Pushing the Green Liberal Imperative

Pushing the Green Liberal Imperative

I am writing this in my caravan on holiday in Europe. It is not clear as I write what will happen next in the saga that is the UK`s political narrative. But what is reasonably clear is that we really are not very far from a General Election.

What is concerning is that whenever the election occurs our political system will end up compromised because it is just so unrepresentative of the views of the electorate. For example, it is really clear that a large majority of people are now worrying about the consequences of Climate Change, but politicians generally are just unable to respond.

Why? Because they have been unable to unravel the mess that is Brexit – and the Government is now in the hands of an unelected charlatan and fraud, with a number of “advisers” that seem to be in the pay of either our “enemies” or a small cabal of ultra-rich tax avoiders who run our domestic media. Or BOTH, of course!

The Prime Minister is SO untrustworthy that no-one even dares to try and remove him with a Vote of No confidence (VONC) in case he manages to run roughshod over conventions and causes us to fall off the cliff of Brexit in a “No-Deal” debacle on 31st October. However, I shall say no more on this matter as it is being `done to death` on FaceBook anyway.

My point, however, is that the things WE, the Green Liberal Democrats, care passionately about, along with a large chunk of the electorate – and most of the next couple of generations of voters, as yet unable to cast their votes – are being left to the margins of political discourse in the Mother of Parliaments, while the Government fiddles with the positioning of the deck chairs.

World Cup Rugby

Sshh, don`t say a word, but I should not be writing this blog by rights anyway, as it happens. I should be watching recorded matches of the games in today`s Rugby World Cup. However, my access to UK TV recordings now appears to be blocked because I am not actually In the UK. So, I have some time on my hands – and trying to sneak in a quiet Blog….

Indeed, by rights I should actually be IN JAPAN, watching some of the matches on TV, having watched the England matches in the stadiums. I had actually bought tickets for all the England matches and the likely quarter final matches in which England should be appearing if they win or come second in their group.

I am a rugby fan and have been all my life, having played for school and university many, many moons ago. I was lucky enough to get tickets for all the group games in France in 2007 and the quarters and semis and the final in that year. And after I married Fatima in 2011, we honeymooned in New Zealand and saw the England group matches and the final between New Zealand and France in Auckland. I was also lucky enough to get tickets to the group matches and quarter finals in 2015 when we had the Rugby World Cup in the UK. Sadly, our esteemed team failed to make it out of the group stage in our Home World Cup!

So – “Why haven`t we gone to Japan?” Having bought the tickets, I had a terrible crisis of conscience about actually flying to Japan in the context of the Climate Crisis! In one sense it really has not made any real difference that I sold my tickets back into the system, as it is pretty likely that they will have been bought  – at least in part – by England supporters who will also fly to Japan on the same aircraft as I might have flown on anyway!

GLD Chair & other party offices

However, I made the decision I wanted to stand for Chair of the Green Liberal Democrats again, having been the founding Chair back in 1988. Since we are now at a crucial stage of political activity in the face of Global Warming (Global Roasting is probably a better phrase, in reality!!) we need to be pushing the Green Liberal Imperative. And I believe I have the right political credentials to do just that within the party. I am also putting myself forward for either Federal Conference Committee or Federal Policy Committee to push the Green Liberal Imperative there too.

With all this in mind, however, it seems just too far along the hypocrisy scale to fly to Japan for ephemeral pleasure and then seek to sit in the Chair of an organisation dedicated to getting society to change its ways. My attention was caught the other day on FaceBook by a picture of the leader of the Green Party in Canada which had been “doctored” to show her holding a reusable cup with a metal straw, instead of the “actualité” – which was that she was using a single use cup for her coffee! If you CAN be caught out in politics, you WILL be caught out for sure and I do not want to create a hostage to fortune.

We have an uphill task, anyway, getting even our Liberal Democrat party to behave in appropriate ways (think of all the single use plastic bottles bought and sold at the LD Conference just recently and the trees chopped down for all the communications aspects of the conference, not to mention the lack of recycling facilities at the Conference Centre!!)

Having moved the GLD amendment, in Bournemouth, to tackle UK emissions of methane and CO2 so urgently and bring forward the end-date for net-zero emission to 2040, I could not in good conscience fly over 6000 miles to Japan and back and then feel at ease addressing audiences around the country about “Changing our ways” as Chair of GLD. I just could not do it, so I decided to sell my precious tickets for the Rugby games. And my conscience felt much the better for it!

I have already made dietary changes to eat much less red meat – I now class myself as a Flexitarian – perhaps not the “green purist” position as being a vegetarian or vegan, but progress of a sort. I have also made other changes to my life in terms of addressing my carbon footprint. I am very lucky to own around three hectares of land in Nottinghamshire where I am planting trees in great quantity (well over 200 at the last count and many more to go over the next couple of years, whilst I am still fit enough to dig the holes to plant them in!) I say “lucky”, but it was a conscious decision on my part, more than twelve years ago, to offset as much as I could of my carbon footprint with personal carbon sequestration.

I also fitted solar panels a few years ago and more recently I have added batteries to the system to be able to store my solar energy as much as possible. I now have a hybrid vehicle (I would have gone all-electric but for the need to pull the caravan, thus avoiding short-haul holiday flights!) It is, however, only the third vehicle I have owned in over 24 years – I have consciously kept my vehicles as long as practicable to avoid the carbon cost embedded in their manufacture.

Let me be clear, however, that I am a long way from claiming an ideal low-carbon lifestyle – I know full-well that there are many others out there making a much better fist of it than myself. It is nevertheless very important that we make strenuous efforts to change our ways if we are preaching societal changes of the magnitude needed to tackle the scale of the problems we face. Ideally, we must become a “Do what we DO” Party, rather than a “Do what we SAY” Party.

We must push the Green Liberal Imperative as hard as we can – in our own lives as well as in the lives of others. OK – I need to go back to being on holiday, otherwise I shall get into trouble with Mrs Melton!

A passing Green bus in Luxembourg! Bus fares are very cheap there and all school age kids appear to travel completely free on public transport, which is comfortable and frequent. potential lessons to be learnt here…

 

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Heatwave at the political crossroads…!

Political crossroads

By Keith Melton, Vice Chair – Campaigns – GLD

We are at a political crossroads – the like of which I have not seen in all of my lifetime.

We have a new Prime Minister who is a buffoon and a charlatan, promising the impossible. We have a parliament which has been tied up in knots for more than three years trying to resolve an intractable problem, unable or unwilling to find a reasonable basis for agreement. So much so, that everything other than Brexit has been virtually ignored or left in the hands of a civil service whose best brains have been poached by those trying to resolve the intractable problem!

Perhaps the most worrying thing is that `sorting out Brexit` has actually become a distraction from the much more dangerous, existential issues of the Climate Crisis and Biodiversity Loss. Either one of these problems could (and probably will!) bring about catastrophic consequences. The fact that both are happening at the same time brings to mind the famous Oscar Wilde line from `The Importance of being Earnest` – “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness”.

Our political classes are being careless!

Record Temperatures

The current European heatwave is bringing record temperatures (hottest UK day ever this week!) and the likelihood is that we will face five times as many heatwaves now because of changes in climate patterns brought about by human induced Global heating.

According to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service there were, in June, more than 100 intense and long-lived wildfires raging in areas north of the Arctic Circle. North Siberia and Alaska were worst hit. In June alone, these fires emitted 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to Sweden’s total annual emissions, the monitoring service says. That is more than was released by Arctic fires in the same month between 2010 and 2018 combined.” – extract from … https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arktika/2019/07/worlds-warmest-june-ever-heatwave-raged-across-parts-arctic

Do something

WE need to `do something`. But what is it that we need to do exactly? (..and by `we`, let`s be clear that I mean `we Liberal Democrats`…) You may have noticed we also acquired a new leader very recently. And in the leadership campaigning around the country both Jo and Ed signalled that as well as wanting to “Stop Brexit”, they both wanted to put the Climate Crisis much higher up the political agenda. Just saying it will not make it happen, however, – it is a necessary, but not a sufficient requirement on its own.

Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party before them have a respectable history of being environmentally aware and proactive and we have a clear public profile in this regard. BUT, in my view, the environment has never, ever, been front and centre in our campaigning and that must change.

Don`t get me wrong, of course we have campaigned on environmental issues, getting rid of lead in petrol, banning ozone-depleting hydrofluorocarbons, reducing plastic waste, developing renewable energy, and so on and so on. All good environmental causes.

But it is not enough. Not by a long shot.

It is big help that we have recently elected another 700 plus councillors and taken control of a couple of handfuls of local councils and they are now busy persuading their local communities to declare a Climate Emergency, raising the profile of the issue.

But it is not enough. Not by a long shot.

It is a big help that we have also elected sixteen MEPs, half of whom are, or have been, actual members of the Green Liberal Democrats. Clearly demonstrating that they actively support green issues in their portfolio of interests – and we must support them in their environmental roles too.

But it is not enough. Not by a long shot.

Professionalise

As a party we must professionalise our green base. In the same way that many years ago we began to professionalise our electioneering capability, starting with ALDC (even before the `D` was added) we must develop a robust full-time capability on the environment.

It is not enough to rely on “working groups” of volunteers, who may be able to bring to bear their `day-job` expertise, briefly, on specific problems to create a report which will get interpreted into a motion for conference to pass into our worthy pantheon of policy.

It is necessary and important, but not sufficient.

It is not enough to organise a GLD Conference once a year to educate and inform our campaigning and provide sustenance for the green `soul` of the party.

It is necessary and important, but not sufficient.

We need the continuous presence of an environmental “Think Tank” concentrating on bringing answers to our Councillors, our MPs and our MEPs for the issues they raise in their political forums.

We need to lead the way in creating and helping to sustain the Citizens` Assemblies and Citizens` representative who can keep our politicians` feet to the flames in the face of our dual existential threats of Climate Catastrophe and Biodiversity Loss.

Green Liberal Democrats

An obvious starting point for this process is to develop our volunteer platform through the Green Liberal Democrats, with a view to adding professional support as time goes on. It helps, of course, that the group has grown rapidly over the last couple of years. It may be that we are reaching a useful tipping point where the increasing membership, and the increased availability of funds that flows from those numbers, enables the group to at least partially fund additional administrative support.

Indeed, in my view, it should be a task to be tackled by the incoming new GLD executive committee in September to explore funding opportunities. We might look at potential subventions from various party bodies, whether it be the much larger group of councillors seeking environmental advice, or our excellent group of MEPs seeking regional campaigning support or maybe even our new Leader`s Office wanting to develop our green remit!

We also need to look again at possible bids for supporting funds from charitable sources. We did make some tentative approaches a couple of years ago in relation to the GLD conferencing development. Some interest was shown but sadly no funds materialised, so we had to knuckle down and do it ourselves. With the rapidly developing research data on the extent of climate change and biodiversity loss threats, it may be an opportune time to try again.

Campaigning and Political leadership

I started this article with the claim that we are at a political crossroads. For the country at the moment, that political crossroads looks like a Brexit decision one way or another – and it is to be expected that Jo Swinson and the Party leadership will concentrate their initial efforts on stopping Brexit if possible.

However, once that is achieved (or denied?!), the party must concentrate on providing the same clarity of vision and the same vim and vigour in campaigning on the environment. We must make it OUR issue – we must own it and flaunt it and that will require dedication and political leadership commensurate with the task.

Assuming you are a GLD member reading this may I suggest there are at least three things you (we!) might do…

1 Help set up a Regional GLD Group in your region. Let me know if you can help.

2 Get your local authority; trade union; professional body or, your employer to declare a Climate Emergency. If you are already onto this, please let me know, we need to track progress.

3 Help to generate local support for the Climate Strike on 20th September, we need to be involved at all levels.

For more on the Climate Strike see this link… >>> https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=427395381195077

Green Liberal Democrats should not shy away from this responsibility. We should grasp it with both hands and make it our own. And, by the way, if you are NOT a GLD member reading this, the first thing you should do is to JOIN US!

Click here to join – https://greenlibdems.org.uk/en/page/join-now

Keith Melton, Vice Chair – Campaigns – GLD

July 2019

Posted in Boris, Environment & Sustainable Development, Lib Dem Leadership, Politics, Radical Liberal | Tagged | Leave a comment

Primaries revisited – Lib Dem and Green Party (updated 6th July, from 8th June)

Liberal Democrat/Green Party primaries

by Keith Melton – Green Lib Dem Vice Chair (Campaigns)

Flying a Kite

Like many Lib Dems around the country I was busy fighting elections in May, both local and European. Then I got caught up organising the Green Liberal Democrat summer conference in Nottingham for 15th June. So, during those weeks/months of intensive politicking my mind was taking in the developing political scene.

As you will see from the sub-heading, I am taking the opportunity now to “Fly a kite”.

It is an idea that popped into my head recently, one early morning on waking. I may have said this before, but I take these serendipitous ideas seriously. That is because they are usually the end point of some serious sub-conscious brain-working-analysis which happens whilst my conscious mind is sleeping.

It is a process which seems to involve no biased prejudicial thoughts (not that I would ever admit to being prejudiced anyway! But conscious value-judgements do sometimes err on the side of stereotype. However, I feel pretty sure on the basis of over 70 years of life experience that these early morning “light-bulb” moments do not contain overt value-judgements in that way.)

The background to my “Kite” is that there has been a whole lot of complaining that the Remain parties failed to get our acts together for the European elections on 23 May. In fact, we did not do badly even having said this. However, there are indications that we could actually have done better with some pre-planning. There has been quite a lot of tribalistic blaming going on, on Facebook, as to who was really responsible for this lack of “act-getting-togetherness”.

You may be pleased to know I am not about to get into that argument at all, but I would like to pose a tentative solution which could avoid a similar problem whenever the next General election turns up. Some people suggest that this may be as soon as sometime within the next six months. If that occurs there may not be enough time to get this kite flying before the election process overtakes us, so for the moment let us assume that we have at least 12 months grace before an election arrives.

Change UK has now clearly hit Zombie status and Chuka Umunna has – apparently quite contentedly – joined the Liberal Democrats. Generally, he seems to have been very much welcomed. And there are suggestions of more switchers in the bubble of parliament.

Latest Polling

Recent polling has been fluctuating rather wildly, but may generally be summed up as being now a four-way party split. Smoothing things out with a 28-day moving average puts the Labour Party on about 23-24% Conservative and Brexit parties on about 21% and the Liberal Democrats on about 19%. One recent poll gave Liberal Democrats a clear lead on about 30% – with a hypothetical position of the Corbyn-led Labour Party still sitting on the fence about Europe. The more that possibility stays alive (and I see no immediate change happening) the more likely it is that Liberal Democrats can take a consistent lead in the polls.

However, for the purposes of this article, let us assume that the four-way split is roughly as above. And then there is the Green Party, whose 28-day average rests at about 8%. More positive polls have them at around 10%. So, if you take a liberty and add the Lib Dems and the Green Party together the definitely pro-remain English parties are in the lead with around 28%.

Given the strange nature of the First-past-the-post system which currently rules our electioneering, this is probably not enough to provide a leading position, especially given the fact that in many places we will be fighting for the same votes.

As a Green Liberal Democrat, I would very much like to encourage Lib Dems and the Green Party to fight a combined ticket, as you may have seen in my recent blog posts. However, there are several strands of tribalism that may prevent that from happening, not least from the joint leaders of the Green Party at their conference last month. It might happen in a few places, but it might not be tolerated in others.

But, there may be another way….

My “KITE”

So, here it is. My idea is that we import a notion from the USA, the idea of having a PRIMARY election process involving both parties in the most sensitive seats – i.e. those seats where both parties think they may have a winning chance. We give all registered members of both parties in such a constituency a vote to choose their agreed candidate and then both parties would throw their full support behind the agreed candidate.

Such a system does not require a merging of the parties to work, but it would require a very high level of trust and we are going to have to work to engender that trust over quite an extended period, perhaps at a regional level, sooner rather than later.

It is likely that most of the votes cast would follow party lines, but that may have two benefits. The first is that local parties will know well in advance that they should be getting busy recruiting new members – which will be good for both parties anyway. And even if the vote does go along party lines, the result will then reflect the actual strength on the ground of each party, which is fundamental to fighting a successful election anyway.

What it would avoid, is our two parties wasting energy fighting each other, when we should be spending our time fighting the REAL opposition, whether it be Brexit Party or the Tories or Labour, depending upon the area. Also it would probably not be necessary in those constituencies where neither party has real strength on the ground.

In a real Four-way split nationally it is not beyond the bounds of possibility we could see a Liberal /Green government – or, at the very least, a Liberal and Green LED government with support from an emasculated Labour Party  (which would have to choose a new leader, because the results of the Euro election showed that Lib Dems beat Labour in Islington!)

The FIRST item of business would then be to change the electoral system to bring in Proportional Representation. If the General election that produces this result were to be called before Brexit was settled, changing the electoral system would have to be the second item of business – the first item being the Revocation of Article 50 – AND WHAT A RELIEF THAT WOULD BE!

Please feel free to let me know what you think of my Kite – will it fly? Leave a comment on my post or send me an email as below.

Keith Melton, Vice Chair (Campaigns) GLD

keith.melton@greenlibdems.org.uk

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Setting GREEN Priorities

Setting Priorities

“May you live in interesting times” is said to be an ancient Chinese curse. For various reasons it seems to be a self-evident truth that we ARE living in interesting times. Just summing things up in a series of single or double-word statements: Europe; Political Chaos; Climate Crisis; Biodiversity Loss; Plastic Pollution; Trump; Brexit; Farage; Bolsanaro – that`s probably enough to cope with for now…

Hang on – let me try a few more: Local Elections; Euro Elections; Chuka; Leadership contest; Brecon Byelection. Does that feel better? If you are a Liberal Democrat, I am prepared to wager you DO feel better. But if you are a member of the Conservative Party or the Labour Party, then the last few words perhaps don`t help!

If you are a Green Liberal Democrat, you may feel even better if I were to add “GLD Conference; membership more than doubled; and half of our MEPs are or have been members of the Green Lib Dems”. However, we still have to deal with these interesting times!

Changes we might make

So, this article is about the things we need to do to enhance the impact of the Green Liberal Democrats campaigning. For starters I think we can now move away from banging the drum as to how bad things will be. For years we have needed to sound the warning bells about our environmental threats – we can stop doing that now.

Most people have now got a reasonably strong sense of the problems we face – from the IPCC report last year; from David Attenborough`s Blue Planet warnings on plastics in the oceans; from Greta Thunberg`s school strikes and from eXtinction Rebellion, to name just a few.

Our messaging from now on needs to be “Solutions based”. So, we must now be saying, “…these are the things we must do to tackle the problems we all know about…” I am greatly encouraged that both of our leadership candidates seem prepared to put Green issues front and centre of our Party`s campaigning. But that means GLD must be ready to lead on the issues that matter.

Also, it is hugely significant that half of our 16 MEPs are sufficiently green to be members of GLD (six current members) or recent members of the group (two other MEPs) but we can and must help with their campaigning, linking back to our wider membership and to the general public, their constituents. The party also has over 700 new councillors and is in control of many more Councils – many of these new councillors are GLD members or sympathisers – and we can and should help there, too.

No Criticism!

Let me be absolutely clear, this is no criticism of our current structure or of our current executive committee – my involvement since rejoining the party and GLD in early 2017 has shown me what a fabulous team we have in place. Indeed, Green Lib Dem success can be measured directly in the membership growth during that same time frame. GLD membership was a little over 320 when I joined and I would be surprised if we do not see our 1000th member before 2019 is done.

It has been a real pleasure to be part of such a successful bunch. Led by a remarkably hard-working and dynamic Chair in Graham Neale, now Councillor Graham Neale; our funds and membership details are safe and clearly controlled, indeed, tightly controlled, by Treasurer, Simon Oliver; and fringe management and many other things are effectively controlled by our Organising Vice Chair, Peter Bruce.

I repeat, however, that we need to adapt sharply to the new reality.

GLD needs to act as a rapid access portal to the group`s expertise and to the knowledge base this represents in terms of accessing already usable stored data. We have made a tentative start, but we are essentially a volunteer-based organisation, so perhaps we need to examine ways of funding and financing a permanent professional staff base. I have spoken to some of our MEPs about possible administrative support. The problem there is that we do not yet know whether our MEPs will continue to BE MEPs after the end of October!

We hope to have this issue as a foundation stone for one of our “training/activist” sessions in Bournemouth – so if you are interested in moving this agenda forward please contact me directly about Bournemouth (email me at keith.melton@greenlibdems.org.uk) – especially if you ARE an MEP!

Campaigning

One thing any political movement has to get right is its campaigning. Liberal Democrats have plenty of experience of running successful campaigns, some more so than others, of course. Perhaps the best recent exemplar is the Party`s “Bollocks to Brexit” campaign which brought returns in both local elections and the Euro elections in May. Totally focused and total clarity of message and above all a bold delivery, not least Vince Cable`s etymology of the word “Bollocks” on the Andrew Marr show, where a rather prudish Andrew Marr was led into apologising to his more sensitive viewers for the adult language.

In GLD terms, the leadership shown by our Political Vice Chair, Steve Mason, and his championing of the anti-fracking movement has been a remarkable success, not just for its focus, but also for the deliberate willingness and strategy of sharing effort with a much wider campaigning group and developing broad links with like-minded campaigners.

Our campaigning for renewable energy came to fruition during the Coalition years with a real and rapid growth of renewable energy generation which would not have happened without clear Liberal Democrat leadership. And Ed Davey is now leading a campaign to enable divestment from fossil fuels in Local Authority pension planning which GLD is helping to facilitate.

Inevitably, there are so many areas where we COULD become involved in campaigning that the difficulty arises in deciding where we should concentrate our efforts. One of the most successful and interesting (and FUN!) sessions of the recent GLD conference was the last plenary session of the afternoon, where we attempted to do just that.

I have not yet finished transcribing, and making sense of, the capturing of members` inputs to that session, so I will not pre-empt that task more than to say that “Green Transport” was a key feature of the session. We hope to be developing this at one of our fringe meetings in Bournemouth, so, please check the conference programme for that.

What I would like to do here, however, is to talk a little bit about HOW we might develop our campaigning capability. And that brings me back to the fact of the rapid increase in membership of the Green Liberal Democrats that I mentioned earlier. It is, of course, rewarding to find that the group to which one devotes one`s campaigning efforts, seems to be becoming more popular and people are committing serious personal finances to become “members” of the group.

My next question is whether we are doing enough to involve new members in those very activities? A participative GLD Conference, yes. Fringe meetings at Spring and Autumn Party Conferences, yes. Regular communications with members about green issues. yes.

But is that enough?

My feeling is that membership numbers have now reached “another level” where we can be much more ambitious. At around 300 members we were mostly spread rather too thinly around the country to think of getting together more frequently than at those venues I just mentioned above. However, now that our membership has reached close to 800 and is rising quickly, I believe we are now capable of setting up Regional GLD “Branches” to take on the possibilities of more active “local” campaigning.

How do we go about it?

We could, of course, go for the bureaucratic route and wait for the GLD AGM in Bournemouth and spend time revising the constitution to “allow for” the creation of a Regional structure. Or (and you will probably already have gathered that this is what I favour!) we can allow an organic structure to arise and see whether that can work.

I am very happy to help facilitate this and, actually, I regard it as part of my formal role as Vice Chair (Campaigns) anyway. So, it doesn`t matter which region you are in, if you have some enthusiasm to act as a liaison and make arrangements for holding a regional GLD meeting in the next couple of months, do please get in touch.

I am not in any way precluding existing members of the GLD executive taking on such a role, but my preferred route would be to see this exercise as one of “additionality” to our existing structure, for which our exec members can and should act as key resources in their respective regions. So, if you are on the executive and happen to know someone who would be really good at doing this in your area, then recruit them to action!

It would also be good if those people who are ready to dive in can get along to the Autumn conference in Bournemouth – that would be a great help. The training/activist session on this idea is likely to be held on either Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon in the Trouville hotel, not far from the Conference venue – so if you can only get along for one day to the conference – make it the Sunday! See you there…

We could be playing an important role in an early General election too!

My email is keith.melton@greenlibdems.org.uk

Keith Melton, Vice Chair (Campaigns)

Green Liberal Democrats, July 2019

Posted in Environment & Sustainable Development, Lib Dem Leadership, Politics, Radical Liberal | 2 Comments

Time to choose

Time to choose

The Green Liberal Democrat Conference and Hustings were held in Nottingham yesterday. It had been one of those days that you can scarcely see beyond. It has loomed large on my horizon for several months and, of course, this last week, in the direct run-up to Saturday, it has been – shall we say – a bit “manic” to say the least.

Last year`s 30th Anniversary conference in Nottingham was a pleasing affair to arrange and we had about 86 paying delegates, I think. About two weeks ago the number for this year reached 88 and I recall being quite pleased – then, suddenly it went a bit quiet. So, I grew a little concerned that we wouldn`t far exceed last year`s total.

After a couple of quiet days, however, entries started to trickle in again and by the beginning of this week numbers were up to 106, with a few days to go. Quite pleasing then – we were going to be about 20% up on last year. Then, by Friday, numbers had increased to 118 – 37% up on 2018.

On Saturday, during the course of the morning, I kept getting the nod from Alison, on the desk, that more people were coming in to pay on the door, And, as the morning plenary session progressed,  with Wera Hobhouse, MP, making the Keynote speech of the conference, folk still kept arriving.

I need to check the paperwork before being absolutely certain, but I believe we finally reached 132 paying delegates – so nearly a 55% uplift on 2018. This was so much of a good result that, for health and safety reasons, we had to shift the plenary sessions in the afternoon upstairs to the LARGE Lecture Theatre, because we exceeded the holding capacity of the original room we were using!

There will be more to report about our afternoon plenary sessions in due course, in another blog post, but for the moment I will just say they were lively debates about campaigning issues.

Hustings

We had arranged to hold a Green Hustings after the conference – and HQ indicated that would be fine, as long as we amalgamated with the expected regional hustings to be held in the East Midlands. Not a problem, I said, bring it on!

So GLD decided to pay the whole cost of the amalgamated hustings as our contribution to Liberal Democracy. Thus, incoming Lib Dems from around the east Midlands arrived to find cups of tea and coffee were waiting for them along with some biscuits – all luxuries that were not apparently available at other hustings around the country! I am told that our hustings were probably the biggest in the UK apart from the London hustings. There were so many people present that in the midst of the Q & A session we had to pause to open the two sets of large doors at the back of the lecture theatre to cool everyone down, we were generating so much heat.

And, now it`s time to CHOOSE.

In the run up to the event I have deliberately kept a low profile, staying absolutely neutral with respect to the choice of the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. But now it is time to choose. Clearly from our candidates list of TWO, we have a much, much better choice than the Conservatives do from their long list of ten or eleven. Indeed, we can be sure of electing a sound leader whichever of the two we end up choosing. And that is much more than you can say for the Tories!

One of our conference delegates posted on FaceBook yesterday that you can hardly get a tissue paper between them in terms of qualities and capability – and there are some people still having trouble choosing their winning candidate. However, I have already plumped for my choice and now the conference is behind me, I think I can safely stand and champion my choice for the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. So, let me explain who it is and why I have made that choice.

Before I make the “great reveal”, let me just say a little about my “backstory” for anyone who does not know me that well, because some of you, maybe most of you, only know me as a relative newbie to the party. I started paying my dues again in 2017 and have not only got thoroughly involved in the party since then, but also have picked up on my Green linkages too. But my political activity goes back a LONG way to the time at school in 1964 when I stood as the Liberal candidate in our school`s “mock election”.

I won`t go through the whole story because you can look back through my blog posts to find that should you so wish, but I became active in the Liberal Ecology Group (LEG) in 1978, just a few months after the group was started. And I was the Chair of LEG at the time of the merger, so I became the first Chair of the Green Liberal Democrats.

Scrolling forward to 1998, after four general elections as a candidate and two European elections as a candidate under my belt, I decided to “retire” from party politics, partly to concentrate on an excellent work opportunity to found and run the Institute for Sustainable Development in Business, but partly because I had become very frustrated at the backwardness of the party at coming forward to step up to the mark of environmental concerns.

We had, and have, an awful lot of very good environmental policies – and they are getting better and better over time, too. But – and it is a very large BUT – we have never, as a party, put the environment FRONT and CENTRE of our manifesto and our campaigning zeal in a General Election.

NEVER.

Even when the issues have featured in a GE manifesto, there has been little attempt – indeed, more often than not – there has been no attempt to concentrate on that strand of the party`s core beliefs.

So, guess what, this issue is at the centre of my decision on the next party leader. We face an existential crisis simply on the issue of Climate change. But there is a further existential crisis in terms of the massive biodiversity loss during the course of my lifetime. We heard about both of these issues in the conference yesterday and, frankly, if one don`t get us the other one might!!

So, is it to be Jo or Ed?

Both Jo and Ed are fully imbued with Liberal Values.

Both Jo and Ed are now experienced as ministers in Government – the first time in my lifetime we can say about our choice of leader (Vince, of course, wasn`t chosen, he was simply crowned, so that doesn`t count in terms of CHOICE) I will say a little more about “experience” below, too.

Both Jo and Ed talk the talk about Green issues and both place them high on the list of things they choose to talk about when left to their own devices and you can tell, listening to them that they believe in green issues from their hearts as well as their heads.

But, of the two, only one of them has taken Green issues into the CORE of their political being and that person is Sir Ed Davey.

I know, on the basis of a number of personal discussions with Ed that, at last, I am not going to be frustrated that Green issues will fall by the wayside as an Election campaign hots up.

I know that Green issues will form an important cornerstone of the fundamental image of the party I belong to, the party I am working for, the party that will, at last, really allow me to begin to CHANGE THE WORLD for the better. And who, in politics, (perhaps I should specify in Liberal politics!?), is not involved with a view to changing the world?

I know that Sir Ed Davey is not going to go chasing down the rabbit-hole of Neo-Liberalism that caused such devastation to the numbers of Liberal Democrat MPs in 2015.

Experience

I mentioned above that I would say a little more about “experience”. Ed`s experience as Secretary of State, in the cabinet, and on the international stage, is going to be very important, very soon. His success, in terms of getting such huge steps forward in renewable energy generation in the face of opposition from George Osborne, the chancellor of the day, shows a determination rarely matched in any ministerial position, let alone as the junior partner in a novel coalition.

More than that, Ed`s international experience will be important when he is heading up a Liberal Democrat government as the Prime Minister of this country. He already knows where our best friends are in Europe in terms of facing up to the issues of Climate Change. He has already been talking with the bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, about ways of Greening Capitalism, as a prelude to developing and devising a circular, or doughnut, economy.

Finally, although Jo is very good (usually, at least) at “cutting through” on the media, as she puts it, there is something rather more combative about the way Ed faces down impertinent journos.

Final Decision

So, my final decision as to the better candidate for the next leadership of the Liberal Democrats is Sir Ed Davey and I shall be casting my vote for Ed in due course over the next couple of weeks.

Go for it Ed!

Posted in Elections, Environment & Sustainable Development, Politics | 1 Comment

GLD conference and hustings – 2019

Time to choose

The Green Liberal Democrat Conference and Hustings were held in Nottingham yesterday. It had been one of those days that you can scarcely see beyond. It has loomed large on my horizon for several months and, of course, this last week, in the direct run-up to Saturday, it has been – shall we say – a bit “manic” to say the least.

Last year`s 30th Anniversary conference in Nottingham was a pleasing affair to arrange and we had about 86 paying delegates, I think. About two weeks ago the number for this year reached 88 and I recall being quite pleased – then, suddenly it went a bit quiet. So, I grew a little concerned that we wouldn`t far exceed last year`s total.

After a couple of quiet days, however, entries started to trickle in again and by the beginning of this week numbers were up to 106, with a few days to go. Quite pleasing then – we were going to be about 20% up on last year. Then, by Friday, numbers had increased to 118 – 37% up on 2018.

On Saturday, during the course of the morning, I kept getting the nod from Alison, on the desk, that more people were coming in to pay on the door, And, as the morning plenary session progressed,  with Wera Hobhouse, MP, making the Keynote speech of the conference, folk still kept arriving.

I need to check the paperwork before being absolutely certain, but I believe we finally reached 132 paying delegates – so nearly a 55% uplift on 2018. This was so much of a good result that, for health and safety reasons, we had to shift the plenary sessions in the afternoon upstairs to the LARGE Lecture Theatre, because we exceeded the holding capacity of the original room we were using!

There will be more to report about our afternoon plenary sessions in due course, in another blog post, but for the moment I will just say they were lively debates about campaigning issues.

Hustings

We had arranged to hold a Green Hustings after the conference – and HQ indicated that would be fine, as long as we amalgamated with the expected regional hustings to be held in the East Midlands. Not a problem, I said, bring it on!

So GLD decided to pay the whole cost of the amalgamated hustings as our contribution to Liberal Democracy. Thus, incoming Lib Dems from around the east Midlands arrived to find cups of tea and coffee were waiting for them along with some biscuits – all luxuries that were not apparently available at other hustings around the country! I am told that our hustings were probably the biggest in the UK apart from the London hustings. There were so many people present that in the midst of the Q & A session we had to pause to open the two sets of large doors at the back of the lecture theatre to cool everyone down, we were generating so much heat.

And, now it`s time to CHOOSE.

In the run up to the event I have deliberately kept a low profile, staying absolutely neutral with respect to the choice of the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. But now it is time to choose. Clearly from our candidates list of TWO, we have a much, much better choice than the Conservatives do from their long list of ten or eleven. Indeed, we can be sure of electing a sound leader whichever of the two we end up choosing. And that is much more than you can say for the Tories!

One of our conference delegates posted on FaceBook yesterday that you can hardly get a tissue paper between them in terms of qualities and capability – and there are some people still having trouble choosing their winning candidate. However, I have already plumped for my choice and now the conference is behind me, I think I can safely stand and champion my choice for the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. So, let me explain who it is and why I have made that choice.

Before I make the “great reveal”, let me just say a little about my “backstory” for anyone who does not know me that well, because some of you, maybe most of you, only know me as a relative newbie to the party. I started paying my dues again in 2017 and have not only got thoroughly involved in the party since then, but also have picked up on my Green linkages too. But my political activity goes back a LONG way to the time at school in 1964 when I stood as the Liberal candidate in our school`s “mock election”.

I won`t go through the whole story because you can look back through my blog posts to find that should you so wish, but I became active in the Liberal Ecology Group (LEG) in 1978, just a few months after the group was started. And I was the Chair of LEG at the time of the merger, so I became the first Chair of the Green Liberal Democrats.

Scrolling forward to 1998, after four general elections as a candidate and two European elections as a candidate under my belt, I decided to “retire” from party politics, partly to concentrate on an excellent work opportunity to found and run the Institute for Sustainable Development in Business, but partly because I had become very frustrated at the backwardness of the party at coming forward to step up to the mark of environmental concerns.

We had, and have, an awful lot of very good environmental policies – and they are getting better and better over time, too. But – and it is a very large BUT – we have never, as a party, put the environment FRONT and CENTRE of our manifesto and our campaigning zeal in a General Election.

NEVER.

Even when the issues have featured in a GE manifesto, there has been little attempt – indeed, more often than not – there has been no attempt to concentrate on that strand of the party`s core beliefs.

So, guess what, this issue is at the centre of my decision on the next party leader. We face an existential crisis simply on the issue of Climate change. But there is a further existential crisis in terms of the massive biodiversity loss during the course of my lifetime. We heard about both of these issues in the conference yesterday and, frankly, if one don`t get us the other one might!!

So, is it to be Jo or Ed?

Both Jo and Ed are fully imbued with Liberal Values.

Both Jo and Ed are now experienced as ministers in Government – the first time in my lifetime we can say about our choice of leader (Vince, of course, wasn`t chosen, he was simply crowned, so that doesn`t count in terms of CHOICE) I will say a little more about “experience” below, too.

Both Jo and Ed talk the talk about Green issues and both place them high on the list of things they choose to talk about when left to their own devices and you can tell, listening to them that they believe in green issues from their hearts as well as their heads.

But, of the two, only one of them has taken Green issues into the CORE of their political being and that person is Sir Ed Davey.

I know, on the basis of a number of personal discussions with Ed that, at last, I am not going to be frustrated that Green issues will fall by the wayside as an Election campaign hots up.

I know that Green issues will form an important cornerstone of the fundamental image of the party I belong to, the party I am working for, the party that will, at last, really allow me to begin to CHANGE THE WORLD for the better. And who, in politics, (perhaps I should specify in Liberal politics!?), is not involved with a view to changing the world?

I know that Sir Ed Davey is not going to go chasing down the rabbit-hole of Neo-Liberalism that caused such devastation to the numbers of Liberal Democrat MPs in 2015.

Experience

I mentioned above that I would say a little more about “experience”. Ed`s experience as Secretary of State, in the cabinet, and on the international stage, is going to be very important, very soon. His success, in terms of getting such huge steps forward in renewable energy generation in the face of opposition from George Osborne, the chancellor of the day, shows a determination rarely matched in any ministerial position, let alone as the junior partner in a novel coalition.

More than that, Ed`s international experience will be important when he is heading up a Liberal Democrat government as the Prime Minister of this country. He already knows where our best friends are in Europe in terms of facing up to the issues of Climate Change. He has already been talking with the bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, about ways of Greening Capitalism, as a prelude to developing and devising a circular, or doughnut, economy.

Finally, although Jo is very good (usually, at least) at “cutting through” on the media, as she puts it, there is something rather more combative about the way Ed faces down impertinent journos.

Final Decision

So, my final decision as to the better candidate for the next leadership of the Liberal Democrats is Sir Ed Davey and I shall be casting my vote for Ed in due course over the next couple of weeks.

Go for it Ed!

Posted in Elections, Lib Dem Leadership, Politics | Leave a comment

Liberal Democrat/Green Party primaries

Flying a Kite

OK – It has been a while since my last Blog post. I have been busy fighting elections, both local and European as well as organising the next Green Liberal Democrat summer conference in Nottingham for 15th June. So, in some ways this post is one outcome of several weeks/months of quite intensive politicking on my part.

As you will see from the sub-heading I am taking the opportunity to “Fly a kite”. It is an idea that popped into my head recently, one early morning on waking. I may have said this before, but I take these ideas seriously because they are usually the end point of some serious sub-conscious brain working analysis which has happened whilst my conscious mind has been sleeping. It is a process which seems to involve no biased prejudicial thoughts (not that I would ever admit to being prejudiced anyway! But conscious value-judgements do sometimes err on the side of stereotype and I feel pretty sure on the basis of over 70 years of life experience that these early morning “light-bulb” moments do not contain overt value-judgements in that way.)

The background to my “Kite” is that there has been a whole lot of complaining that the Remain parties failed to get our acts together for the European elections on 23 May. In fact we did not do badly even having said this, but there are indications that we could actually have done better with some pre-planning. There has been quite a lot of tribalistic blaming going on, on Facebook, as to who was really responsible for this lack of act-getting-togetherness.

You may be pleased to know I am not about to get into that at all, but to pose a tentative solution which could avoid a similar problem whenever the next General election turns up. Some people suggest that this may be as soon as sometime within the next six month, but I am not disposed to believe that. It would require quite a few Tory turkeys voting for Christmas and I suspect they will avoid that at all costs. If that happens there may not be sufficient time to get this kite flying before the election process overtakes us, so for the moment let us assume that we have at least 12 months grace.

It also looks as though Change UK has now hit Zombie status with six of the eleven MPs now going independent, so unless they are revived by a mass exodus of Tories if Boris succeeds to Conservative leadership, I think we may safely ignore them. Certainly the public seems already to have done so!

Latest Poll

However, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party are still buoyant and will no doubt each be seeking to maximise their growth in popular support. The latest YouGov poll places Brexit on 26%, Lib Dem and Labour on 20%, with Conservatives languishing on 18% and Green Party on 9%.

 

The trouble is that the First Past the Post system will be unkind to one or other or both of our parties in many seats around the country and splitting the vote may let others (notably Brexit Party, one  shudders to state) slip into winning positions. As a Green Liberal Democrat, I would very much like to encourage Lib Dems and the Green Party to fight a combined ticket, as you may imagine, which would notionally give us 29% at the TOP of the pile. However, there are several strands of tribalism that may prevent that from happening, not least from the joint leaders of the Green Party at their recent conference. It might happen in a few places, but it might not be tolerated in others. But, there may be another way….

My “KITE”

So, here it is. My idea is that we import a notion from the USA, the idea of having a PRIMARY election process involving both parties in the most sensitive seats – i.e. those seats where both parties think they may have a winning chance. We give all registered members of both parties in such a constituency a vote to choose their agreed candidate and then both parties would throw their full support behind the agreed candidate.

Such a system does not require a merging of the parties to work, but it would require a very high level of trust and we are going to have to work to engender that trust over quite an extended period, perhaps at a regional level, sooner rather than later.

It is likely that most of the votes cast would follow party lines, but that may have two benefits. The first is that local parties will know well in advance that they should be getting busy recruiting new members – which will be good for both parties anyway. And even if the vote does go along the party line, the result will then reflect the actually strength on the ground of each party, which is fundamental to fighting a successful election anyway.

What it will avoid, is our two parties wasting energy fighting each other, when we should be spending our time fighting the REAL opposition, whether it be Brexit Party or the Tories or Labour, depending upon the area.

In a real Four-way split nationally it is not beyond the bounds of possibility we could see a Liberal /Green government – or, at the very least a Liberal and Green LED government with support from an emasculated Labour Party  (which would have to choose a new leader, because the results of the Euro election showed that Lib Dems beat Labour in Islington!)

The FIRST item of business would then be to change the electoral system to bring in Proportional Representation. If the General election that produces this result was called before Brexit was settled, changing the electoral system would have to be the second item of business – the first item being the Revocation of Article 50 – WHAT A RELIEF THAT WOULD BE!

Posted in Article 50, Elections, electoral reform, Environment & Sustainable Development, European referendum, Liberal Democrat and Green Primaries, Politics | 2 Comments