Population Matters: correction and apology

In March, we published the open letter referred to below criticising the charity Population Matters.  We have now added an editorial note (here) to the open letter in which we accept that a number of serious allegations made in the letter were wrong, and have apologised to Population Matters for them. We published a response by Alistair Currie of Population Matters here.

Over 200 Greens sign open letter condemning Population Matters at Green Party conference

Green MEPs Magid Magid, Alex Phillips and Catherine Rowett

On Saturday March 21, the Green Party of England and Wales hosted its first online only Conference. The event was held digitally due to its initial cancellation in response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The online Conference saw party members engage in sessions on Green economics and collaboration with other political parties, in addition to a Q&A session with the Green Party leadership team.

However, the event proved to be controversial. This stemmed from the inclusion of a digital stall hosted by the organisation Population Matters. After the event, over 200 Greens signed an open letter setting out their “deep anger and disgust” at the decision to allow Population Matters to hold a stall. The letter alleged that the core argument of Population Matters is “racist and sexist”. It read:

Population Matters’ core argument that we need to reduce human population is intrinsically a racist and sexist one. Historically, it has been shaped by eugenicist hierarchies about what constitutes a valuable life, hierarchies which have led to the murder of the colonised, Jews, Travellers and the disabled. By focussing on family size, the organisation consistently places blame and responsibility for the climate crisis on families in the Global South. In this narrative, women shoulder a disproportionate and unjust level of responsibility for environmental destruction, and of responsibility for addressing it by limiting childbirth.

The letter continued:

By blaming population growth for social and economic problems, Population Matters blames the victims of global injustice for their own situation, and lets the perpetrators off the hook. Population Matters serves to provide a pseudo-intellectual window-dressing for horrific policies of exclusion and racism.

The letter has been signed by a series of high profile figures from within the UK’s Green Parties. Among its signatories are:

  • Three former Green MEPs – Magid Magid, Alex Phillips and Catherine Rowett
  • Green London Assembly Member Caroline Russell
  • Green MSP Ross Greer
  • Young Greens co-chairs Rosie Rawle and Thomas Hazell
  • Green Party of England and Wales spokespeople Larry Sanders, Shahrar Ali and Vix Lowthion
  • Committee members of the Greens of Colour, Jewish Greens and LGBTIQA+ Greens
  • Five members of the Green Party of England and Wales Executive

While the Green Party leadership team did not sign the letter, Jonathan Bartley, Sian Berry and Amelia Womack said they “fully agree with the concerns of members”. In a comment under the letter published on Bright Green, they said:

We fully agree with the concerns of members about the inclusion of Population Matters in our online alternative conference exhibition. As your leadership team, we made our feelings clear on this matter. All our actions as a party need to celebrate and preserve all of humanity and promote global justice and solidarity.

These sentiments were not shared by all party members, however. Chair of the Green Party Executive Liz Reason claimed that the allegation that Population Matters is racist was “false”. She tweeted:

Population Matters also denied the allegations made in the letter. The organisation tweeted:

Greens call for the introduction of a Universal Basic Income in response to coronavirus crisis

Green Party co-leaders Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry
Image credit: YouTube screengrab

Among the flurry of coronavirus related measures announced by the government this week were a serious of steps aimed at job retention. With the closure of cafes, pubs, clubs, entertainment venues and gyms kicking in this week, these were designed to ensure that workers are kept in employment throughout the crisis. They include a commitment from the government to pay 80% of wages for those who are unable to work during the epidemic.

However, Green Party of England and Wales co-leader Sian Berry criticised the government, claiming that these did not go far enough. She said:

This is certainly a step in the right direction and will provide relief for many workers across the country, but it does not go far enough for the self-employed and those in the gig economy.

For real security now and in the future, this scheme needs to include a Universal Basic Income which will provide financial security for everybody and allow people to follow public health advice free from the fear of losing their livelihoods.

The call for the introduction of a Universal Basic Income – a non-means tested payment made to all residents of the country – echoed comments made by her fellow co-leader Jonathan Bartley earlier in the week. He said:

All of us still have bills to pay and mouths to feed.

We must have a Universal Basic Income. This would give people real financial protection and the freedom to follow the public health advice in the knowledge that we are protected from poverty.

And the Scottish Green Party’s co-leader Patrick Harvie also shared this analysis. He said:

Support for people should be universal. The public health emergency we find ourselves in cannot be allowed to widen inequality, deepen poverty and make people destitute. I’m convinced only a Universal Basic Income can prevent anyone falling through the cracks.

Natalie Bennett and Amelia Womack call for Brexit talks extension

Amidst the national coronavirus crisis, the government is also intending to undergo its Brexit negotiations with the European Union. At present, the deadline to conclude negotiations is the 31st of December 2020, with the UK set to leave its transition period the following day.

Many critics have suggested that this is implausible given the energies of the world’s government’s are so heavily centred around the response to coronavirus. Among those to suggest the Brexit negotiations should be extended was Green Party of England and Wales deputy leader Amelia Womack. She said:

At a time of national emergency it is vital that the government puts every ounce of its time and energy into protecting the public.

The urgency with which the government wanted to leave the EU was for a period of relative stability. During a time of global crisis we need to be working as closely as possible with our closest allies rather than being at loggerheads over a trade deal.

If we are delaying elections then we are acknowledging we need to work to protect the public first and foremost rather than stick to political timetables, and Brexit is no exception.

Womack was joined in this call by Green Peer Natalie Bennett. In an article for Green World wrote:

Coronavirus is going to be a huge, pressing and fast-moving threat for at least the next 12 months – the minimum period that will be required, the experts say, to produce a vaccine.

That is the period for which the Brexit transition should be – for now at least – extended. Talks should be put on hold and resumed once there is the time, resources and political space for debate to proceed in a proper and orderly manner.

We’ve already postponed the local government elections in May. If we can’t manage to deliver basic democracy and have acknowledged that “business is usual” is not an option, then we need to do the same with Brexit.

Clare Bailey criticises Northern Ireland Executive’s response to coronavirus

Clare Bailey
Image credit: Creative Commons: Northern Ireland Assembly

It’s not just the UK government that has been making plans to respond to coronavirus. The UK’s devolved administrations have also been devising their responses – including the Northern Ireland Exective.

And Green Party in Northern Ireland leader Clare Bailey this week criticised the Northern Ireland Executive plans – claiming they lacked detail and urgency. Bailey said:

The NI Executive has stumbled through this crisis to date – efforts to protect our citizens from the fall out must be stepped up. The Executive announced a package of measures [on Monday] but there was little detail provided and no urgency.

Businesses are taking the painful decision to close their doors and staff are becoming unemployed overnight. Many of our schools will not reopen after St Patrick’s Day. The response to this pandemic is not joined up and that represents a real risk.

People need leadership at this time. Information is also crucial – that’s why I’m urging the Executive to begin daily briefings to the public. Fear and panic are rife but serve no useful purpose. A clearly communicated plan of action from our Executive is vital at this time.

Jenny Jones expresses concern at emergency powers introduced in the face of coronavirus

Baroness Jenny Jones
Image credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Creative Commons

With the coronavirus crisis showing no sign of abating, parliament is in the process of passing new emergency legislation to tackle it. This week, Green Peer Jenny Jones was among those to express concern at the potential long term impacts of this legislation.

Writing in Green World, Jones alleged that the legislation:

sets aside our civil liberties more than any other act of Parliament has done in my lifetime. It is aimed at keeping us safe, but the transfer of unchallengeable power to the state is huge and we need to bring an end to these draconian laws as quickly as we can.

She continued:

The law also empowers police, immigration officers and public health officials to: demand documentation; detain and isolate members of the public, potentially indefinitely, including children; and forcibly take biological samples for testing. Again, this sounds as if it might be necessary in rare, exceptional circumstances, but will it become the new normal?