Frank Little

Councillor for East Central ward on Coedffranc Town Council Learn more

Pale Greens

by franklittle on 23 April, 2022

I used to have a sneaking regard for the Green Party. Its basic aim is right for our times. Without being hair-shirted about it, I have for a long time tried to live a life making minimal demands on non-renewable resources. However, its policies tend to be extreme and like so many one-issue parties it suffers from disagreements over its wider agenda. The Greens’ last-minute withdrawal from an admittedly far-from-perfect general election pact with the Liberal Democrats in 2019 was a great disappointment. Locally, the Greens have been riven. In the last ten years, Martyn Shrewsbury led a splinter group out of the party to join Labour. More recently, they have lost their most impressive candidate, Megan Poppy Lloyd, to Plaid Cymru. Their replacements for the local elections are clearly well-meaning but beyond vague aspirations seem to have no practical policies for the future of the county borough.

First, a little history. In the 1970s, it dawned on many of the more thinking in the western world that the way we were living was damaging the only planet we had. In Canada, Greenpeace was born and soon became a world-wide movement. In Britain, the Reith Lectures of 1969 by the pioneering ecologist, Sir Frank Fraser Darling, inspired many. The Ecology Party (the forerunner to the Greens) was founded in 1975 and in 1977 the Liberal Party Ecology Group (now Green Liberal Democrats) was established. Even before this, the Liberal party constitution stated: “It believes that each generation is responsible for the fate of the Earth and the balance of nature. It works to ensure that people and institutions accept these responsibilities.” Perhaps some carried the simple life-style to extremes: the prevailing caricature of Liberals in the mainstream media at the time was of bearded men in sandals. So ecological concerns are in our DNA, as the saying goes.

So, what’s wrong with voting Green on May 5th?

Clearly buoyed by a large donation or a series of donations, there has been a flush of new Green candidates up and down England and Wales. (Whether these donations are inspired by a genuine green fervour or merely a cynical attempt to divide the anti-establishment vote, all too easy under our primitive electoral system, we shall no doubt discover in due course. Perhaps it is a mixture of the two.) In Coedffranc Central, they have distributed a glossy leaflet (printed in Southend, one notes) and followed it with a personally addressed mail-shot courtesy of a direct mailing company in Bath. [Update 2022-04-24: I have since been assured that all Bethany Payne’s election costs are met from local donations, apart from a contribution from the Green Party centrally towards the cost of direct mailing because, wheelchair-bound, she cannot deliver herself.]

The only radical policy in the glossy is support for guerilla gardening. Otherwise, it could have come straight from the Labour council’s PR department. There are snippets of information from the Welsh government. There is praise for the Neath leisure centre/retail centre, hardly a green development, but no mention of the pioneering self-powered housing in Neath. This is something that any self-respecting Green should be aware of. Bethany Payne is to be praised for her work for fellow wheelchair-users, but this clearly does not extend to criticism of the Victoria Gardens bus stands which did not conform to statutory access standards when the Labour council constructed them, let alone the standards laid down under the 2010 Equality Act.

There are promises of local action in the more recent election manifesto, but virtually all are the responsibility of Coedffranc Town Council – for which the Greens are standing no candidates! (I have already been elected unopposed to the town council, so shall take their complaints on board.) There used to be a Green member of Coedffranc council – have they not spoken to her? The community garden mentioned in the glossy was nothing to do with the Green candidates for Coedffranc Central; it was an initiative taken by the town council in conjunction with an independent community group.

They claim that their surveys show that as a Welsh Liberal Democrat I will come nowhere against Labour. Well, it is unclear who they have been surveying, because when it comes to real votes in real ballot boxes as Paddy Ashdown used to say I can point to my running my Labour opponent close, to within a couple of votes, in last year’s town council by-election in Coedffranc North.

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