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Comment - Policy Miscellany

What Green policies? by David Flint

When faced with a government as appalling as this one it's very tempting to trot out the old slogans. No privatisation! Defend the NHS! No cuts! Dump Trident! End racism!

These are our policies. They follow our principles and they are good policies. Yet it sometimes feels as if the Green Party is the only party, apart from the Left sects, to defend the public sector and public service. The Labour Party - which started Academies, increased faith schools, loosened bank regulation and started the NHS internal market - gave that up years ago.

We are not alone

Here's the truth. The public does not accept the grey parties' neoliberal agenda. A recent poll by YouGov found "voters...united in their support for nationalisation of rail...66% support nationalising the railways. [They also] prefer a publicly-run National Health Service and a publicly-run Royal Mail".

Most strikingly, majorities of voters for all the main parties, yes, even UKIP, support nationalisation of the railways.

So we can be clear. These 'leftwing policies' are popular policies. We can put them before the public with confidence.

How 'green' are we?

And yet, though Greens should support the underdogs and oppose ill-natured folly, that's not enough. The Green Party is not another Left sect. There must be more to Green policies than defense of an aging status quo when we know that radical change is essential if we are to create a sustainable society.

And there is. Lots more. Take health. The NHS is caught between funding cuts and rising demand and must either cut wages or degrade services. The funding cuts follow from the Coalition's austerity agenda, that is, from the Tory preference for cuts and Coalition's refusal to address tax avoidance and excessive pay. A Green government would be so different!

And yet, as life expectancy increases the demand for healthcare will keep rising and public resources are not infinite. That's particularly true for a party that sees growth as unsustainable. Growth is not a magic bullet that will solve all problems. We have to find other approaches based on the causes of ill-health. Some of the causes are well-known: smoking, air pollution and obesity for instance. Others, such as inequality and the misguided war on drugs, are less well-known (or at least more controversial).

We would address all these causes with policies such as:

  • Plain packaging of cigarettes
  • Less coal burning
  • The Living Wage
  • Higher income taxes and pay restraint for the rich
  • Treating drug addiction as a medical not a legal problem. See http://tinyurl.com/H4SDrugs
  • More walking and cycling but less car use.
This combination of policies would transform the health landscape. It would raise the averages and reduce the disparities between rich and poor, west and east, in our borough and elsewhere.

It is what the country needs now.

First published in the EGP members newsletter, December 2013

Published and promoted by Bill Linton for Enfield Green Party, both at 39A Fox Lane, London N13 4AJ