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How much will it cost you to vote Green in May 2015?

by Marrick on January 21, 2015

green party

I’ve just had a read of the Green manifesto. It’s just a trite wish list, full of contradictions and non sequiturs. Most of it reads well and gets nods of approval from any right (as in left) thinking person, but behind their policies hides a basic truth – going Green will cost a lot. And I mean a LOT. Both nationally and personally.

They’d end austerity, but reduce the size of the economy (permanent recession), while creating more jobs that pay more, but end the fossil fuel economy – presumably not causing any job losses as a result. Yeah, right.

They’d also end factory farming – seemingly a good thing – but remember you’d pay more (a lot more – maybe 2 or 3 times more) for your food and all those working in factory farming would no longer have a job.

They’d immediately increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour, which again might seem like a good thing, but the impact would be equally immediate in the form of runaway inflation (businesses would have to increase prices to pay increased wage costs), which will reduce the value of this new minimum wage, the value of benefits, and the value of your own wage, savings and pensions.

They say they’d enforce a bankers’ bonus cap – again, seemingly a good thing. I’d be interested to see how they would cap the bonus of an American living in Hong Kong working for a British bank that has just shifted offshore. Again, they say they would reduce the pay gap between those at the top and those at the bottom – very laudable, but a bit thin on detail – they don’t actually say how they would do it.

Then in an appeal to the young they say they would scrap University Tuition Fees. No indication of how they would fund higher education after scrapping fees.

Then there’s one of their big ones – they would cut demand for energy by encouraging us to insulate our homes – again very good stuff, but where’s the money coming from to insulate our homes, what about the mass redundancies in the energy industry? Naturally, they would be taken up by the burgeoning renewable energy industry (I wonder where they’ll get the oil to make the plastics necessary, how would they fuel the furnaces to make the towers and the blades, how would they lubricate them, if fossil fuels “must stay in the ground”)? How would the redundant energy workers retrain? How would they get to the locations of the new wind farms, would they be forced to move? Would they have to commute? How?

And all you iPad loving, XBox playing, PS4 owning types had better forget your shiny toys, because you won’t be able to afford them, unless you are very rich and you won’t be able to use them because the cost of energy will be too high for such fripperies.

Here are some of their policies.

  • Zero or negative growth. This means falling levels of personal consumption – you get less every year. In other words, you get poorer.
  • Citizen’s income. The Greens would replace all benefits and tax-free personal allowances with a Citizen’s Basic Income. There would be top ups for people with children or disabilities, for rent or mortgages. So, you would pay income tax on your first pound and every pound if you were in work. This tax would be substantially bigger for everyone to cover the cost – about £280 billion (about nine and half times the entire defence budget). Because of the zero or negative growth, any increases to cover inflation would have to come out of increased taxation. Now, I’m nominally in favour of a Citizens’ Basic Income, but it needs to have zero impact on a personal level. It should not cost the average person in work a penny more. There are ways of doing this, but not by the Green Party formula.
  • Tax on presents. Give your child a car, it will get taxed. Give your child a new sofa, it will get taxed. Give your child the deposit on a new house. It will get taxed.
  • Other taxation. VAT will be abolished and a new Green Tax introduced. This would include levies on imports such as wood, metal and minerals depending on their ecological impact. This would push up the cost of everything and put things like cars (which would attract a higher level of tax) out of the reach of ordinary people.
  • Cultural reforms. The BBC would be forced to broadcast “educational” programmes at peak times. There would be a special tax on big concerts to fund local cultural enterprises – I wonder what impact that would have on ticket prices? Again, putting things out of the reach of the average person.
  • Energy. The Greens aim to have all energy supplied from renewable sources by 2030 – principally wind. The cost of this will be astronomical. We’re not talking about even the cost of a half a dozen nuclear power plants here – this dwarfs that by several orders of magnitude. That’s without factoring in the cost of decommissioning. Okay, it could be amortised over a long period, but it is still a huge cost that will have to be paid for somehow. That means increased taxes and not just on the wealthy, it would have to be on everyone.
  • Foreign holidays. Forget it. They would be completely priced out of the reach of all but the very rich.
  • Diets. A Green Party government would attempt to transition us all from a meat based diet to a vegetarian diet. Meat would become the food of the very rich because of the high taxes on it. The abolition of factory farming would make food prices very much higher, so the average person would be left with green leaf, roots, pulses and seeds.
  • The armed forces. All service personnel would be made redundant because a standing army, navy and air force would be unnecessary under a Green government. Somehow the entire arms industry would be converted to making wind turbines.

The truth is, they are a sound-bite party who have a raft of great sounding policies, that fail to stand up to examination. Most of their economic policies are recessionary, which means jobs losses on a massive scale, lower living standards, fewer home comforts, higher prices for food, transport, housing and energy. What they don’t seem to understand is that while their aims are meritorious you have to pay the price of a green economy and that means everyone would have to tighten their belts. Labour wants much of what the Greens want, but at least the Labour Party is honest enough not just to shout out “I want it all and I want it now.” You have to transition carefully to a green economy, so as not to cause unnecessary hardship. You can’t run a country on sound-bites – we’ve seen what happens when you do that over the last five years.

And all you iPad loving, XBox playing, PS4 owning types had better forget your shiny toys, because you won’t be able to afford them, unless you are very rich and you won’t be able to use them because the cost of energy will be too high for such fripperies.

I think it’s time we disabused everyone of the notion that the Greens are cuddly, harmless idealists.

They have a plan and frankly, it’s barking and dangerous.

Addendum. I’m grateful to Cllr Morgan of Brighton for laying the facts bare about the Greens in power. Please take the time to read this blog:

Update: It seems the Green party have heeded the warnings of the Citizen’s Income Trust after modelling their proposals regarding the Citizen’s Income – they aren’t workable and so they have – as I predicted – dropped it from their manifesto.

12 thoughts on “How much will it cost you to vote Green in May 2015?

  1. QWERTY says:

    This entire article seems to be made on the assumption that all the policies would be introduced in their current form and immediately. It’s a long-term plan that would obviously need to be implemented gradually. (Not to say the entire article is garbage because some of it is accurate but the underlying assumptions made about the effects of certain policies are just wrong).

    • Marrick says:

      Many of the policies are zero-day policies, like the increase in the minimum wage, which would have a serious effect on inflation and hence the value of everyone’s income. Where the Greens have set out a timetable, as is the case with conversion to renewable energy sources, I have included it.

  2. hemulen says:

    How much will it cost us in the long term not to vote Green? Neo-liberal economics, infinite growth policies, unrestrained consumption of fossil fuels, expanding populations etc etc are driving our planet to a very imminent doom. At some point in the not too distant future we will not have an economy, we will not have agriculture, we will have a climate that is unrecognisable – because of our selfishness, greed and stupidity. Greens? Cuddly? Bollocks!

    • Marrick says:

      Much of what you say is correct, except the voting Green part. Anyone who thinks that voting Green will actually change anything at this election is seriously deluded. I hate to use the “vote Green, get Blue” line, but it happens to be true. As Owen Jones points out in today’s Guardian, “Because of the absurdities of first past the post (FPTP), the Greens are unlikely to win any seat other than Brighton Pavilion, already held by the courageous and principled Caroline Lucas. According to Ladbrokes, the Green surge could deliver seats such as Brighton Kemptown, Hove, Stroud, Norwich North and Bristol North West to the Tories. Losers could include Labour leftwingers like Brighton Kemptown’s Nancy Platt, Norwich South’s Clive Lewis, and Lancaster’s Cat Smith.

      That will mean five more years of the bedroom tax, the dismantling of the NHS and the stripping away of the welfare state. If Labour lose, Ed Miliband’s successor will almost certainly drag the party to the right, and many Green voters will suffer “buyer’s remorse”: the exhilaration at voting for principles will be eclipsed by despondency at being saddled with another Tory government, deterring them from voting Green again. Few of those who claim there is no meaningful difference between a Labour and Tory government are being hammered by the bedroom tax.” Face facts. One of two people is going to be standing outside No 10 on May 8th – Cameron or Miliband, you’d better hope it’s not Cameron.

      Personally, I agree that we need to get away from neo-liberal policies (not just economics), (although there is debate to be had about growth, because much growth is now in areas that have little to do with consumption of natural resources, such as software) and Labour IS moving away from the neo-liberal consensus. Much has been made of the PLP’s concession to the OBR over debt-reduction and I’m largely supportive of this. We can’t go on for ever paying the kind of interest payments we are currently. Not accepting that there are different ways of reducing debt and making government expenditure cuts does nothing to improve the credibility of the left, neither does it improve the quality of the debate. Not all cuts are the same.

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  4. Steve Ascott says:

    Maybe instead of wasting your time attacking the Greens, the Labour party might think of adopting some of their policies. After all It is the abandonment of Socialist policies that is causing the Haemorrhaging of former Labour supporters and activists.(Myself since Harold Wilsons reign).
    Renationalising the rail system would be a good and popular start. followed by the power companies. Scrapping Trident, actual getting HMRC to collect taxes etc etc.

    • Marrick says:

      So, I’m not allowed to attack the Greens? Just let them go their merry way, spinning their lies and distortions. Have you had a look at the current raft of policies the LP is proposing? Do you want the NHS privatised? Because that’s what you’ll get if you vote Green.

  5. aimhome says:

    Green policy is long term, beyond one electoral cycle. Too much short term objectives, without continuity. That’s why we are in the mess we are. East Coast railway franchise re-privatisation is typical.

    The 2015 manifesto has not been released yet, so what document was this blog post taken from?

    Labour NHS = PFI, so much for the welfare state. The PFI book bending will be costing us all for at least the next 20 years.

    • Marrick says:

      Most policies are long term, beyond one electoral cycle, so it’s not the reason we are in the mess we’re in. The reason for that is capitalism.

      However, one of the policies that I object most to is zero growth, which irrespective of whether it is long term or not, means falling living standards for everyone but the most wealthy. This is an inescapable fact. If you have no growth, incomes must remain static, otherwise the companies we work for would be in a cost spiral. Inflation (which even in a steady state economy will still exist because of variable material costs) will erode the value of salaries, so our standards of living will fall. Even if you factor in increased self-sufficiency, it will hurt those who aren’t capable of self-producing. It’s a ridiculous notion, predicated on a very old fashioned view of growth, an ever increasing amount of which is in non-resource based industry like software.

      Which manifesto? I didn’t say the 2015 GE manifesto. A manifesto is statement of policies and political aims. The Greens have such a statement on their website – there’s also their full European manifesto, which I’ve read and their policy website, which I’ve also read. It’s a pretty safe bet that most of the policies mentioned will be included in the 2015 GE manifesto though. I think a volte-face is highly unlikely.

      I’m not going to be manoeuvred into defending the Blair government’s use of PFI, which I disagreed with at the time and nothing since has changed my view, except to say that the incoming Labour government faced a situation where the NHS and the Education system was at the point of collapse, the Exchequer was not generating sufficient income due to the Tories shift from income tax to indirect taxation and they needed to get the money to revive the country and do it quickly. That would mean one of three things – increased direct borrowing (something they promised they wouldn’t do as a main plank of their election programme), increased taxation (technically difficult to make sufficient changes in the short term), or funding through partnership. As it happens they did a bit of both the last two. I would have increased direct taxation, but without intimate knowledge of the Treasury’s circumstances, I’m not sure if it could be done sufficiently to cover the rebuild programme costs. I’m betting that it was a necessary evil.

  6. Marrick says:

    It seems that the flagship policy of a Citizen’s Income is in tatters. See the Guardian article for more details, but in a nutshell: the Citizen’s Income Trust (CIT), a much cited body by the Greens has modelled the policy. The net result is more than one in three households would be losers. “The trust’s research shows that for the two lowest disposable income deciles, more than one-fifth would suffer income losses of more than 10%,”

    The CIT, the charitable body that has done most to promote the policy in the UK, admits after modelling its proposal with the help of the Euromod model at the University of Essex that the complexity of the current welfare system has led to a major design flaw being revealed, including a big hit on the poor.

    Malcolm Torry, director of the CIT says, “It is a pity that such a large number of households with low disposable incomes suffer such large losses on the implementation of what otherwise looks like a useful and revenue-neutral scheme.

    “But unfortunately, with that number of large losses, the scheme would be impossible for a government to implement, and we ought to look for an alternative.”

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