15 September 2013

Convergence of Conferences

I liked the coincidence of the Green and Lib Dem conferences. For me our initial burst of coverage has been followed by even more coverage for the Lib Dems. Normally this would be a bad thing, but on this occasion we will benefit from it.

The decisions made by the Lib Dems to endorse both fracking and nuclear power have really ended their “green” credentials with most of the environmental NGOs. There has been a furious reaction and if any mitigation had been expected from a proposed 5p plastic bag tax (that only comes into force in 2015, many months after the non Lib Dem Scottish and Welsh governments introduced it), then there has been none.

It is unsurprising that this decision has been made now that the “gagging” bill on NGO and charity campaigning is progressing through Parliament. The NUS, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Hope Not Hate and other organisations who in the past, without endorsing the Lib Dems explicitly, would have probably helped boost their support by comparing policies with Labour / Tories, will no longer be able to campaign in the same way to raise that awareness.

The result is that the Lib Dems, already at a low ebb in terms of their support from voters, have largely accepted a Tory position on a wide range of issues. So the question is – what do we do about it?

The excellent blog from Owen Bennett points the way for Green growth beyond the 10/11% we need to gain four additional Euro seats, but I’d argue that we must be combative in our approach to the Euros, highlighting our distinctiveness. If that means saying we are anti-nuclear and anti-fracking, that is not negative campaigning, it is simply connecting with the millions of voters out there who share our views. We must be ready to outline both our vision to voters and the passion we feel about the core issues that we won't sacrifice.

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