13 October 2009

When do we want it? In due course!

Enough time has passed now since the events of Saturday that I feel I can take a moment to write down a few thoughts and observations on the Green Party, and the significance of the Special Convention on the Program For Government and the National Asset Management Agency; I tweeted fairly extensively from the Conference so I don't feel the need to summarise the day's events beyond saying I came, I saw, I lost. If you want some good analysis of the Program For Government check out Irish Election and Irish Left Review, for instant comment and reaction look back over #pfg on twitter.

The Green Party is not a left-wing party
While it is socially progressive it is also a strong believer in market forces with government oversight in key environmental areas, but does not support major redistribution of wealth. It is predominantly a party of the middle class, and as such it fits comfortably into the British Liberal tradition.

While the PFG proposes abolishing the upper limit on PRSI, the introduction of water charges and an elimination of the current system of tax loopholes, there is no attempt to increase the current rate of Corporate Tax, and NAMA was supported by 68% of the members. The notion of privatization of banks was widely ridiculed with the prevalent belief of those members who spoke being that the public sector was too inefficient and/or corrupt to manage these institutions effectively.

Much fear was evident on the prospect of a Fine Gael/Labour coalition without Green participation, with one speaker suggesting that "If you trust Fine Gael and Labour then you are at the wrong party conference" to tumultuous applause. I cannot see major differences between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael policies, for me the only thing that distinguishes them on paper is the level of corporate donations that Fianna Fail has accepted from the construction and financial industries. Historically more corruption scandals have plagued Fianna Fail, but no doubt that is simply because they have been in power more often and for longer.

Why the Green membership should be so anti-Fine Gael confuses me, and their outright rejection of Labour baffles me completely. They may reject their labeling as the environmental wing of Fianna Fail, but after this weekend's conference those rejections ring very hollow indeed.

The Green Party is not a radical party, it is a pragmatic party
There is nothing dramatic or radical in the PfG, the specifics are fairly tame and the more courageous items are all conditional and aspirational, with the establishment of non-binding commissions to report back on the feasibility of change, rather than any actual change itself.

While few who spoke, including the Parliamentary Party, considered NAMA to be the best deal for the country, or Fianna Fail the ideal partners, they overwhelmingly followed the line of "the best we could get" for both. The fear of being out of government outweighed any fears of the effects of continuing to be in government on either public opinion of the party, or on its own moral compass.

While there was mention by Dan Boyle and John Gormley of rendition flights and the Corrib pipeline, it was of increased inspection and oversight, not of opposition. The membership of the party has no interest in controversial campaigns, that element left with Patricia McKenna and the other high profile resignations. In return these local grassroots campaigns have no interest in the Green Party, and that showed in the catastrophic results in the local elections.

The party prefers to be in power and score minor victories, than be out of power and score none. There was little mood for discussion on the cost to the soul of the party for those small victories.

Eamon Ryan is the future of the Green Party

John Gormley has lost the public trust. Trevor Sargent threw it all away. Dan Boyle shows signs of a bad temper and a short fuse. Paul Gogharty is seen as too unpredictable. Ciaran Cuffe, despite being an avid tweeter, doesn't have a high enough profile. Mary White is just too nice.

Ryan, however, is a great speaker and looks good in a suit. He is knowledgeable and well read, an early adopter of new technologies and most importantly for the future of the Party he is pro-business and a key proponent of the Green Economy. The business community does not fear him.

The new generation of Young Greens are not sandal-wearing dope-smoking anti-capitalists working on an organic farm, they are urban suit-wearing future green-collar dot-commers, the very embodiment of Celtic tiger cubs. Traditional left/right debate is irrelevant to them, their Greens represent a high-tech future with a morality and theory of social justice based on environmental rather than economic concerns.

While Ryan himself may not survive the next election, it is clear that he is the role model for this new generation of Greens.

I am in the wrong Party
This is the logical outcome of the first three observations, and will be rectified shortly.

It has been suggested that Labour or the Socialist Party would be a better home, but for the time being I think I have had enough of party politics. I have learned some interesting things by being closely involved with the political system, enough to know that major reform is needed, but also that that reform cannot come from within.

Turkeys, as they say, do not vote for Christmas.



At 8:41 pm, Blogger Niall Murphy said...

Holy crap!

At 2:57 pm, Blogger Damian said...


Sorry to hear that. Good luck with your future political engagements. And thanks for the help you gave me, and the party, over the last year.



At 5:04 pm, Blogger Richard said...


Nice post. However:

"morality and theory of social justice based on environmental rather than economic concerns."

wouldn't agree, they've no intention of giving up their car and Ryanair holidays for the sake of the environment

my thoughts on turkeys



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