Previous Entry | Next Entry

Mic with megaphone
About half a year ago, I joined the Green Party. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't been at all active, for reasons far too dull to document here, but I've tried to keep abreast of the important developments, and I swing a tenner their way each month. In a few months time, when my life will be far more tranquil, I had planned to get much more involved, to go to meetings, take to the streets, help get the message out, and really get my hands dirty.

Actually, the dirty hands bit is just because I've seen a nice bit of clay in someone's back garden, and I'm going to nick it. It's got nothing to do with politics. But forget about that, it's of no consequence to anything.

A lot of things attracted me to the Greens. For a start, their leader, Caroline Lucas, is a remarkable, passionate and convincing woman, a genuine inspiration who refuses to weaken her ideals for populist gain - and nowadays, how many politicians can you truly say that about? Any party leader who actively recommends non-violent demonstrations and peaceful law-breaking gets a thumbs up from me.

And the core policies of the party, while sometimes overly optimistic, still align themselves very much with mine. The idea of kick-starting the economy by employing people to install free insulation in houses, and investing massively in green energy, while breaking up big banks, increasing the minimum wage, and most importantly of all to me, having economic policies which favour people and the planet over the free market - all of these things excite me. On top of that, they genuinely want to close off tax havens and tax loopholes, they'll look after public transport and take care of the elderly, they want to reverse the privatisation of the NHS, give free dental healthcare, and they're firmly against tuition fees and City Academies and Trust Schools. All in all, I've found a hell of a lot to like about the Greens.

But in recent days I've been feeling rather queasy, as some of my favourite science blogs have dug deep into the Green manifesto and uncovered all sorts of things which would make any pro-science liberal despair. As far as I'm aware, the recent round of blogging was inspired by a study done between the people behind The Lay Scientist and Science Punk, who sent all the parties ten questions on various matters of scientific importance - and the responses from the Greens were generally quite concerning. Take the astonishing limitations on research on embryonic stem cells ("We would work for an immediate international ban on all cloning and genetic manipulation of embryos, whether for research, therapeutic or reproductive purposes"), or the insistence that alternative and complimentary medicine (including homeopathy) should be free on the NHS, or the fact that they would ban any genetically engineered organism from entering the UK, which as Gimpy mentions could have very dire consequences for scientific research. There's plenty more besides which will definitely surprise you.

This has really troubled me. I agree with them on so many issues, I think their heart is absolutely in the right place, and I think they are one of the few - perhaps the only - party which can honestly say that it puts the idea of people before profit at its heart. They match my point of view precisely on so many issues. And yet on something so utterly fundamental to my beliefs, such as evidence-based medicine, they fail completely and utterly. My distress over this was so acute that I was genuinely considering cancelling my membership, and not voting Green at the election.

So imagine how heartened I felt today while reading Twitter. Ben Goldacre made a post saying "It's such a huge shame that the Greens have to be morons about science: sigh http://rly.cc/BjJ1r". He then followed up with "to be clear, even tho green party are infantile on quackery, embryo research, animal expts, etc they might still be worth a punt." Sian Berry, the Green candidate for London Mayor, tweeted him back saying "we're against embryo research? When did that happen? Bad science audit of GP policy well overdue I'm afraid but will be done", to which Ben replied "sadly true http://tr.im/ngsz happy to help with bad science audit of green sci policy, ps i actually love you." Which I think is very sweet, though maybe my positive bias for the people involved gives me rose tinted glasses which can't quite focus on the cheesiness of that last line!

Anyway, to my delight, Sian replied to Ben saying "excellent! (re bad science audit) will duly pester for help..." - and then she replied to a tweet I sent her where I expressed how happy this made me, where she said "I've been thinking about it for ages, being a bit of a scientist and that, but always too busy. Not after Friday tho..."

As it stands at the moment, the Green's scientific policies range from progressive and solid to ill considered to actively damaging. For a party that is trying to gain power, this is definitely something which should cause grave concern. The Greens are no longer on the far fringes, and at this stage of the game their policies should have at least been given the once-over by a few scientists of note.

But at the same time, I've got to hand it to them... when their policies are criticised, they put their hands up and say "fair enough". This is amazing, and quite unprecedented in 21st century politics. Sian Berry is a very important member of the party, and if she can turn around and say "that's a fair comment, we need an audit of our policy", then that already makes her, and the party, far more reasonable than any of the other parties currently standing. Can you imagine Jacqui Smith, when she was at the Home Office, ever saying to people who criticised Labour's policy on 42 days detention "Well, you might have a point about all this civil liberties business. Could you pop in next week for a chat about it?" It's so unrealistic that the idea of Jacqui Smith doing such a thing almost makes you want to laugh.

I agree with an awful lot of what the Greens say. At present, I also think that the Greens have a fair number of problems with their manifesto. But just as Ben Goldacre says, I think they might still be worth a punt. I could cancel my membership and have a bit of a strop about how there's no-one that represents precisely what I believe in - as us lot on the left are often so tempted to do. But instead, I'm going to vote Green tomorrow, and I'm going to stay in the party. I'm going to go along to the next big conference, and I'm going to try to do what I can to change things for the better. I'll get involved in debates, and try to get my voice across - in a small party, I think this will be something that is at leat vaguely possible. If it doesn't do any good, I can re-assess all of this at the time. But for now, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

And if Sian really does take Ben up on that offer, then I think that the Greens will not only be better for it, but will gain a great deal of credibility for being thoughtful, transparent, honest and decent. And Christ knows how desperately we need a political party like that.
Chris lives in London, and tries his hardest to be a cool political comedian who makes you smile and laugh etc.

He'd love it if you went to chriscoltrane.com and downloaded his free stand-up shows.

Twitter: @chris_coltrane

Latest Month

March 2014
S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow