The Green Party Manifesto

Yesterday, the Green Party manifesto was launched. Last year I remarked (in passing and via a Times article) that the Green Party are not that hot on science/research in their manifesto for the European elections. This year in their general election video, the story is not that different, with some of the same pledges coming out to play. I have already blogged on the main parties manifesto commitments to science and education, but coming later than the other parties, and being sufficiently, well, interesting, I’ll dedicate a whole post to their pledges.

Firstly, I should mention that the word “science” doesn’t appear at all in the manifesto. However, they do have some pretty far reaching science pledges, such as this one. (emphasis throughout is all theirs.)

Immediately ban causing harm to animals (including but not only primates) in research, testing and education, and invest in the development of alternatives to animal experiments.

I’m not entirely sure I have the words to describe what I think of this pledge. Use of animals in research is clearly necessary for progress in medical research (as are humans and human tissue), despite being a fairly terrible reality. I think the BBC sums up the arguments in both directions quite well, particularly the quote from William DH Carey in a letter to the BMJ. This pledge would halt some aspects of medical research; killing people and disadvantaging us as a nation. To me this alone means I could not vote for a Green candidate. Strong regulation is one thing, but an outright ban is preposterous.

Next an onslaught again genetic modification (GM).

work for a complete ban on genetically modified food in Europe.

Here we have a technology that could help end some of the more dubious farming methods that their manifesto also discusses at length, and yet the Green Party are against it. The mind boggles.

Finally, they have this beauty on CAM.

Make available on the NHS complementary medicines that are cost-effective and have been shown to work.

Another “words fail me” moment. Cost-effective and proven to work, yes. We call that evidence-based medicine, though, not complementary. I think Tim Minchin says this best in Storm:

You know what they call “alternative medicine”
That’s been proved to work?

In the interest of balance, I tried to find some science policies that I thought were positive, but alas there were none. Education is at least slightly better.

Move towards ending the need for private education by creating a programme of voluntary assimilation of private schools into the state sector. Schools that remain in the private sector would have charitable status removed and would pay all relevant taxes, such as VAT.

Finally, something I agree on. I feel strongly that education should be provided on a merit-based system, so that the brightest, not the wealthiest, get the best education. It is both best for the best individuals to be well-educated and for society who will eventually reap their benefit from the output of our brightest. Making it hard for private schools to operate is a step in the right direction.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great things in the Green Party manifesto to be excited about such as pledges on:

  • ban sale of eggs from battery hens
  • maintain and extend blood sports ban
  • increase spend on waste management and recycling

and other both predictable and laudable pledges that you would expect from the Green Party. Sadly just not in the areas that are strongest to me.

Overall: Pitiful on science, a party I could not vote for.
Full Manifesto

7 thoughts on “The Green Party Manifesto

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention James Streetley's blog - The Green Party Manifesto --

  2. Exactly the first thought I had about the complementary medicine thing. It’s like they’re *trying* to appear rational, knowing that they couldn’t really say what they want to whilst actually being rational.

  3. The thing about the Greens is that they seem to be entirely divorced from reality. Not just in their science policies (and I agree they leave a lot to be desired), but generally too. Ironically a lot of the “green” policies that they suggest are rather moronic – they want to cut emissions by 90% by 2030, but also want to phase out nuclear power. Well with the current state of technology, it’s sort of one or the other. Pure renewables aren’t ready to supply that amount of energy yet – otherwise we’d be using them!

    In addition to that, they also oppose one of the best renewable energy schemes that I know of. This is meant to be their “central” issue, and they really just don’t have a clue!

    BTW, why is a pledge to “increase spend on waste management and recycling” something to get excited about? We don’t need government for that at all, it’s something that people solve all by themselves because of market forces, and they solve it much more effectively (and cheaply) than government could hope to do.

  4. I considered talking about the opposition to nuclear power and how generally “picky” they seem to be about their renewable energy sources, but it is not an area I have much knowledge of so thought it best left untouched.

    “Divorced from reality” is a good phrase! I think it is just a wish-list of some things that would be nice if they could happen, but no regards to any consequences other than their (purported) green ones.

    I disagree with your point re:waste management and recycling. It is something that some (most?) people do, but it requires spending to increase both uptake and development of schemes. I take your point that better thinking could probably negate extra spending, but that is probably true of quite a lot of Government services. Also I think this entire pledge lost weight in my paraphrasing of their pledge. (Again, their emphasis)

    Almost double spending on recycling and waste disposal. We have to recognise that sophisticated waste management costs more than burying it in the ground. We would spend an extra £3bn pa, creating 60,000 jobs. Burying waste gives rise to both greenhouse gases and pollution, and is no longer acceptable.

  5. The vast majority of waste is created by industry, and they pay for the disposal of that waste. In fact, the industry that creates the most waste in the UK is the construction industry, and they are already taking pretty significant steps to reduce waste without the requirement for the government to do anything more. Recycling (or reusing, or even better stopping) waste saves them money, so it’s completely in their interest to do this.

    Household waste is a relatively small proportion of the overall amount of waste that is created (8% of the total volume in the UK), and the proportion of recyclable wastes within that is even smaller. Yes we can probably do something with that, but I don’t think the small gains justify the cost. And thinking about it, better waste management should cost less, not more money!

    I should disclose that I’ve just finished writing a report on this topic, which is why I picked it out in my comment :-p

  6. I don’t agree that the disposal of waste in this country is entirely down to market forces. You cite the construction industry as being one of the greatest producers of waste in the country. You say they are going to great lengths to recycle materials without any sort of government intervention pressuring them into doing so. The aim of all companies, whether it be in construction or any other, is to maximise profit and other aims such as reducing their carbon footprints are secondary to that. The construction industry goes to extreme lengths to recycle their waste precisely because of government pressures through a whole host of taxes such as the aggregates levy and landfill taxes, to force these companies to recycle. Thus, for example, the cost of quarrying all the aggregates which make up concrete has risen due to the aggregates levy and these costs obviously pass down. On top of that there is a tax on the amount of waste a company throws into landfill (something like £30 a tonne). For this reason it is cheaper for construction companies, or any other company for that matter, to find a better way to deal with their waste. In the construction industry, as a result, a lot of demolished concrete is crushed and reused as an aggregate in concrete. Steel can be resmelted and used in the process of making new steel. And these measures are cheaper as a result of those government taxes. When it is completely free to throw our waste onto landfill, what incentive is there for anyone to recycle? (that’s not a rhetorical question btw. IN fact I go back on what I said about market forces and I now agree with you…but governments also play a significant role in not only creating markets but also affecting market forces through taxation and whatever other measures.

  7. “You say they are going to great lengths to recycle materials without any sort of government intervention pressuring them into doing so”

    Actually, that’s not quite what I said. I said that:

    “they are already taking pretty significant steps to reduce waste without the requirement for the government to do anything more“.

    So in other words I was saying that government is already doing enough, not that they’re doing nothing and it’s ok. Landfill tax (and other similar forms of taxation) is a really good way to get companies to recycle and stuff because it basically does harness market forces. Instead of more direct intervention by government, it just provides an incentive for companies to do things differently and lets them work out the most efficient way to do that, which is a slightly different effect and is actually more effective for bringing around the sort of changes we want.

    Of course even without landfill tax there is still some incentive for construction companies to reduce waste, because even without landfill tax doing so saves money. For instance if you can reuse material instead of chuck it away and buy new stuff, that represents a saving even without landfill tax. But that’s almost by-the-by and I do agree that if it weren’t for the landfill tax (£48 per tonne, going up £8pa in the next few years iirc), we wouldn’t see the industry do as much as it does to minimize waste.

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