I have a lot of time for our local LibDems. Before the Green Party became active in the Bridport area they carried the green flag. They are some of the most environmentally minded and active people I know, and have been responsible for a great deal of local consciousness raising. I even suspect that many would have voted Green, or stood as Green councillors, if they had thought that there was a chance of local electoral success. However, having just listened to their leader’s keynote speech at their annual conference, I strongly urge these supporters and members to move over to the Green Party.
In many respects, Tim Farron’s speech was very good. He is an excellent public speaker, and spoke with a great deal of passion, honesty and humour. And it would be difficult to criticise anything he said on the refugee crisis, the crisis in our NHS, or the crisis within our education system. But, and this is a huge but, not only did he only refer to our environmental crisis in passing, his positioning of the LibDems as the party of the free market would mean that any green credentials that may be lurking in their policy cupboard would be wiped out in an instant. Moreover, such a position will make our environmental crisis worse, exponentially so.
I know that such a speech cannot refer to all policy areas or areas of concern. But I would like to think that such a rallying call to the troops would refer to those issues considered important. He made reference to ‘green issues’ only three times, and then only in passing. Early on, in explaining why he was committed to the EU, he included “to fight climate change” in a list of reasons. Later, in describing his long term vision for the country, he included ‘green’ in his list of adjectives. And finally, when he asked what questions would be asked of the current Conservative government in twenty years’ time, he included ‘why had it allowed our green industry to be trashed?’ No reference as to why it had allowed our carbon emissions to continue rising and contribute to the world refugee crisis through people fleeing rising sea levels and severe weather patterns as well as war and poverty.
But worse, far worse than this omission, was his positive support for the ideology of the free market. His comment that the “Conservative’s have lost the right to call itself the party of business, it has lost the right to call itself the party of the free market” received huge applause from the conference floor. He nailed this with the comment that “we are the free market, free trade, pro-business party now.” Oh dear, doesn’t he realise that such support for the free market will undermine any attempt to curb the rise in carbon emissions? That no matter how hard we campaign at the local level, no matter to what level we raise awareness of the issues, and no matter how green we try and make our individual lives in Transition Towns up and down the country, such a policy will make all such efforts a drop in a very rapidly rising ocean?
With the greatest of respect, therefore, could I seriously urge like minded supporters and members of the local LibDems to join the local Greens in campaigning against such open support for the free market, to push environmental issues further up the national agenda, whilst continuing to fight for social equalities and freedoms.