Pragmatic? Progressive? Not the Green Party of England and Wales

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Words: Andrew Taylor (He/Him)

Shahrar Ali, a former deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW), used his 2020 leadership campaign, titled: What is a Woman?, to advocate for explicitly transphobic beliefs. This is not the only instance of the GPEW using their supposedly left-wing platform to disparage progressive values. Many times, they have put their nose up at positive environmentalism on the grounds of egotism, rejecting notions of modernity because they do not match their proposed rate of eco-progression. Is the GPEW’s party management undermining their status as a force of the radical left, or are they too proud to accept any form of progress unless it comes from themselves?

In 2021, Sian Berry – who recently served as co-leader – announced they would not stand again, as the party was too divided on trans rights. In addition to this, in October 2022, the Scottish Greens cut ties with their southern counterparts, due to ongoing concerns over transphobia. All of this represents a worrying state of affairs that provides an insight into the casual marginalisation occurring inside the party. Under a green screen, many GPEW politicians are normalising conservative gendered values disguised as environmentalism. Indeed, the UN Environment Programmes cites gender-based inequality as a major issue of climate change, due to the poor distribution of natural resources, and sustained cis-male dominance preventing the development of ideas and control from marginalised voices. Progressivism must go hand-in-hand with the fight against the climate crisis. By accepting with open arms members who are publicly against trans rights, the GPEW are damaging both their relations with the community they claim to represent, and their stance as an authentic left-wing party.

In addition to this, many party members are failing to stand up for genuine environmental change. For example, many GPEW politicians are against a shift to nuclear power. Nuclear is a cheaper, greener, and more sustainable form of power than fossil fuels, upon which the UK is still heavily reliant, despite committing to phase them out by 2050. Opposition to nuclear power often purports that there are cheaper and more efficient methods of green, renewable power available in the form of wind and solar. However, the efficiency of both wind and solar has been disputed, with nuclear power being much more dependable, and possessing the highest capacity factor of any energy source. It seems ironic that the current and previous Prime Ministers, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss respectively, are both open to more nuclear power than the Green Party (but are nonetheless sceptical of other green energy sources). Does a successful middle-ground of an overall increase in green policies – including nuclear – not sound preferable to a resistance that will inevitably result in a lack of change?

Adding to the GPEW’s superfluous resilience is their stance against High Speed 2 (HS2). This would greatly improve the current state of rail travel from, to and within the North of England and Scotland. While there are legitimate concerns surrounding the destruction of woodlands and ecosystems while the infrastructure is built, the improved journey times will be competitive with carbon-emitting domestic flights, reducing their necessity and enabling us to meet our net zero target. This was also supported by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. What should be a win-win for both sides is again being contested by the GPEW. Their justifications for doing so are a preference for even greener methods of construction which – under a less eco-conscious government such as Conservative or Labour – are unlikely to manifest. Would the GPEW rather a confirmed and steady shift into a greener self-sufficient UK, or be dismissed and ridiculed for their idealism? Vision and radical progressivism are, of course, needed, but a shift that the UK government and the British general public – at least for now – aren’t ready for. The option to take small victories and continue fighting for something greater exists, but the party just doesn’t seem interested in change at its most pragmatic. In a political landscape fuelled by difference, perhaps the hardest skill is knowing when it’s time to compromise.

The GPEW holds many ideals that the left instinctively gravitates towards, but unfortunately this is ruined when many of its politicians disregard human rights, and are unrealistic in their progressivism. There’s no reason why they can’t put every effort into securing net zero, while bringing communities together. It’s a shame that when presented with opportunities for development, they treat these issues with hostility, and stand proud on their pillar of self-esteem. 

1 – The Green Party Is Tearing Itself Apart In A Furious Row Over Trans Rights (politicshome.com) – sian berry

2 – Scottish Greens told reason for England and Wales party split amid trans row is ‘for the birds’ – Scottish Daily Express – scottish greens cut ties

3 – Why does gender matter? | UNEP – UN Environment Programme

4 – Nuclear power | Greenpeace UK 

5 – Nuclear Power is the Most Reliable Energy Source and It’s Not Even Close | Department of Energy and Why Nuclear Power Must Be Part of the Energy Solution – Yale E3606 – Green Tories back Johnson’s call for successor to invest in renewables | Renewable energy | The Guardian

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Marvin Ford
Marvin Ford
9 months ago

Not sure the current HS2 can be labelled as progressive or an opportunity for development. HS2 will have almost no modal shift: the majority of passengers will have shifted from conventional speed railways or be using the railway just because it is built. It was never built with the consideration of moving passengers away from airports and on to the train, and the lack of integration with HS1 makes the proposed Manchester-Paris journey impractical. Furthermore, figures from HS2 show that after 120 years of operations, HS2 would still be increasing carbon emissions rather than reducing them. Rather than fanciful, multi-billion, mega-infrastructure projects supported by Boris Johnson I’d rather see greater investment in local bus and train links, as this is where most journeys are made and where money invested would benefit the poorer members of society.