The British electoral system is notoriously unkind to smaller parties, especially those with diffuse support. When such a party does acquire a foothold—an MP, or the control of a local council—an intriguing opportunity is provided. We get to see a new political program in action. If the program fares well, nationwide support for the party could flourish, concentrated support could develop, and before long a new major political force could be on the scene.
In 2010, The Green Party obtained its first MP, Caroline Lucas; the following year, it took control of Brighton and Hove City Council. The foothold was won. The Green Party’s flower had bloomed, and the citizens of Brighton and Hove soon came to a realisation: the flower stinks.
As someone who used to live in Brighton, and whose father owns a business there, I have personal experience with the consequences of the city going Green. The council has launched a covert war on business, shoppers, property owners, and on everyone who owns and operates a car. There is no good time for The Green Party to gain control of a city, but 2011, with the economy stagnant and unemployment peaking, was a particularly bad time. Small business owners were already suffering; they did not need a group of neo-hippies, with what amounts to an anti-economic agenda, throwing their spanner in the works.
Almost everyone has now heard the most embarrassing, most ironic and perhaps most typical Green statistic: Brighton Council ranks 302nd out of 326 for recycling. Brighton is currently recycling only 27% of its waste; that’s 43% below the Green Party’s manifesto pledge, with some measurements putting the figure even lower. The party’s response to this failure has involved nothing but finger pointing: Eric Pickles, The Labour Party, and striking bin men are all to blame. The failure clearly has nothing to do with the party’s inability to inform residents about recycling protocol, nor its inability to prevent residents from using the wrong bins. That a strike over public sector wage cuts should occur under a supposedly socialist party is also rather mindboggling.
Another headline grabbing consequence of Green control has been Brighton’s abominable parking charges. I have been repeatedly informed by members of the public that Brighton’s status as 4th most expensive city for parking in the UK has dissuaded them from visiting and shopping there in future. £3.50 an hour is now the price in central Brighton, a price which saw the council’s revenue from such charges rise to £16 million in 2012. Party members insist that the money is being fed back into the system, funding bus services and so forth. One cannot help but be skeptical however. At the same time the council has introduced and extended a scheme of 20mph speed limits. The usual excuses were trotted out—making the roads safer and so forth—but the underlying agenda is clear: make life as hard as possible for motorists.
The ascendence of a left wing party always brings with it an authoritarian, jobsworth attitude to bureaucracy and regulation. No-one knows this better than my father, whose antiques & flea market in the North Laine area of Brighton has suffered under Green control. For nine years, his business owned and used a series of A-boards, the same type of promotional board used by shops all over the country. The boards, as far as can be known, never posed a problem for any passersby, with many finding them useful. In 2011 that was all to change. The new Green Council, enforcing a vague law that nobody else had ever bothered to remember, prohibited the A boards on the grounds that they obstructed a public highway. Following the removal of my father’s boards, the council decided to plonk a massive and very ugly refuse bin at the same place where one of the boards had been. The three foot high wooden board constituted an obstruction to the public highway; apparently though, the five foot high, six foot long, five foot deep metal refuse bin did not. I imagine the party would counter that the presence of their bin was justified by the public good; the local public must be deluded then, since they recently organised a petition to have the smelly, overflowing eyesore removed.
Seven Dials, a well known road junction near Brighton city centre, has suffered a confusing mutilation under Green stewardship. The once circular roundabout is now ovular, an arrangement which no local drivers can comprehend. Many lorries and buses cannot get around the new roundabout without driving over it, destroying the edges, and gradually returning it to its original shape. The reconstruction project created friction not just between the local people and their government, but within the ranks of the party itself; when news emerged that an aged elm tree would have to be cut down, Caroline Lucas joined those protesting against the changes. The Green Party displayed not only incompetence, but inconsistency to boot.
Brighton is only a case study, and the Brighton Council is only a local governmental body; could it be argued then that the Brighton Greens are not representative of the party as a whole, that the abject failure of the Brighton Green experiment does not indict the national party’s program? I would say not—not if Natalie Bennett’s dismal performance in recent interviews is anything to go by; not if the Greens’ hasty backtracking on several key policies is anything to go by. It seems to me that the Green Party’s problems are endemic, that they run through the entire party from top to bottom, and that they spring from an idiotic, socialistic, anti-economic ideology which offers very little to the British people.
Working people all across the UK have turned away from the three main parties, disillusioned and looking for a decent alternative. The Green Party does not provide such an alternative—but UKIP does. Unlike the Greens, UKIP offers a program that supports the small business owner, that upholds British values, that understands the needs of ordinary people, and that does not wish to plunge us into the dark ages of an environmentalist dystopia. It is our job to make sure the public understands that.