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.
OK, I’ll bite. Why aren’t there more posters on this site from Scotland? Four reasons strike me as possible
1. There’s not really much on here to argue about. I like a good argument as much as the next person (probably more), but it seems a bit odd to me to be encouraging disputes where none really exist.
The grandstanding over strategy is a case in point. I know it’s a schtick of our friends over at SLR that Greens aren’t interested in social justice, but it’s not true and it’s not even been true of the past few election campaigns (for some of which the editors of this blog have either been wholly or partly responsible). So, irritating as the posturing is, there’s no fundamental disagreement.
2. The narrow Edinburgh bias: the Scottish dimension of this blog is in reality a small clique in Edinburgh and there has hardly been any attempt to break out of that. [The with us/against us rhetoric (as above) doesn’t help.]
3. There’s a lot more to politics than blogging – and certainly in terms of finding out what people from different backgrounds thing. Talking to them is usually a good start, I’ve found.
4. Discussion in public is one thing, having a full-on barney over fundamentals (were that to be the case) just gives ammo to the press to talk about splits: so there’s absolutely nothing wrong about being careful about language in public.
None of this is to say that there isn’t some good stuff on here too – which is why I keep an eye on it – the Citizen’s Income analysis was particularly good.
thanks for your comment. I’m afraid, though, we are taking the opposite approach. With me and Gary living in England now, we have accepted that we are really a UK wide blog, and will be making a few corresponding changes soon. Of course, the UK very much includes Scotland, and as Ali says, we’d all be delighted to cover more Scottish stuff as well as the English stuff.
Is it not true that Green bloggers have been criticised by senior figures in the party for discussing party business on publicly-accessible blogs? This is the 21st century, those old folks need to get with the programme and recognise no political party should be a private members’ club but a movement to change the public.
I personally think disagreement is useful, because it draws out issues and helps democratic decision making, but that it needs to be conducted in a reasonable fashion. The political people I respect the most are able to disagree with someone on a major issue and yet continue to work with them in a friendly way on other issues.
When we start drawing lines and demonising each other over disagreements then debate becomes sterile and pointless. The Green Party is far too small to burn bridges with fellow members over every disagreement.
Having said that when this (excellent) blog was set up I was partly excited because it was going to be an insight into what’s happening in Scotland – giving me the opportunity to learn lessons from north of the border, so I’m really pleased to see you putting a call out for more Scottish stuff.
i really do want to know what the Scottish Party’s attitude to the AV referendum is going to be, or whether they are just going to do whatever the English decide. I *need* to know!
You say “We carried a lot of pieces from GPEW members because we’ve had a lot of offers from GPEW members” and it’s been very interesting – but I think you might want to stop carrying those pieces for a bit until you’ve redressed the balanced – because it becomes a cycle where people begin to see this as a vehicle for English activists to debate motions and issues that have only tangental relevance to Scottish Greens. Saying ‘no’ is quite important sometimes.
I think this piece is a good start in that process.