The Green Party is, in some ways, going back to its roots. The organisation as it now stands grew from the soil of the People Party – a group set up in 1973, not only to lobby for environmental policies, but to knock at the broader political establishment. Green concerns informed much of what People pushed for, but they were far from the only string to the party’s bow. It also entertained views on economics, defence, land tenure and much besides.
Today, under the leadership of Natalie Bennett, the party is moving back to the people and campaigning on issues that have little to do, on the face of it, with helping the last of the polar bears cling on to their ice caps. As we report today, Ms Bennett plans to increase taxes on the wealth of the super-rich and renationalise the railways. This is a smart political calculation. Since the Greens introduced a commitment to “social justice” in their constitution, the party has increasingly sought to capitalise on the disaffection of many on the left. Such moves – despite receiving scant coverage in the media – have boosted the party’s membership by 28 per cent this year and seen it creep up on the Liberal Democrats in public polling.
The Greens’ attempt to broaden their base is welcome in that they have, with Caroline Lucas as their first MP, proved a positive force in Parliament. But the rebrand comes at a cost, too. When the Greens burst on to the scene in the 1989 European Parliament election, in full green colours, they forced the main parties to adopt more environmental policies. To ally the Green cause more closely with that of the far left may dilute its force on the “single issue” – the overheating of the planet – which remains a burning issue of this century. It is a fine line that Ms Bennett walks; next week’s Green conference will point the direction ahead.
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