RR in the _Guardian_ with the leadership result -- and its implications
My piece today in the _Guardian_ on the leadership win.
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Dr Rupert Read, Eastern Region Green Party Co-ordinator
You heard it here first...:
The result of the referendum ballot inside the Green Party - to decide whether or not the party should have a recognisable Leadership team - has resulted in success for the ‘Yes’ message, with well over a 2/3rds majority.
The final result is 73% to 27%, with almost exactly half of the membership turning out to vote.
The members have spoken, in overwhelming numbers.
South-East Euro-MP Caroline Lucas, one of the party's two Principal Speakers, said:
"I'm delighted about this result. The party can now move forward together and onto the job in hand: we have an urgent green message to communicate, and many votes to win."
Green London Assembly member Darren Johnson and outgoing ‘Yes’ Campaign Manager commented from
City Council meeting this week was pretty lively. During the debate over congestion charging, I gently heckled Cllr. Antony Little of the Conservatives, who is vehemently opposed to congestion charging, pointing out to him that it was his own Party [at the County level] that was actually pushing congestion charging for Norwich. His response was most intriguing and amusing: “It may be my Party – but I’ve got a brain.”
Was he perhaps meaning: As opposed to his County colleagues (one of whom was sitting immediately on his left as he spoke), who by implication do not?...!
Only a day to go now, thank goodness, before we know the result of the Leadership referendum in the Green Party. Darren Johnson, on behalf of the Green Yes campaign, in advance of the referendum result, said the following:
Advance statement to the Party
“Turnout has been very high by Green Party standards, perhaps well over 40%, which shows the
Thanks for your thoughtful letter. Obviously, there is much that we have in common. But I think we are still going to disagree about this one…
You doubt my claim that having a Leader and Deputy or Co-Leaders would enhance accountability. Perhaps then you would like to address the case of the Scots Green Party? See e.g. my letter in the _Guardian_ on this topic: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/green/comment/0,,2210036,00.html . Or see Mark Ballard’s and Patrick Harvie MSP’s comments, at http://www.greenyes.org/quotes.html . If the Scottish experience has been very clearly that formally-recognised Leadership enhances accountability, why should we doubt that it will in
You say that “conventional politics has shown itself to be unfit for purpose”. A well-wrought phrase. But I haven’t noticed the electorate queueing up to endorse a Party presenting itself deliberately as unconventionally as it can, ‘led’ according to a quasi-anarchist model, just yet… The electorate, our potential voters, want us to get into make power and make changes. They don’t want us to have middle-class-sounding titles nor to seem to shy away from power as if from something dirty… They want us to relocalise our economy and polity, to renationalise the railways, to defend the NHS and to transform it into a National Wellness Service, to bring about an enormous investment in renewables, to stand firm against wars of aggression even while those wars are being launched and fought… they want us above all to lead the struggle against dangerous climate change (on this, see my blog, ‘Rupert’s read’: http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2007/11/green-leadership-last-thoughts.html ). When we say that we will not trust ourselves and our leading figures enough to elect a Leader from among our own, we unavoidably give the impression that we are uncomfortable in taking the risk of assuming that Leadership role.
Isn’t it striking that the Green Party has flourished in those places where an individual has stepped up to the plate and led it, organisationally and in the media and as a figurehead (e.g. Darren Johnson in Lewisham, Adrian Ramsay in Norwich, now both Leaders of large Green Party Council Groups)? Isn’t it striking that the clear majority of the most electorally-serious Green activists (e.g. over 75% of our Party’s Principal Authority Councillors, all three of our target Parliamentary candidates, both our MEPs) are voting Yes?
Shahrar, the choice facing us honestly is: to whistle for longer in the wilderness -- or to give ourselves a shot at bringing the green-left to power … before civilisation goes belly up…
Yours ever, Rupert.
Here is my final post advocating a 'Yes' vote...
Climate crisis is here [see my _Guardian_ piece on this, at http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/rupert_read/2007/11/emergency_talk.html ]. How to lead a way out of it?
If we had 500 years, maybe we could afford to move at the current
painfully-slow pace of political evolution. But we don’t have 500 years – we don’t even have 50. We must effect huge policy changes within the next decade.
So for green politicians just being different just ain’t good enough – we need to make a difference. A very big difference – and fast.
Global over-heat is of course a different sort of crisis – because its climax is in the future. Decisions now may create a better future -- but the full effects of those decisions, good or bad, won’t be known for a long time.
A measure of our success will precisely be that people never knew quite how terrifying -- how devastated -- things could become.
It’s a no-brainer that, in this situation, the Green Party is needed more than ever. We need to give people personal confidence that, as we all play our part in the big changes required to prevent climate catastrophe, and as the government regulates to make that possible, our lives will improve in the process: as we live more local, more secure, healthier, more sociable, less stressful existences. We need to show and embody the true and steady leadership that is missing from other political parties.
-- and without violating any Green principles at all in the process. If I believed that making this presentational change would make the Green Party one scintilla less politically radical, I would quit the Green ‘Yes’ campaign immediately.
In one week’s time, the Green Party leadership referendum will close. In other words, on the 1st December, the Green Party will announce to the world what decision its members have made, on this key question. I urge all Greens out there who haven’t yet voted to seize this one chance that we have, to step up to the plate and offer Leadership, without reservation, at this critical moment in British politics – and in human history.
[If you want an easier read, though, try my ‘Philosophy for Life’ in Local Links, below at left.]
A key reason why people stopped using the term ‘global warming’ is that ‘climate change’ is a ‘safe’ substitute for ‘global warming’, because of patchiness – the chaoticness, in fact… -- of the latter phenomenon. Because, for instance, as manmade climate change proceeds to over-heat the Earth, it will introduce some local cooling effects – most strikingly, if it yields
Why are people so reluctant to acknowledge that ‘climate change’ is the ultimate slow-burning manmade weapon of mass destruction? The bottom-line, literally, is that it is notoriously difficult for people to understand things that their salary depends on them not understanding. There are millions of people – hundreds of millions – whose prosperity in the current set-up depends on our continued decadent use of fossil fuels. It is so tempting to find ways of thinking that one doesn’t have to change anything – that the science is wrong, or that there will be a techno-fix, or that it is too late to do anything about it anyway, or that the best way to deal with it is simply to remain completely calm and cool and stick entirely and rigidly to what science tells us about what is happening…
To those more sympathetic with my cause who say that nevertheless we shouldn’t use overly ‘dramatic’ language, I say:
Should we then rename ‘nuclear holocaust’ as ‘nuclear change’? Or the disaster/catastrophe/cataclysm (the ‘Nakba’ http://www.alnakba.org/ ) that hit the Palestinians in 1948; perhaps that should be renamed the التغيير [that’s ‘Change’ in Arabic, according to Google]. If not, in your opinion, why not? Or, to put the question the other way around: Why should ‘climate change’ have an anodyne name, when it promises to deliver far far greater destruction and death than the Israelis or Palestinians – or even Herr Hitler himself -- ever experienced or even dreampt of?
Let’s not soft-pedal on the greatest threat that humankind has ever faced. Let’s not take refuge in euphemism. Our situation is comparable to that that we faced in the World Wars. …Only (potentially) worse… We are in the long (climate) emergency. As food rationing was needed in World War II, so carbon rationing is part of the answer now. Let’s not fool ourselves by using warm words such as ‘climate change’ or (indeed ‘global warming’, which still to my ears sounds pretty pleasant. I meet lots of people in my doorstep canvassing this time of year who say things like, “Yeah, we could use a little global warming around here!”).
In the emergency that we are in, let’s at least talk in a way that reminds us regularly that it IS an emergency.
To speak of ‘climate change’ is still to be in denial
Rupert Read; _Guardian_ online.
In this connection, an increasing number of voices who are very far from being climate-change-deniers have been arguing that using graphic terms to scare people about man-made climate change is counter-productive. That it merely scares, or (worse) precipitates denial or ‘eco-fatigue’, and does not motivate effective action. One of the most intelligent of these voices is Leo Hickman, who in this newspaper (“Cry wolf, but gently”, Nov. 10) quotes with approval my colleague at the University of East Anglia, the eminent climate scientist Prof. Mike Hulme, warning us off using terms such as “catastrophe” in describing the potential future impacts of manmade climate change for just this reason. Some have gone further, lambasting the graphic description of what will happen if we do not act effectively to stop CO2 emissions from going through the roof as ‘climate porn’.
Now, I agree that it is absolutely not enough to scare people. I agree that one needs to emphasise how the socio-economic changes needed to stop man-made climate change are in themselves life-improving (e.g. that localising life rather than globalising everything will actually make us happier in itself, even leaving aside how crucial it is to reduce carbon emissions from travel and transport). And I agree that one needs to ensure that people don’t think that the mountain is too big to climb: people need to be given tools to see that preventing catastrophic climate change is doable. But, as my chosen wording of the previous sentence already implies, the burden of my argument here is that it is not wise of us to tone down our language, in response to this situation. I do not, that is, agree that we should leave aside talk of ‘catastrophe’. In fact, by sticking to talking of ‘climate change’ rather than of ‘climate chaos’ and ‘potential climate catastrophe’, one is in fact playing the same game as the more subtle and intelligent of the climate-change-deniers. One is talking their language. That ought to be enough to make anyone stop, think, and question what they are doing.
The Guardian’s own Steven Poole has shown this, in his important book ‘Unspeak’. Poole documents how the term ‘climate change’ became the term of choice for the Saudis, for the
A less emotional challenge… But shouldn’t we be willing to get a little ‘emotional’, over the potential destruction of our entire future as a civilization? Frank Luntz wants us all to stay cool-headed over ‘climate change’. A goal that he shares with Mike Hulme. Whereas I say that people ought to be scared, and angry, and itching to do something about it. There is a wolf coming, that over time will eat almost every last one of us unless we stop it…
There I go again, using scare tactics, dramatizing… But how might the total destruction of human civilisation outside a few outposts in
This is not crying wolf. This is simply telling the truth. Runaway climate change could within a century or so collapse civilisation on lifeboat Earth entirely, just as (for example) civilisation and population levels on
My linguistic proposal is pretty straightforward. ‘Climate change’ is an Orwellian , and should be dropped. To use that term is to be complicit with the agendas of Exxon and Bush. It is, I believe, still to be in denial. It is a term used by those who at some level still hope that maybe this problem is going to go away, or that it isn’t too bad, or who at least prefer not to think about just how desperately bad things will be if effective action is not taken to stop it getting out of control. …We should speak honestly, instead. That is: we should speak of ‘climate chaos’, ‘climate crisis’, ‘global over-heating’, and the risk of ‘climate catastrophe’. To do so is to do no more than call attention directly to the utterly drastic consequences of untrammelled consumerism. It is, literally, truth-in-advertising.
Prof. Hulme wants to maintain scientific decorum. But it is not the job of climate scientists to tell us how to describe what the human consequences would be of us ignoring their predictions. That is rather the task of artists, activists, politicians and philosophers. It is they who will give us the wake-up call that we still evidently need, if anyone will.
Talking about averting “climate catastrophe” is not alarmism. It is simply calling things by their true names.
I blogged several weeks ago [ http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2007/10/who-will-lead-on-combatting-dangerous.html ] on Britain's hidden dreadful record on CO2 emissions, including Britain's responsibility, indirectly, for much of the emissions from China, India etc. (through being their carbonemissions-heavy products, etc.). At the time, I had not picked up on the fact that Phil Woolas, Minister of Climate Change had in fact already admitted on 20th September, in a speech, that things might be even slightly worse than I had claimed. Quoting now from Woolas: “we see that as much as 15% of world carbon emissions are a direct result of UK economic activity both at home and abroad. “
Full context:‘Many people regard any action taken by the
Both sides can claim support from previous experience. Those who believe that only a single leader can lift the party's electoral standing cite Green support in opinion polls, which is hovering just above the statistically negligible. At the last election, they garnered 283,000 votes, just 3.4% for each candidate fielded. That it was their best-ever result in a general election indicates how far there is still to travel before the party can hope to be in a position to implement any policies at all. The other side can argue that under its novel dual leadership of two principal speakers, the party has won 92 local council seats, and has high-profile London Assembly members and MEPs. Most powerfully of all, they can point to the greening of the three main parties.
The Greens have a unique advantage. If few know quite how challenging their policies are in detail, their core message is brilliantly clear. Every vote is unarguably a vote for environmental sustainability. But it is an asset only for as long they are genuinely seeking power. That means conforming rather than conducting interesting field trials of new forms of organisation; those look dangerously like a way of avoiding the hard realities of daily politics.
If they want to contest elections within the existing system, if there is going to be a Green party, as opposed to a green pressure group, they have to act like players. And in a context of minimal voter attention and celebrity politics, that means the party's enviably simple message has to be put across by a single leader.
From the Guardian Unlimited, 5 Nov. 07:
'A poll released today by the Yes campaign shows that five out of six voters believe the Green party should replace its "male and female principal speakers" with a leader.
The party's fortunes are on the rise, with a higher tally of seats following this spring's local elections, and many within the party believe it is being held back because it lacks an identifiable face.The YouGov poll of more than 2,000 adults shows that, of the two-thirds of respondents expressing an opinion, 84% believed the party should have a single leader and 16% disagreed. The Yes campaign argues that shows the change would improve its electoral fortunes.
Caroline Lucas, Green MEP, said: "It's about how we communicate more effectively with the public; our current structures are confusing. People relate to other people and I think it would be easier to get our ideas across if we had a figure the public was more familiar with and felt more able to recognise and trust.
"Our message is so urgent now that changing our structures seems a fairly small thing to do. It feels that there are a lot of opportunities out there.
"Parties dress themselves in green clothes and it's more important than ever to show we're there and say people may be speaking green but are not acting green. We need to be much more part of that debate to point out the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of other parties."
Caroline Lucas: 'it would be easier to get our ideas across if we had a figure the public was more familiar with.'
Ballot papers have been sent to about 7,000 Green members and must be returned by the end of the month.