Bristol Green Councillor Rob Telford challenges Labour’s 2015 election manifesto with arguments for Greens on the doorstep


The Green Party’s top three target seats are Brighton Pavilion, Bristol West and Norwich South.

The main opponent in each of these contests will be the Labour Party, so Greens need to show how our policies are visionary, well thought-out and credible.

Hopefully, these 39 points will be of some use to Green Party canvassers on the doorstep.

(And if you want to know how we pay for it all, it’s Chapter 16, starting from page 78:)

  1. “…it is by securing our national finances that we are able to secure the family finances of the working people of Britain.”

What about the non-family (i.e. single people’s) finances of all of the people who have been thrown OUT of work by the Liberal Democrat-Conservative government in the last five years? Do they get a mention later?

The Green Party will reform the benefits system, end workfare and sanctions, double child benefit and pay a pension that people can live on. In the longer term, we will unite tax and benefits in a Basic Income system covering everyone.

  1. “The young people with great ambitions but great anxieties about the future.”

Are they far less anxious now they will have £18,000 debt rather than £27,000? A 4% business tax would make higher education free for all. Why won’t you do it?

The Green Party will end tuition fees and cancel student debt.

  1. “It means strong public services…”

But aren’t you going to continue to cut money from local authorities? How then can we continue to deliver strong public services?

The Green Party will increase public spending to almost half of national income. The Green Party will fund local government adequately and set democratically elected local authorities free to decide how to run education, public transport and other local services and to raise local taxes.

  1. “Too much power is unaccountable, concentrated in the market and the state, at the expense of individuals and their communities.”

What have you done policy-wise to change this fact? You are still in favour of first past the past. You do not believe that Labour should break from their unholy alliance with big business interests, built up between 1994 and 2010 by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. You don’t have any concrete or novel proposals for devolution of power to local authorities or allowing local authorities to raise revenue.

The Green Party will bring in proportional representation for parliamentary elections. Only the 200,000 votes in marginal seats really counted in the last election – that’s less than 0.5% of those  eligible to vote. We would make everyone’s vote count.

The Green Party will make tax fair and cut down vigorously on tax avoidance and evasion. To quote the manifesto: “In consumer societies like ours, the common good has been forgotten. So much government has been outsourced, put out to tender. The reins have been handed over to the unfettered market and big corporations.”

  1. “We know we achieve more when we work together to challenge inequalities of power and build a common good.”

I’m glad to see the Labour Party have read the Green Party’s strapline.

  1. “We will ask those with incomes over £150,000 a year to contribute a little more through a 50p rate of tax.”

Just “a little more”? Really? 60p rate of tax. Thatcher had higher tax rates  on the super-rich for NINE YEARS of her administration than you’re proposing in this manifesto.

The Green Party would introduce a wealth tax of 2% a year on the top 1% to raise about £25 billion a year by the end of the Parliament. Raising the additional top rate of tax to 60% would help bring down the maximum salary ratio in any workplace from the best paid to the lowest paid to no more than 10:1 and also act as a disincentive to paying excessive salaries.

  1. “We will improve the security and reward of working life by raising the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019.”

Vague, and SO much more is possible. £10 an hour before 2020 is a realistic commitment. Why so little ambition?

The Green Party will increase the minimum wage so that it is a living wage. A minimum wage target of £10 an hour by 2020.

  1. “Promoting the Living Wage.”

What, with an advertising campaign?! You could be in government. You could actually MAKE IT HAPPEN!

  1. “We will help with household bills freezing energy prices until 2017, while reforming the broken energy market.”

Great. And then what? Just let them carry on going up? The only way to reform the energy market that will have a sustainable, long-lasting impact is to bring it back down to community level.

The Green Party will split up the large vertically integrated companies so that they can’t both produce energy and supply it to consumers.

  1. “With a Labour Government, migrants from the EU will not be able to claim benefits until they have lived here for at least two years.”

So if their bosses wrongfully dismiss them, they’re just supposed to starve, are they? Or should they just “go back where they came from” in that eventuality?

The Green Party would review the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, particularly with regard of access to legal advice, childcare and levels of subsistence allowance, and reintroduce Legal Aid for reasonable levels of immigration and asylum work.

  1. “The old command and control politics – doing things to and for people, but never with them – will not work.”

This is completely out-of-step with my experience of the Labour Party over the last five years. I can scarcely believe you included this.

There’s nothing in the Green Party manifesto on this. We tend to just take it for granted as intrinsic to everything we do.

  1. “So we will devolve more power and control, not only to Scotland and Wales, but to our great English cities and county regions too.”

How will you do this?

The Green Party will fund local government properly and extend its functions, reviving local democracy. We will provide a £10 billion a year uplift in local authority budgets to allow local authorities to restore essential local services, creating more than 200,000 local jobs.

  1. “Our first task in government is to change our economy so that it works for all of Britain’s businesses and working people.”

Seriously? ALL of Britain’s businesses? I can think of a few that I don’t want it to help…

The Green Party will amend company law to ensure that medium and large companies take account of and report on the environmental and social impact of their activities, and have employee and consumer representatives on their boards.

  1. “Over five million people are in low-paid jobs, earning less than the Living Wage.”

Interesting that you mention this, when you aren’t going to pay them it…

  1. “Outside of the protected areas of health, education and international development there will be cuts in spending.”

So that’s work and pensions, local government, transport and environment/energy/climate change then? Great!

The Green Party will increase public spending to almost half of national income.

  1. We will legislate to require all major parties to have their manifesto Commitments independently audited by the Office for Budget Responsibility at each general election.”

You’ve mentioned this twice now. I let it go the first time. Is this just a dig at the Lib Dems, or a way of saying “we hate Coalitions”? Or just a “Tories are liars” thing?

  1. “With Labour, Britain will continue to have the most competitive rate of Corporation Tax in the G7.”

Well, that’s something to be proud of. HUGE companies will continue to pay the least amount of tax of the richest nations? Golly gosh, Red Ed…

The Green Party will increase corporation tax from 20% to 30%, yielding around £12 billion a year in a full year. Small firms would remain on 20%.

  1. “We will continue to support the construction of High Speed Two…”

Boooo! No investment in local rail? Far far more important to most people…

The Green Party would not support HS2 (the proposed high-speed network). The money to be spent on this hugely expensive project, which at best will reduce journey times for a few passengers, would be much better spent on improving the conventional rail connections between various major cities, improving the resilience of the existing network to climate change and reopening lines and stations that have been closed.

  1. “Following the Davies Review, we will make a swift decision on expanding airport capacity in London and the South East, balancing the need for growth and the environmental impact.”

Spectacularly non-commital. We cannot afford any more airport expansion. I guess it doesn’t really pay to have a former Environment Secretary as Prime Minister.

The Green Party would stop airport expansion, in particular no new runways at either Heathrow or Gatwick, and ban night flying.

  1. “We will create an Energy Security Board to plan and deliver the energy mix we need, including renewables, nuclear, green gas, carbon capture and storage, and clean coal.”

Looking forward to the next “greenest government ever”?

The Green Party will phase out fossil-fuel-based generation, including the closure of all coal-fired power stations by 2023 at the very latest, and will phase out nuclear power within ten years.

  1. “For onshore unconventional oil and gas, we will establish a robust environmental and regulatory regime before extraction can take place.”

BEFORE?! So you’re still planning to frack then!

The Green Party will ban all UK fracking operations – following a growing number of nations worldwide – and withdraw all relevant licences as soon as possible. The Green Party will also ban other new fossil fuel developments such as other unconventional fossil fuels and open cast coal.

  1. “We will reform corporate governance to protect our leading firms from the pressure to put tomorrow’s share price before long-term growth potential.”

Hmm…why should we worry about share price or growth potential? Small is beautiful.

The Green Party will give workers a greater say in the running of their companies, including employee-elected directors in medium and larger companies.

  1. “And we will consider how to support employee buy-outs when businesses are being sold.”

Meaninglessly vague.

The Green Party will grant employees the legal right in certain circumstances to buy out their companies (funded by the Green Investment Bank) and turn them into workers’ cooperatives. 

  1. “We will introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, paid for by a bank bonus tax. It will provide a paid starter job for every young person unemployed for over a year, a job which they will have to take or lose benefits.”

What if they really hate the job that you’re shoving them into?

The Green Party would provide more training and work experience for young unemployed people through expanding apprenticeships; specifically, provide an apprenticeship to all qualified young people aged 16-25 who do not have one and want one.

  1. “We will legislate so that a public sector operator is allowed to take on lines and challenge the private train operating companies on a level playing field.”

No commitment to make the railways public again. This would save huge amounts of money.

The Green Party is committed to bringing rail services into public ownership and control. Recent experience in running the East Coast Main Line within the public sector has show that both quality and receipts to the Treasury go up when a rail service is run in this way, whereas experience on the West Coast Main Line in the private sector shows that the franchise system is costly, wasteful and not fit for purpose.

  1. “Where private companies are involved in providing clinical services, we will impose a cap on any profits they can make from the NHS, to ensure that the needs of patients are always put first.”

Why not just say “they can make no profits on healthcare”? Labour will not stop the privatisation of the NHS.

The Green Party will end privatisation in the National Health Service, repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and introduce an NHS Reinstatement Bill.

  1. “We support the principles behind the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Treaty (TTIP).”

There you have it.

The Green Party opposes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnershio (TTIP). TTIP is globalisation in its worst form, designed to submit democratically elected governments to the will of private corporations.

  1. “Private schools currently benefit from generous state subsidies, including business rates relief worth hundreds of millions of pounds. We believe they should do more to contribute to raising standards in state education to justify receiving this subsidy. As a condition for continued business rate relief, private schools will be required to form a meaningful partnership with a school, or cluster of schools, in the state sector.”

No word about ending the huge educational inequalities there are. Just a sort of bribe to keep private schools sweet. How depressing…and possibly the worst section of the manifesto.

The Green Party supports the removal of charitable status from private schools, with a view to absorbing them into the state system, but nevertheless ensuring that no schools are run for profit.

  1. “…a ceiling on excessive rent rises.”

We need rent controls.

The Green Party would reform the private rented sector by introducing a “living rent” tenancy (including fiver-year fixed tenancy agreements), smart rent control that caps annual rent increases linked to the Consumer Price Index, security of tenancy and local not-for-profit letting agencies, and abolishing letting agents’ fees and insurance-based deposit schemes. 

  1. “Britain has seen historically high levels of immigration in recent years, including low-skilled migration, which has given rise to public anxiety about its effects on wages, on our public services, and on our shared way of life.”

You have done nothing to explain the reasons for this to the country or develop a compassionate approach to those who are fleeing war, persecution and danger.

The Green Party manifesto on migration: “These pressures lead to growing numbers of people seeking to come to the UK from the EU and elsewhere. But it is wrong to scapegoat immigrants for problems with housing, education, health or local authority services. These problems are a result of successive governments’ policy failure, which the rest of this manifesto is designed to put right.” 

  1. “Low-skilled migration has been too high and needs to come down. We need much stronger action to stop illegal immigration.”

Why does it need to come down or be stopped? A simple question.

The Green Party rejects the imposition of an arbitrary numerical cap on net migration. This is impossible to achieve (especially given that there is no control on the numbers emigrating) and leads to many individual injustices.

  1. “We know drug addiction continues to be a major cause of crime.”

And yet we seemingly don’t realise that criminalising these people will not deal with the root cause of their addiction.

The Green Party would treat drug addiction as a health issue, rather than a crime, making drugs policy the responsibility of the Department of Health in order to ensure that resources are targeted at supporting, not punishing, drug users.

  1. “Land and nature are part of our common home and inheritance, and they contribute to our sense of identity.”

“Part of”? They ARE our common home.

From the Green Party’s manifesto, chapter 3, “The Earth”: “The Earth is our home.”

  1. The Democracy Section.

This makes me cry. No proportional representation. No recall of elected officials. Nothing. Just a mealy-mouthed commitment to Lords reform and the obvious votes at 16.

The Green Party will bring in a fair voting system involving proportional representation.

  1. “We will work to secure defence jobs across the UK, protect the supply chain and support industry to grow Britain’s defence exports.”

Can’t you work to secure green jobs across the UK, by providing transitional training from them to other more lofty aims?

The Green Party will diminish dependence on arms sales through a halt to government subsidies and introducing a struct licensing regime to prevent sales of weapons and military equipment to undemocratic regimes and those that violate human rights (including, at the present time, Israel and Saudi Arabia).

  1. “Labour remains committed to a minimum, credible, independent nuclear capability, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent.”

No more Trident!

The Green Party will save a massive £100 billion over the next 30 years by cancelling Trident replacement and decommissioning existing nuclear forces and facilities.

  1. The Climate Change Section.

Nothing on localised solutions. It’s all about international agreement is it? What about energy use, consumption, sustainable transport, food, etc. etc. etc.?

Green Party manifesto: it’s chapters 3 and 4, mostly. But, you know, the whole thing is worth a look…

  1. The International Development Section.

A Robin Hood Tax would mean we could give 1% GDP in aid…

The Green Party will increase the overseas aid budget from 0.7% of GDP to 1.0% of GDP over the Parliament, costing around £6 billion a year in 2019. Aid will not be tied, and will be distributed in ways that are focused on poverty eradication, supporting grassroots initiatives, women’s rights and environmental sustainability while respecting local priorities.

  1. “We don’t promise the earth.”

We WANT the Earth!