10 Jan 2006
The New Caring Sharing Compassionate Deep Green Conservative Party (!?!)
I intend, as a rule, to avoid any party politics on **Transition Culture**. However, just as a one-off, I feel compelled to address the issue. ‘Compassionate conservatism’ and ‘Tory environmentalists’ are what are commonly known as **oxymorons**. If you aren’t familiar with the term oxymoron have a look at this. David Cameron, their new leader, is trying to regain the middle ground of people who are naturally Tories, who go to Farmers Markets and recycle their bottles. Nick Cohen in Sunday’s Observer in an article called ‘It’s farcical how Cameron has rescued Blair’s ideas from the rubbish dump’, does a good job of pointing out that somehow it just doesn’t wash. Anyone who lived through the Thatcher years would be hard put to see them as green in any way.
However, some people with green leanings are already talking about going to the Tories as the green party of choice. In the same issue of The Observer, Henry Porter, writes an article called “If it would change the world, yes, you should vote Tory” which argues, entirely unconvincingly, that just because the Tories now have some green policies they are suddenly alright again. If the BNP has environmental policies perhaps we should vote for them? It is a ridiculous argument of course, anyone can tack a few green policies onto the end of a raft of business-as-usual ones.
And now Zak Goldsmith has decided to join them as their green advisor. Goldsmith has always been a bit of a hero of mine. I have read the Ecologist for years and always found his writing incisive and heart felt. He is a great public speaker and really knows his stuff. His joining the Tory party is a bit like Richard Heinberg getting a job as a consultant for Exxon, James Howard Kunstler starting to be really polite to everyone, or New Order recording a really poor World Cup record (oh, hang on now…). It is just not right somehow, despite his aristocratic background. He may feel that he can get in there and turn them into the relocalisation zero carbon eco-party, but the rest of us can see that he’ll get nowhere, and is just a good looking fresh young candidate with good ‘green’ cred that, it is hoped, will rub off onto a party desperately hoping to make itself popular again. Will they now only accept political funding from ethical companies?
When John Major left the Tories, the news was full of stories that they were about to disintegrate and collapse under the weight of internal divisions, struck me as the best thing that could have happened to them. Unfortunately they seem to be gathering strength again (rather like the forces of Sauron in Lord of the Rings). Just in case you have a short memory, here are some reasons why the Conservative party should be relegated to history, “Back to Basics”, Thatcher’s ‘economic miracle’ that was only possible because of cheap North Sea oil and gas, the sinking of the Belgrano, Norman Tebbitt, the Poll Tax, Clause 28, the Falklands War, cruise missiles at Greenham, opposing sanctions on South Africa, I could go on (and on)(and on).
I will tie my colours to mast. I will never vote Conservative. Ever. Under any circumstances. Even if Goldsmith became their leader. Even if they rebranded themselves as the Localising Eco-Tories Save The World Party. In the same way that meeting the kid who bullied you in school years later still makes you feel nervous and distrustful and sick to the pit of your stomach, I would much rather see them disappear completely as a redundant political idea, as a historical relic, rather than attempting to reinvent themselves as young and dynamic.
You can see the kind of mindsets Goldsmith is up against in a ghastly article called “Environmentalism Costs Lives – The folly of Zak Goldsmith”, which reveals the underbelly of what the Conservative Party is really all about. If Goldsmith thinks that he can turn around the bedrock of narrow minded Daily Mail reading English conservatism, he is deluding himself profoundly. There is of course a very strong case to say that it is more important what is happening at the grassroots and that the way things are set up would prevent anyone with genuinely bold and radical green ideas from getting much done at Government level, but logic dictates that it does have an effect who is in Number 10. However, neither Blair nor Cameron will offer us anything like an appropriately scaled response to peak oil, no national powerdown strategies, no restraints on consumption, no TEQs, no large funds for Energy Descent Action Plans (drat…). We have to do this ourselves, and soon.
When I was 14 and beginning to become aware of politics, a friend of my family, a self-made man (he sold double glazing for 40 years) and a Tory, with whom I used to have political discussions, told me that when I was 30 I would be voting Tory. Struck me as just about the single most patronising thing anyone ever said to me. 16 years later on my 30th birthday, I went to his house to try and track him down to tell him that actually I wasn’t, had no intention of ever doing so, and wanted him to know that. He had moved.