they want? Permanent recession and lower living standards. When do they want it? Now. Alex Massie on why the Green bubble will burst
We are still in this general election’s silly season. That is the only sensible response to a trio of opinion polls that suggest the Green party could win 10 per cent of the popular vote in May. Pull the other one. If that happens I shall, subject to the usual terms and conditions, go and live in a yurt. In Wales.
The Greens’ rise to prominence has, at least in part, been fuelled by the Tories. David Cameron’s insistence he won’t debate Ed Miliband unless the Greens are invited to the party too – a bluff now called by both the BBC and ITV – was transparently opportunistic. But, especially south of the Border, it helped give the Greens more free publicity than they’ve enjoyed in years. Couple this with Ed Miliband’s fushionless leadership of Labour and you begin to see why the Greens are soaring in the polls.
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It won’t last. The Green party should enjoy themselves while they can. Come May, they will be relegated to their traditional status as also-rans. This is partly because, in the end, the election is fundamentally a choice between David Cameron and Ed Miliband. Local factors apply, of course, and there may be greater amounts of tactical voting than usual, but the Green vote will, as is traditional, be squeezed.
And a jolly good thing that is too. “Local”, “sustainable” and “ecological” are all trendy buzzwords but running a country is not the same thing as managing an artisan bakery. The Green manifesto isn’t just wrong; it is morally iniquitous. Its overall effect is to make everything more expensive while reducing everyone’s income. It is a call for permanent recession and lower living standards. It is a clarion call for mass impoverishment. Fine if you believe in this sort of thing; dreadful for the millions who don’t.
I suspect the popularity of the Green “alternative” is inversely proportional to the knowledge anyone has of what the Greens actually propose. The Greens are the mirror image of Ukip. If Nigel Farage’s supporters pine for 1950s Britain, the Greens wind the clock back still further to before the industrial revolution. A revolution, it might be remembered, that did more to alleviate poverty and improve living standards than anything previously experienced in human history. The Greens prefer to inhabit a fantasy prelapsarian world in which subsistence farming is virtuous and the modern world an iniquitous sink of commercialised depravity. This is one reason, presumably, why they believe people and goods should be transported by canal (large lorries, naturally, would be banned). Let’s party like it’s the eighteenth century.
The party’s policy website is impressively detailed. So detailed in fact that most people can find something they like. The Green commitment to decriminalising drugs and taking a relaxed approach to immigration pleases me, for instance. But it is not enough, because every nod to liberty is invariably followed by calls for regulation and interference that would, inevitably and deliberately, strangle the very freedoms the party claims to respect.
The Green manifesto can be summarised pithily: you are too rich, be poorer. Economic growth – a necessary condition for a healthy society in most people’s view – is, in Greentopia, “unsustainable”.
Did you know, for instance, that the Greens favour an immediate ban on “non-linear greyhound tracks”? Every school, obviously, should offer vegan food as part of a government- supported “transition from diets dominated by meat and other animal products”. Not even the family pet is safe from their bossy interference. There should be a “national database” of dog owners and the party is “opposed to the wholesale breeding” of animals who are “chosen as companions to the human race”.
There is a need “to take pressure off wild animals by voluntarily limiting our population”. I have no idea how limiting population growth can help the red squirrel. Nor can I easily square this concern with the Greens’ enthusiasm for removing all border controls. Nevertheless, in the context of all this, the suggestion Britain’s armed forces should be abolished and existing military bases turned into nature reserves begins to seem modest and even plausible. Companies such as BAE Systems will be “converted” to the manufacture of wind turbines. Of course.
The principle of free movement of people, mind you, is at least a noble one. The Greens demonstrate no awareness of the matching importance of economic liberty. On the contrary, they favour autarky, protectionism even within the European Union. “We do not believe,” they declare, “that trade and the so-called ‘free market’ are inherently valuable.” Perhaps this should not be a surprise. The Greens see capitalism as the root of all evil. They believe we earn too much, eat too much, make too much, consume too much.
The party is implacably opposed to trade. Where imports are permitted they should be sought from “neighbouring countries” – a policy, incidentally, that would have devastating consequences for the developing world – and international trade should, where possible, be stifled by increased tariffs. All of this would, of course, require Britain to leave the European Union.
In other words, Ukip have no monopoly on cranks.. Despite their cuddly hug-a-tree image, the Green party’s platform is a recipe for national immiseration. The more you read of it the more mind-boggling it seems. As a protest vote or, rather protest identity, it doubtless has some value; as a programme for actual government it is laughable. The Greens achieve something previously thought highly improbable: they make Ukip look like moderates. If you think Tory or Labour “austerity” is bad, wait until you see the real, permanent, austerity the Greens demand.
Which is another reason why the Green bubble will burst. The Tories will shed crocodile tears when this happens but the rest of us should feel something rather more profound: relief.