Caroline Lucas: The Lib Dems' green policies are wilting

A reply to Nick Clegg's claim in the IoS that his is the eco-party

Share
Related Topics

Cross-dressing seems to be this season's political fashion. While the Tories are courting the Lib Dems (with "scarcely a cigarette paper" to slip between them, according to David Cameron), the Lib Dems are showing a bit of ankle to potential Green voters. But whereas Nick Clegg's recent overtures in this direction might reflect the growing threat we pose to his party, they don't reflect any real meeting of minds in terms of a common agenda.

In their recent rhetoric, the Lib Dems appear to want to emulate the Green Party. And over the years their official policy has clearly followed that of the Greens in a number of respects. But the Lib Dems' practical track record is something else altogether. Historically, this is a party that has been characterised by what you might call "consistent inconsistency" – saying one thing and doing another, and following different policies in different places regardless of their supposed principles.

Take roadbuilding as an example. Back in the early Nineties, the Lib Dems called for a moratorium on new roads, and today Norman Baker is saying that a Lib Dem government would halt spending on roadbuilding. The rhetoric may have been consistently green but the practice, with equal consistency, hasn't been. From the Newbury bypass and the Batheaston bypass, right up to the M74 extension and the Lancaster northern bypass, you'd be hard pressed to find a major road scheme in the past 20 years that the local Lib Dem MP or councillors haven't supported.

With aviation, the Lib Dems are inconsistent in a different way. They opposed the expansion of Heathrow, but have been happy to support the expansion of Birmingham, Carlisle, Exeter, Liverpool and Norwich airports. They were wildly enthusiastic about Manchester airport's second runway – except for Lib Dems in Stockport, under the flightpath.

Greens would say that air pollution knows no boundaries, but for the Lib Dems it depends where you are. In the 2002 local council elections they gained control of Hull by campaigning against an incinerator, and on the same day lost control of Sheffield where they had called for a new incinerator. They currently support incinerator projects in Exeter, Plymouth and Barnstaple. In Essex they support a zero waste strategy, which ought to mean no incineration – but yes, Essex Lib Dems are still supporting incineration.

As most people now know, being Green isn't just about the environment – it's about social and economic justice too. Clegg's recent lurch to the right, his call for "savage cuts" in public spending, and his pronouncements on tuition fees and child benefits will therefore do little to endear him to Green voters. In fact it's unlikely to endear him to that huge constituency of voters in the centre and on the left, either.

Those people, millions of them, are looking for something that isn't Labour or Conservative, that doesn't take its orders from the finance sector. A party with a genuine commitment to fairness, which promotes tax increases for the very wealthy because it's just. A party which wants an urgent crackdown on tax havens, bonuses and chief executive pay, instead of offering to cut public services – just because that's what Labour and the Conservatives want too.

The Liberal Democrats have always been a party with an identity crisis. In part, this has been fuelled by uncertainty as to whether they should bid for the disillusioned Labour vote or the disenchanted Conservative vote, knowing always that none of these voters are heart-and-soul Lib Dems. And part of the identity crisis is that the Lib Dems dearly want to be the Greens, but they can never quite manage it.

Caroline Lucas is leader of the Green Party of England and Wales

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Only a game? Far from it

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at the Grand Mosque in Mosul  

The al-Baghdadi doctrine: leading British Muslims offer their response

Independent Voices
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil