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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game