Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Why I'm joining the Green Party in Northern Ireland

I am just about to fill in my membership form for the Green Party here in Northern Ireland. It is a decision I have come to after an awful lot of consideration and I believe wholeheartedly is the right one and I shall try and explain why.

I consider myself to be left wing and a social democrat. I'm not feverishly so but it's probably the easiest classification. I am also strongly in favour of maintaining Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom. Given that, it is perhaps easy to see why I have remained an independent up to this point. The options, in terms of parties, were limited and whilst I accept that compromises are usually required when joining any political party, there is a limit as to what I was prepared to compromise. 

I confess that at first I paid little heed to The Green Party. After all, I am not an environmentalist and I, like many others, unfairly believed that this was the main qualification for being a Green Party member. It is clear now, that is not the case at all. Yes, there is no question that environmentally sound policy is at the heart of the Green Party but then, why shouldn't it be? What's important though is their position on all policy matters, particularly the economy, education, home affairs and so on. Once I started to properly analyse where the Green Party stood on these issues, it became clear that I was in complete agreement on most of them.

There are still areas of disagreement - Nuclear Power being one, road construction another - but these are issues I think would best be served by working within the party, especially as it seems a party prepared to listen and engage with it's members.

What the Greens in NI also have that appeals is a leader I can support. Steven Agnew has won me over. I have always maintained that Steven is a fantastic politician but I wasn't sure he would have success getting the message out and winning over enough people. He has proven me wrong and the performance of the rest of the Green candidates demonstrates to me that people are starting to respond to the message that Steven and his party are putting out. I have met a few people from within the party and to a man & woman, they are the type of people I can easily associate with. 

As a Unionist, I am prepared to accept the Green Party's position on the constitutional question. It is, by and large irrelevant to our daily life and when cross community issues arise I feel the Green Party can apply genuine non tribal thinking to their resolution. 

Finally, I won't lie and pretend that I don't have ambitions in politics. I want to be in a position to set the agenda. To do so I need to be elected to public office. For a long time I thought that first & foremost the most important thing to do was get elected but it's clear to me now that there is no point in doing so if the agenda you are pushing is the wrong one. Had I joined any other party, it would be. If I am lucky enough to be selected as a candidate at the next elections and even luckier to be elected, it will be on a platform of policies I am completely comfortable with and that is why I'm joining the Green Party in Northern Ireland.


  1. Ed,
    I admire your decision to join the Greens. It's one I've contemplated on a number of occasions but can’t quite commit to them (yet). I'm a socialist (of neither unionist nor nationalist persuasion, just red right through). Once I’d have joined Labour, but let’s be serious, that’s no gig for a socialist. So, I still might join the Greens. But I wonder how the Greens feel about political ‘flotsam and jetsam ‘ like ourselves washing up on their shore? I’m sure they’re glad of the support and votes but what impact will people like you and I (not from the environmentalist fold) have upon the character of the Green Party)? Will we dilute and pollute the ‘brand’?

  2. Rab, I agree re: Labour. I have been mightly frustrated that they are still barred from standing candidates in NI, but have to be honest that even if they did, I'm not sure they're the party they should be.

    I don't think the Green party have any problem accepting people like you or I providing we are not trying to act as some form of fifth column. Speaking for myself I assure you that isn't my intention. Indeed I spoke to Steven Agnew and told him of the 2 areas of policy I have issues with but can commit to the others.

    John Prescott told Tony Blair when it came to policy: If he disagrees he would argue in private but not in public. If it was something he was willing to concede he would support his party & leader wholeheartedly. If it was something he couldn't he would leave the party. He would never try and subvert from within. That, for me, is the way it should be.

  3. Rab, we have former members of the Socialist Party, the Workers Party and the Labour Party, so you'd be more than welcome.

    Green Party environmentalist policies go hand in hand with our progressive social policies; in fact they are inextricably linked.

    If the Green Party was solely focussed on an environmental agenda I would never have joined. The Green New Deal highlights this but so too does our stance on Corporation Tax.

  4. 'There are still areas of disagreement - Nuclear Power being one, road construction another' - Ed, would these not be fundamental areas of difference? As you know, I'm in the Labour Party and I don't agree with all their policies and statements (e.g. Ed Miliband this week saying Labour MPs will cross picket lines today) but your issues do seem to be pretty clearly not areas where the Greens would be prepared to change.

  5. Jenny, I am not Pro Nuclear as such but I don't believe the arguments against it are strong enough and nor do I believe that the alternatives are anywhere near being suitable. I feel very strongly that we need to massively reduce our dependency on non renewable power and that out weighs any doubts I may have about Nuclear power. As such it's not a fundamental part of my political make up.

    Road Construction is a different matter. I do actually want to get to a point where the road network is adequate, like the Green Party, I just don't think we are there yet and that stopping investment in that infrastructure could actually be counter productive.

    I know there will not be complete agreement with me within the Greens on these issues, but they, more than any other party will I think at least be prepared to hear my arguments and consider them on merit.

  6. Why 'more than any other party'? Putting aside the Labour issue (I completely understand why you don't want to join a party that isn't allowed to stand in elections), what is the reason you don't feel you can have these debates in other parties? Is it because the sectarian issue outweighs everything else? I Must say I still don't quite get why you've chosen the Greens apart from the very tempting combination of them being (i) non sectarian and (ii) fully functioning, unlike Labour

  7. Bet you did it because Jolly Green Steven is toying with co-opting you unto NDBC (having been turned down by Chris Carter)and you with only 44 votes. Don't think we're all green Ed!

  8. Anonymous, I will not be co-opted onto NDBC. Will you have the guts to come back in a couple of months and apologise for such claims? Not likely, given that you haven't the guts to make the accusation directly. Very cowardly.