In Praise of Politics
We’ve been accused recently, and perhaps with some cause, of focusing too much on the machinations of the English and Welsh Green Party and not enough on what’s happening up here in Scotland. It’s certainly true that in the run up to GPEW conference next month, and with two of our editors and most of our contributors living South of the border, much of our coverage has had a decidedly English (and Welsh) feel to it. In recognition that our focus has shifted somewhat since we launched, we’ll soon be re-branding and re-launching as a UK-wide site (more of which shortly) but nevertheless it got me thinking. Why have we had so little Scottish material recently?
The geographical distribution of our editorial team is one factor, and for my own part the festival is never my most productive period. But there’s more to it than that I think. We carried a lot of pieces from GPEW members because we’ve had a lot of offers from GPEW members. There seems more of a willingness amid the English and Welsh party to talk about politics. There’s an increasingly vibrant blogging (and tweeting) scene that’s debating the future of the party and the direction it wants to take, and I don’t see the same engagement with politics up here. There’s a willingness to accept that not everyone has the same idea of how to take the party forward and that there are important issues which need to be debated and need to be debated publicly.
It would be nice if we all got along and everyone always agreed with each other. It would be simpler if we all agreed on strategy, if we all had the same priorities and all had the same prescriptions to improve society. We’d only ever have to meet to discuss how to distribute the various tasks required to run a party and run campaigns and elections. You’ll arrange the placarding runs, you’ll coordinate volunteers, I’ll do this hustings, can you do the next one?
Unfortunately, we don’t all agree all the time. That makes things harder to organise but it’s also inevitable and trying to pretend that we do all fundamentally agree and get on only makes it that much harder. So here’s a radical idea. Let’s stop pretending. Let’s accept that we have different visions of our party’s future and debate them publicly. Some people will think we should focus on our traditional vote of environmental protection and climate change, some will think we need to focus more on core Green issues of social justice, on cuts and the economy, some will be more liberal and some more left but perhaps that pluralism is a good thing. Perhaps, if we stop trying to hide our disagreements and talk openly about where we’re all coming from and where we want the party to go we’ll actually come to a better position.
That very act of debating can allow us to hone our policy, to understand where other people with different backgrounds, who we will inevitably meet when out campaigning, are coming from and make it easier to relate to them and to best explain our positions. Most people we meet aren’t going to be environmentalists, many of them will come from a very different background to ourselves, but that shouldn’t dissuade us from trying to persuade them of our policies. Knowing why another Green with different politics to you still supports the same programme you do can be invaluable to making that connection and knowing how best to make your case.
Accepting that we don’t all agree and that that is no bad thing can help protect a plurality within the party that is beneficial to us all. It stops us becoming too single minded, forgetting our core vote or the need to expand, it shows those outside the party there is a place for them even if they don’t agree with the official line on some issue of the day.
So, members of the Scottish Green Party (and interested outsiders) this is our site, but, as with GPEW, we want it to be a platform to debate the future of our party and our movement. Let’s hear where you want us to go. We’re a political party, let’s all talk a little more about politics.