All cats have four legs. My dog has four legs. Therefore my dog is a cat.
That is the spurious logic used by people who propose to vote for inexperienced populists (whether left or right) instead of the established parties at the forthcoming UK General Election. Surely it couldn’t get any worse? Last week came the ultimate warning that yes, actually it could get a lot worse.
You cannot fail to have some sympathy for Natalie Bennett, who made headlines for all the wrong reasons after a series of frankly bizarre media interviews culminating in her effective substitution at her party’s own launch.
However, the criticism focused on her “performance” and, thus, missed the point. Everyone has an off-day, as she fairly pointed out herself. The issue was not her “performance”; the issue was quite simply that she was ignorant on a vast range of issues.
It was largely missed, but she started the day by suggesting that the UK should make concessions to Vladimir Putin. Goodness knows the “established parties” have made some appalling foreign policy errors in recent years, but that goes beyond even any of those. Putin is a man who takes chunks of neighbouring countries’ territory, bans homosexuality outright, has national computing systems destroyed within the EU, has planes shot from the sky, and has opponents murdered not just outside his own office (as he did this weekend) but even on the streets of London – the notion that he can in any remote way be reasoned with is straightforward nonsense. The worst thing was that she suggested this in the name of “human rights”. To confuse seeking to do things in a peaceful and civilised manner on one hand, and rolling over to tyrants as they destroy people on the other, is a dangerous delusion which would only enable the outright destruction of human rights, not the promotion of them.
Then, she moved on to housing. Apparently, it turned out, she believed houses could be built for £60,000, with the added clear implication that all that was needed to build up communities was to build houses. In fact, houses take considerably more than £60,000 to build anywhere in the UK (currently the Northern Ireland Housing Executive is losing money having to sell some at more than that in the inner city), and in any case come with additional land fees, HR costs and add-ons for the likes of communal gardens and shopping zones. This is basic knowledge, and anyone seeking serious influence should at the very least know how to find it out.
Beyond basic lack of knowledge there are two further linked problems here – even when the Greens have no idea how to implement their policies; and this is partly because of a growing and nasty tribalism in British politics.
The challenge in politics is not just to have ideas, but to have at least some idea how to carry them out. This means that even when the Greens have good ideas, they are now back-pedalling by suggesting they cannot be implemented soon. Yet ideas such as a Basic Income could be implemented immediately, if only the Greens were willing to take advice and step outside the confines of the populist “anti-austerity left” to build coalitions to get things done.
We actually live in a civilised multicultural country, with a growing economy, comparatively low unemployment, falling crime, a vibrant arts scene, a globally respected broadcasting system, the world’s most visited capital city, a highly innovative service sector, top-class universities, a world-renowned health service and a reputation for world-leading research in key areas such as genetics. The implicit idea that all our leaders are fools who know nothing is demonstrably not so – and people know it!
It is bizarre how many people seem to think politics is about blaming everyone else for not implementing the policies you want, rather than seeking influence to implement them – a view particularly prevalent among twentysomethings. The sooner the Greens realise my dog is not a cat, the better.