I thought about voting for the Green Party. Now I'm unthinking it

If it sounds too good to be true, it might be in the their manifesto

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I might be a target voter for the Green Party. If not, I probably should be. I worry about the environment and jot down frightening facts on inequality. I’ve voted for them before. On some of the “big issues” – energy, drugs, housing, asylum – the Greens’ bait is one I’d take gladly. And yet…

Problem No 1 is a small thing, a sentence written in these pages by Natalie Bennett a month ago. “So it’s simple, really,” offered the Green leader, “we have to entirely redesign the system.” A salting of rhetoric is to be expected. But any phrase that starts at “simple” and ends with “entirely redesign the system” sets the Pedantry Alarm off first, and leaves one or two other bells ringing.

Castles in the air evidently win votes. The Ukip utopia – where nurses recite Mary Poppins, and Britain can stay “Great” while leaving the EU – has 15 per cent of the population queuing up to join. It’s right-wing balderdash. The door leads nowhere. But it works. And though the Greens look and sound very different from Farage, they have started to quack a bit like him. The reward is a jump in the polls; rumblings, even, that Russell Brand would be a Green voter if he only settled down a bit. 

Bennett’s utopia would be a thousand times more pleasant than Ukip’s but the problem is, it’s also a utopia. Ergo if someone snapped their fingers and tried to make it so, as many people might be pulled down as pushed up.

It’s hard not to spit where the Greens spit: at exploitative corporations, the growth of poverty in Britain, the destruction of the environment, the lack of social homes, the burden of student debt forced on the young. But their central economic policy idea is a pear to Ukip’s fantasy pickle – a Citizens’ Income for all the population, regardless of means, that will “act as a safety net to enable people to choose their own types and patterns of work”. That stands as much chance of success as mankind does of morphing into the Eloi of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine – the chinless, hairless race whom total comfort has turned into sub-human dribblers.

In the meantime, the Party has called for a minimum wage set at £10 by 2020. Which also comes from the right place but ends up in the wrong one. More than miserliness keeps the level of the minimum wage set by the technocrats of the Low Pay Commission, not party politicians. Increase the level too much, and employment falls. People lose jobs or don’t find them. Poor government, you could see it as, jobs being what, if anything, makes the world go around. That shouldn’t sound like a Conservative thing to say because somewhere around there lies the centre ground.

In Brighton, the constituency of Caroline Lucas, the Green Icarus has flown close to the sun already. Bin strikes hit the city in 2013, leaving seagulls to peck at piles of rubbish: a plan to have a referendum on a hike in council tax was dropped as it would have cost more to run the vote than would have been recouped; Brighton’s recycling rate has actually dropped, with the council’s record now 302nd out of 326.

This isn’t to say their influence on Westminster is necessarily a doltish one; if the Green surge pulls mainstream politics to the left, at least Farage will have competition for the role of Pied Piper, and the direction taken will be a kinder one. A lot of their policies match the progressive with the possible. My grouse is with the promise of a future that lies beyond the power of boring, snoring politics to realise, without bringing living standards down left, right and centre. And thereby ensuring the experiment is short-lived.

Lily Cole hinted at a vote for the Greens in an interview with this week’s Radio Times. The supermodel now runs a sparsely populated social network that aims to conjure up a “gift economy”, called impossible.com. A good match, if it’s not too unkind to say so.

All the toys, but Floyd's  got nobody to play with

Making the case this week for punitive wealth taxes is Floyd “Money” Mayweather, who posted a picture on his Instagram account that shows the world’s top boxer and best-paid athlete standing in front of his private jet and fleet of sports cars (including a Bugatti Grand Sport, worth £1.5m, a Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, worth £200,000, a… you get the picture). The photo was described in news reports as “tantalising”. But Mayweather’s accompanying message gave it the lie. “Welcome to my toy world!” he said, “Who wants to come out and play?”

Perhaps it’s time to update that old saw about trees falling in the wood and nobody being around to hear them. Does a collection of luxury vehicles (and a jet) really exist, Floyd, if you’ve got nobody around to play with? Is a lonely photograph the best fun you can have with all that gear? All together now… one, two, three, “Awwwwww”.