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When being right isn’t quite enough… The political mainstream, climate change and the Greens October 30, 2006

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, climate change, Global Warming, Greens, Irish Politics.
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It was truly startling to see the co-option of the Stern Report on climate change by the British Government today. The report makes for depressing reading, positing a future which would see a 20% decrease in global GDP in the event of uncontrolled climate change – and lest that sound not so bad it’s worth considering that in the crassest terms it’s the developed world which would be hit hardest by that decrease in GDP in terms of material comfort while the developing world would be hit as hard or worse in terms of the human effects.

But the stray thought that struck me was that the impact of the implementation of Stern et al would mean, to a significant degree the validation of a broad range of ideas generally associated with the Greens (both in political and social terms). This is, to my mind at least (and as someone long influenced by the red-green thinking of those such as that of Bahro and Gorz), welcome in terms of conversion away from a high carbon economy to one which utilises technological improvements and considered use of resources in the framework of a low carbon environment.

But isn’t this also the point at which Green ideas are subsumed, as socialist ideas were before them, into the general paradigms of mainstream politics. The UK example is particularly instructive. Here we have all three major parties, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives engaged with considerably more determination than one might have ever previously anticipated in such ideas.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that it sounds the death knell of Green parties, but it does perhaps indicate that their political role will remain perhaps more marginal than they or we might hope for in the future, that their relationship will be similar to that of Sinn Féin to Fianna Fáil as regards ‘Republicanism’ where the larger more mainstream party picks the elements that are most voter friendly, or indeed both the larger parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in relation to social democracy.

Of course, is this a surprise? No-one has expected the Greens to coast to state power on the back of simply being right on many of the big issues, but it seems to me slightly unfair that they may not reap any reward for sterling work over the past number of decades. And while the current poll ratings for the Greens, as seen in the RedC figures from the weekend are good, it’s hard to believe they reflect anything much more than our local political concerns rather than – say – the influence of those who have seen ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.

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1. The Green issue at Irish Election - October 30, 2006

[...] Read also: WorldbyStorm’s piece on the issue of green in Irish politics; he’s of the opinion that the main parties will begin to take the rug from under the Greens very soon. [...]

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2. Lorenzo - October 31, 2006

I sometimes think Fianna Fail and (to a lesser extent) Fine Gael are almost entirely content-neutral, policy distribution platforms. Their core belief/ability is to get into power by distributing policies others have come up with – the ‘National Question’ now being largely moot. Otherwise they stand for ‘things-pretty-much-as-they-are-until-a-better-idea-comes-along’.

The (somewhat tortuous) analogy I’m thinking of is to television stations. FF are like RTE or BBC – striving to be all things to all men. The Greens are like some niche cable channel – say the Nature channel. If Nature shows becomes more and more popular, RTE/BBC will start to show more of them – maybe not as ‘hardcore’ as the cable channel but enough to satisfy the level/amount required by the general populace.

Similarly, if the stuff the Greens are espousing proves sufficiently popular, FF/FG grab some of it, thereby making the Greens somewhat redundant. McDowell was entirely right with his ‘its the meat in the sandwich that gives the flavour’ idea. The question is can the Greens turn their niche channel into an ESPN? (The analogy rapidly breaks down after that.)

A better question is why the PDs have been able to parlay their roughly similar levels of support to the Greens into 11 years in power, while the Greens have had shag all? I would suggest at least two reasons: a) they had the right ideas at the wrong time (after suffering 70+ years of economic misery and now you want us stop just as the party gets into full swing?)
b) up to recently., an absence of credible personnel.

Anyway broad, popular political parties are not entirely a bad thing – I know most Italians would crave the stability of government they can bring.

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3. WorldbyStorm - October 31, 2006

I genuinely like the TV station analogy. And I think you’re right broad political parties can be good for societal stability, as long as they’re prodded along now and again by smaller parties. But as you say it’s a pity the Greens haven’t managed to utilise their vote into seats prior to now. On the other hand it’s interesting that they have grown as the economy has grown.

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