Green Party conference is still in full swing at the Birmingham Conservatoire. I was lucky that the two motions I had an interest in - one on banking and the other on how to put forward a positive view of a sustainable economy in the context of public-spending cuts - were both scheduled for the Saturday. So by 6pm everything was done and dusted and I was able to practise what I preach and have Sunday off.
This post has the same title as one of the motions that I was proposing, and its passage was not entirely comfortable. The Green Party is struggling with an influx of socialists who are understandably disillusioned with the Labour Party. This is a small proportion of Labour Party membership but can become a significant minority of our party, and one which rapidly starts to weight us down towards one side of the left-right continuumn that we really should be transcending. Thus it was that I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being attacked by the left of the party as though I was defending public spending cuts.
Like most people who either work in our use the public services that working people fought so hard for in this country (and isn't that most people who live in this country?), I am delighted that the TUC will spend this week making a range of political and emotional arguments in their defence. I just know that this is not the role for the Green Party. We cannot join the old left in their Keynsian calls for restimulating the growth that is killing the planet. We have a more subtle and forward-looking message and it is our duty as a party to put that forward.
The vote was won and, aside from some personal attacks that are another feature of the Labour Party that we increasingly have to put up with these days, I felt generally well supported and - which was more cheering - well understood. The theme of this motion was taken up by Adrian Ramsay, in his Deputy Leader's speech to the conference where he drew attention to the different ways we interpret the phrase 'living within our means'. I am including the text of the motion here:
Living within Our Means
Synopsis. The unprecedented deficit is an indication that we are living beyond our means in a fiscal sense, which supports the Green Party’s long-held belief that we are living beyond our means in an ecological sense. Our recognition of the link between these two crises constrains the kind of response which the party can make to the current debate about publicspending cuts.
LWM1 The Green Party restates its commitment to developing an economic policy that is compatible with ecological sustainability and 'recognises the limits of . . . the
natural systems of the planet’(EC100).
LWM2 In this context it is important that we recognise the current fiscal deficit as a consequence of a policy based on monetary inflation without respect to ecological limits; for our policy to be consistent we cannot rely on growing our way out of debt, as many conventional economists propose.
LWM3 The unprecedented level of public deficit means that a significant restructuring of our economy is inevitable. The Green Party would use this opportunity to achieve the managed descent from overconsumption that our commitment to sustainability requires, while simultaneously addressing the rapid rise in inequality that has occurred in the past 30 years. We could consider this to be a domestic equivalent of our global policy for Contraction and Convergence.
LWM4 Conference instructs the policy co-ordinator, the economics policy working group, and the Party’s media team to work together to find ways to exploit the opportunity offered by the fiscal crunch to publicise the Green Party’s unique
commitment to steady-state economics.
LWM5 The policy co-ordinators are instructed to begin a process that will bring to spring conference proposals that will, in the context of the current public spending position, explore the synergies and conflicts between:
The Green New Deal proposals that were passed as a fast-tracked policy motion in Autumn 2008;
The proposals for implementing our economic vision included in the 2010 election manifesto;
The commitment to building an economy within ecological limits included in the first paragraphs of our economic policy.