Green Party manifesto launch – Economy for People and Planet

Natty pale green ties were out in force as the Green Party launched their manifesto this morning. Steven Agnew opened by saying:

Resources are stretched and we have to prioritise spending on areas that meet a number of policy objectives. There is no sense in squandering money on projects that may be good economically but environmentally damaging. Equally we should not be pushing environmental policies that are not good for people. The Green Party benchmarks all its policies on whether they are good for the economy, good for people and good for the environment. We believe government should be doing the same.

The magic Green Party triangle of economy, people and environment, or to use their campaign slogan: Economy for People and Planet. The party isn’t impressed with the attempts of other political parties to tackle the Green New Deal saying that “our first objective in the next Assembly term must be to see that the current budget is scrapped and rewritten”.

The Green Party also opposes the local cuts budget “driven by political ideology” which “is about slashing the public sector to make way for increased privatisation”.

This is a budget which has been supported by the DUP, Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party. The opposition that comes from the UUP and SDLP has more to do with political opportunism than from having any real alternative vision. The Green Party is the only viable alternative to the decimation of our public sector.

They made some specific proposals:

In this manifesto we propose that we mutualise Northern Ireland Water and put a moratorium on the building of new roads so that an extra £1.5billion would be available for front line services such as health and education and to fully fund the Green New Deal insulation scheme.

With 22 candidates including six running for the Assembly, leader Steven Agnew reiterated his belief that the Green Party would keep its Assembly seat and double its council seats.

Printed on 100% recycled paper, the 40 page Green Party manifesto proposes:

  • An insulation scheme that would see 500,000 homes insulated over four years, proving employment for up to 15,000 people, and reducing average home heating bills by over £100 per year.
  • Publish Public Planning Statement 5 (PPS5) which would restrict out of town retail development.
  • Introduce a feed-in [electricity] tariff to speed the development of small scale renewable energy production at the same time as developing large scale wind, wave and tidal projects.
  • Provide homes with 90 litres of water per person per day free, before introducing charges for any surplus “wastage”.
  • Diverting funding away from centralised facilities towards community healthcare, illness prevention and health promotion.
  • Resist any increase in tuition fees.
  • End selection of pupils by schools based on a transfer test with the aim that most children will attend their local school, with cooperation between schools to ensure the widest range of subject availability.
  • Working towards class sizes of 20 at both secondary and primary level.
  • Provide additional allotment sites to help people produce their own food with the added health and social benefits associated with gardening and grow your own schemes.
  • Protect libraries, but ensure they move with the times and develop as community hubs.
  • Ensure all of Northern Ireland has access to 2mbps broadband.
  • Retain 26 existing district councils but reduce the total number of Assembly members to 80 and the number of government departments to nine.
  • End community designation within the Assembly, replacing cross-community votes with a 66% weighted majority for certain matters.
  • Call for an end to the sale of foie gras in Northern Ireland.

What was missing – and it’s easy to find gaps when looking back at previous party manifestos – were any references to ethical investment by government, “including the NI Assembly, its Commission and Secretariat” or references to previous repeated commitments to “halt the fluoridation of our water”.

Afterwards, I talked to Conor Quinn who chairs the local party and is standing as an Assembly candidate in Lagan Valley (and also running for Lisburn Council in Lisburn North).

What we have in Northern Ireland is politics that is simplistic, very much based around identity. The political system isn’t working in our judgement. I think that the Green approach is completely different in that respect.

If you look at something even as simple as an issue in Lisburn, which is the whole development of out of town shopping centres versus the rejuvenation of our town centres, I think a Green voice in that kind of environment would be completely distinctive, because certainly within Lisburn there’s been a complete cosy consensus based around for example the Westfield development which includes a John Lewis store at Sprucefield. And it’s not that we would be against John Lewis, but we would be looking at that problem and ensuring that there would be no small retail units associated with that project.

He also highlighted the Green Party’s “passion for strong local democracy”.

The whole element of the Reform of Public Administration which would propose Lisburn merging with Castlereagh is something that we would be completely opposed to … we’re not opposed to efficiency in local government or efficiency in the public sector where that can be achieved. But the Green Party we very much believe in strong local democracy where citizens feel that they have a stake in their local council and I don’t find that in Lisburn and I don’t find it in Northern Ireland. I don’t find citizens have a stake in their democracy and their political system. So we will ensure that there remains strong local democracy … but we would look at areas where efficiency in waste, purchasing, IT, human resource management can be achieved across the local councils without sacrificing the key thing of democracy.

By being what Conor Quinn calls “a party of ideas not identity”, the Green’s may end up gifting other more powerful parties with well constructed answers to difficult questions that they can own and promote, but with the Greens never getting the electoral credit and being left to criticise those larger parties for poorly implementing stolen policies and paying only lip service to some of the concepts.

Update – embedded the Green Party’s party election broadcast below.

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  • Barry the Blender

    They should just seek to ban all human interaction with planet earth.